Official Statement

October 26, 2008

Yesterday GREENE concept in general and me in person got accused by a former contractor of “ripping off” her designs. The person set a 24 hour ultimatum and threatened to take the issue to the public if we do not take down the allegedly ripped off work. For reasons unknown she decided to take the issue to the public only 6 hours later (give or take due to timezone conversions and Daylight Saving time switch this night). As much as I would prefer to not comment this issue at all, the public defaming of the GREENE concept brand and the work of a contractor and friend requires an official answer.

Important: the allegations were for the advertising images only, and not – as some people already thought – for the furniture itself!

Timeline of events:

  • In June I asked said person if she wants to become product photographer for GREENE concept
  • On June 21 I received a commercial proposal from her, outlining the work she intends to do and a price for her services. This price was beyond the budget we had for GREENE concept, and I made a counter offer. This counter-offer resulted in her offering her services for free: “I would like to be the official photographer for Greene concept, at no charge to you guys. In exchange you have to tell everyone I made your pictures; how good my service is; how satisfied with my work and customer service you are (that is if you are really satisfied); and that you would highly recommend my services (if you really would).
  • Our official reply to this was: “I’m very pleased with you becoming the official photographer, however
    I would at least want to cover the upload charges AND want to grant you free picks from our items whenever you want some for your personal use. However please keep in mind that – even though it does not look like it right now – GC might generate substantial revenues in the future. Therefore I would suggest we revisit this agreement in – say – 6 months?
  • Her answer to this was: “Again, I can totally do this at no charge, and I agree formalities are not needed.
  • The advertising photographs were developed in close communication with me, with samples going back and forth. I received a lot of prototypes, and new prototypes were usually based on direct feedback and suggestions by me. A very good example is the product display for the Berlin sofa, where the designer initially only had one image in the center, but the second closeup and the person sitting on the sofa was a direct request by me, which I illustrated with my own doodle. In fact, the designer initially refused the idea of having a person sitting on the furniture at all.
  • As per agreement we received full-mod textures in-world as well as PNG images via email. On several occasions the images needed to be altered by myself – all cases were acknowledged as being in my room for decision by the designer. In one case she even specifically asked me to do some changes as she had no time to do them.
  • In August, the commercial agreement got rediscussed, and a price for the photographs was agreed upon. The first payment of 1130 L$ was made on August 18.
  • On September 10 the designer resigned without explanation. Her resignation consists only of 7 words: “Please find another photographer for Greene Concept.“. My counter question if any payments or issues were still open never got answered.
  • On October 2 we announced Trinity Dechou as new product photographer. During the preceeding weeks we were without a photographer and could not bring the Halloween products to market due to lack of decent product photos. As the Halloween preparations were in full swing since mid September we missed out on two weeks of potential sales due to that fact.
  • Already on October 1 the first images using Trinity’s design work got published on the blog and on Flickr – also to a group said person is founder/administrator of.
  • The task given to Trinity was to “bring the product images to the next level”. As the existing designs were made as requested, guided contractual work and were developed in close cooperation with me, no problems were expected to base the new design on the existing one. However a few new requests were made, the two major ones being to show more details of the intricate fabric textures and to show the products in a home/office environment.
  • On October 25 I received an email from the former designer, accusing GREENE concept and myself to have “ripped off” her designs. The email contained a threat and an ultimatum: “You have 24 hours counting from right now 11:30 am SLT to remove those pictures from your store, if you don’t I will publish a copy on Flickr and Plurk and let people judge whether they are rip off or not.
  • Upon reciept I contacted Trinity and tried to contact Ivanova. The former designer is well aware of timezone difficulties, and also knows that Ivanova is almost never available during the weekend. We came to the conclusion that her allegations had no basis, and since Trinity got inherently accused, we decided that it was best that she asks ‘from designer to designer’ which parts she felt had been “ripped”. Trinity sent an email saying “As the newly appointed GREENE concept designer I would like to know where you feel the images have been ‘ripped off’. ALL images were reshot by myself, evident in the different angles in Berlin shots and the times on the clocks. The only continuity I see in your designs and my designs are the logo (designed by Ike) and the products (owned by GC). I now ask for your professional explanation as to how my designs are stolen from yours.” This email was sent about 2 hours after the initial email.
  • About 4 hours later and in fact closely after I went to bed (as said person is aware of) she decided to disregard her own 24 hour ultimatum and went public with her allegation on Plurk and Flickr, quickly getting a lot of sympathetic comments. She also claimed “I sent an email to Peter asking to have the pictures removed and the only response I received was an e-mail from Trinity. The message I received was that I was wrong, and that Peter was not going to answer to me.” which does not reflect the facts. Neither did Trinity or myself say I would not reply, nor did Trinity’s reply say she was wrong by default.

I deeply regret that this issue became so emotional. I am sorry the designer feels she got “ripped off”, however I am convinced her claims do not stand up to inspection. It is only natural that even a virtual company gives the branding aspect a big significance. As we have ordered and very closely influenced the design of the former photographer, as we have also paid for it, partly modified it ourselves, we see ourselves as the owner of the work. It is only natural that a design evolution gets based on existing foundations. We also think that Trinity’s new design exceeds the initial design in all aspects. This is not to say the initial design was bad – it is just natural to develop the concept further. On the other hand a photographer who stops to work for a company can not assume that this company will relaunch itself with a completely new visual concept after that.

I am deeply convinced that we did not “rip her off”, and the unprofessional manner in which she has handled this issue makes me sad. I would have preferred a personal discussion about this instead of public accusations. Unfortunately I was not given that chance.

Below please find a side by side comparison of her designs (left) and our new designs (right). I think this neutral comparison should bury all allegations.


12 Responses to “Official Statement”

  1. Although there was nothing formal, you did have an agreement for work to be contracted out to the designer in question, nevertheless. “Free” is still a price, an places a value on the work, even if the work for no monetary-paid value. The position was clearly stated as being a photographer for GREENE CONCEPT, as henceforth all work produced would be held not by any personnel, but by the company.

    It’s of my reading (and opinion) that the promotional display material in this case was owned by the company, as per the “verbal” agreement, and GREENE CONCEPT were well within their rights to use the original posters to produce new derivatives. Whether it was moral to do so is a point that can be debated, but I don’t see a breach in IP rights here when it is the company that owns the produced advert design.

    Just my $0.02 on this. I don’t know either party very well on a personal basis, but is just the reading of the situation.

  2. I’m shaking my head at this one. I am comparing the image pairs and they do not match up at all , period!

    The legs on the Berlin Sofa are not in the same spot, the whole sofa was rotated.

    The Petit Fours shots are at different angles.

    The Clocks are all different times.

    The last photo, again the legs are not matching and the color pallete, in hers it was heads down, the new one is viewed at an angle.

    In her shots it’s all white backgrounds, minimalist in nature. Your new shots are taken in a carpeted room and with other objects.

    Cased Closed! Peter, I have no idea why this woman wants to smear you, but she and her sycophants owe you a public apology.

  3. Annyka Says:

    I’m shaking my head on it too. The pictures she posted herself as proof of copying look nothing alike. I wouldnt worry about her. Even on her Plurk, once she posted the pics, the comments pretty much turned against her.

    I think Prad makes a good point about ownership of promotional material. Usually that’s considered “work-for-hire” and the IP rights stay with the company. But even so, it doesnt really seem to apply here since there were new designs created.

    This sort of thing is why I usually try to avoid doing work with anyone offering professional services for free. I’d rather pay the money and deal with professionals than deal with this kind of thing

  4. Moggs Oceanlane Says:

    When you have a business that sells products you generally try to create consistent branding. It’s a pity that there was no agreed style guide and that all parties didn’t have a formal agreement. I have a friend who is a graphic designer and fetish photographer in the physical environment that used to accept verbal agreements from friends but with a few years experience under his belt he now ensures that everyone signs agreements for anything he wishes to use/sell on the web, in publications, for exhibitions or any purpose beyond private use.

    It’d be madness to take new product pictures that were inconsistent with the old ones. I’m not sure if this is a question of branding style guide/consistency or IP – with such cases where it’s important for the business to be consistent. If there’s a really quirky and unusual idea involved it’s much more clear cut.

    My personal view in this case is there’s nothing particularly unusual or different about the images – the product shots are very well done and excellently shot but surely most businesses would aim for a consistent style for their advertising and think perhaps the cry of IP theft is a little unfair.

    If this is considered to be IP theft then the implications for businesses across the grid will be that if you have an artist/designer do your product shots for your, unless you have a clear style guide that makes it easy to make a ruling, be prepared to redo your packaging and advertising in an entirely different manner when you change designers/artists.

    It’s my personal view that for the purpose of product advertising/branding the pictures are significantly different. The shots taken by the first designer utilise a lot of white space and no background scenery where as the new shots include background scenery.

    If you look at advertising/branding across the grid you’ll find plenty of commonalities across product branding/advertising.

    I adore all parties involved & hope you can find a resolution that works for you all.

  5. Prokofy Neva Says:

    This is why you don’t agree to this Creative Commons bullshit, where you distribute everything for free, but just for credit, i.e. marketing. You should never have entered into a deal that gives you something for free, in exchange for you marketing this person and paying the tier under that marketing. They inevitably feel used, and they fight back eventually. Pay people what they are worth, somebody who first charges too much then suddenly offers it for free is an arbitrary and untrustworthy person to start with. This is the lesson you should be learning here, not any other.

  6. kesseret Says:

    I agree with Prad. Tell them to take it to court. They won’t get anywhere because there’s no basis. If I write scripts for my workplace, my workplace owns the intellectual property of those scripts. The way I see it, they (and you) entered an agreement for them to take photos for GC (verbal, free, doesn’t matter- AGREEMENT), and well GC owns them. That’s if you even used ANY part of them… since you didn’t, it’s stupid for them to bring this up. I am very sorry you are dealing with this.
    Trust me when I say your reputation and the reputation of your partners will weather this because you’ve all made a good reputation in the community. To me, that stands out along side those comparison photos which show nothing is the same. If you need anything, ask. I will try to help as best I can. Be well you guys.

  7. It’s crazy. I agree with Prad. There’s no ‘there’ there at all. No evidence, no case, nothing but some disturbed ravings. No one will look at those photos and see theft. I mean, it seems the only way you could avoid such an accusation in her mind is if you shot them upside down.

  8. ganymedes1985 Says:

    You’re safe dude, she’s got not much steady ground to stand on.

    The pictures may show the items in a similar way, it’s still different enough.
    Like already mentioned: they’ve evolved from minimalistic pictures to ones with a more dressed up setting, which only helps to let people imagine how the furniture would work in their home / office.

  9. Prokofy, had this been CC it’s been super clearer, That is an legal agreement such as any commercial. In this case it was not made into CC just a deal, I do for free and you say I did it, and a verbal as well. That kind of work deals, are definitely commercial and definitely long long long form CC.

    I know many contractor companies that hire out the first contractor to new clients this way. In good and bad, It’s more like a first shot for free deal.

  10. Seikatsu Koba Says:

    My response.

  11. Simpleton Says:

    Perhaps you should abandon Greene and all of your SL activities. Do this before your RL suffers immensely. You have 48 hours to comply.

  12. Simpleton Says:

    Your time is running out! M, I will expose you. Leave SL…

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