Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is Jurassic World Stealing from Independent Illustrators?

Sorry for the clickbait title. The answer is yes. Yes they are.

It's one thing when toy companies do it.

It's quite another when a big-budget Hollywood movie starts stealing the work of independent paleoartists and illustrators for use in their production design.

It started when well-known paleo illustrator Brian Choo posted the following modified production still to his DeviantArt account. The photo in question is fairly low res and comes from the newly opened Jurassic World web site. The still features children using a prop in the movie called a "Holoscape", presumably a kind of interactive computer terminal featuring information about the various kinds of dinosaurs in the park.

Choo noted that despite the low resolution, the production design of the prop clearly features some pretty recognizable pieces of paleoart* as silhouettes to represent each species. This includes his own Minmi (labeled as an Ankylosaurus in the movie), several pieces by oft-roped off artist Joe Tucciarone (the "Pteranodon" is obviously a slightly tweaked version of his Quetzalcoatlus), and even a few silhouetted versions of dinosaur toys (a Carnegie Collection Elasmosaurus, and a Papo Parasaurolophus - which Papo ripped off from the original Jurassic Park in the first place, so I'll chalk that one up to poetic justice!). Most notably/obviously, they use Nobu Tamura's very distinctively-posed Pachycephalosaurus. There are probably a few others that are not as obvious, as the productions designers for the film clearly just went to Google Images and started stealing anything that would make a nice outline.

*Note: Though Choo also pointed out their use of Dmitry Bogdanov's Suchomimus, Bogdanov actually had released this illustration into the public domain.

Here's the thing - with the exception of Joe Tucciarone who has not chimed in on this issue, none of the artists concerned had any knowledge that this was happening, let alone received any payment from Legendary Pictures, the production company for Jurassic World. I would think that it is standard practice for production designers working on these kinds of films to hire artists who make these kinds of props; or, failing that, compensate the artists they outsource the work to. I've personally been contacted by much smaller productions for the use of my images, even when they are going to be turned into silhouettes that appear very briefly on screen. The fact that a major production company for a big-budget movie can't be bothered to do the same is extremely troubling.

See, this is the kind of thing recent editorials about the shameful state of the paleo illustration business are talking about, and while I am not one of the artists concerned, I would strongly urge all of them not to sit back and take this kind of theft. Doing so sets a very bad precedent that our work is worthless and can be had for two seconds work browsing Google for "free" material.

A first step could be to slap the Jurassic World web site itself with a DMCA takedown notice. However, this would probably not get the attention of Legendary Pictures itself since movie web sites are usually outsourced to third party companies. We don't yet know if this prop is actually featured in the finished version of the film (which is probably still being edited), but it wouldn't hurt to send a written request for more information to the production company itself noting concerns about work being stolen, and a statement of your licensing fee for the image(s) used if they are to be featured in the film.

Artists need to stop rolling over when people steal their art, even in a minor way, and then are told to appreciate the "exposure" (even when the theft does not include any kind of credit--some good "exposure" does with the art, but not the artist, getting it!). Companies that are using paleoart, especially massive production companies like Legendary Pictures which should know better, need to be held accountable, and need to compensate people for their work. Every time.


  1. Nice Post, Agree Agree Agree, and sharing.

  2. Oh so the artists own the copyright to the shadow of a dinosaur? This is like suing a movie for using shadows and silhouettes?

    1. Yes, yes they do. You have no rights to turn somebody else's work black and then call it yours.

    2. I've been ripped off in exactly this way. If it was okay to do this, it would mean that I could not now legally take my original image and turn it into a silhouette.

    3. You're not an artist, are you, Merlyn?

    4. Actually, no, it's not okay, for the reasons Gareth Monger listed and more. These artists' works were used, and _modified_ without consent. Without credit. Without compensation. How is this art theft any different than someone "borrowing" your lawnmower without asking, painting it black, and claiming it as their own? How would it make you feel to then hear neighbors tell you that you don't own a "shadow of a lawnmower" and that you have no right to your own property?

    5. I dare you to make an official logo for yourself, with the Mickey Mouse ears as a shadow or silhouette and find out just how copyrighted such things are!

      If the artist hadn't drawn these dinosaurs, then there'd be nothing for these guys to darken.

      They are literally stealing people's work in both product and time. They should either pay the original artist for the existing work, or their own artists to make the new needed art...

    6. FYI, drawing the silhouette is probably the hardest part of the paleoart process. It requires starting off with accurate skeletal reconstructions, getting the proportions perfectly right, positioning them 'in 3d' in a realistic fashion, and fleshing them out to look like a real animal. Colouring your dinos in is no big deal compared to all that.

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  4. The same symbols are also used here, at the bottom of the page, although many of the taxa haven't "hatched" yet.

  5. The ending is something to be admired. I could totally appreciate anyone saying it was ridiculous but I just loved how balls out crazy it was. Overlooking the fact that Bryce Dallas Howard outruns the T-Rex (they at least make it look legit), I love the idea that the T-Rex and Velociraptor have perfectly good humans to chomp down on they instead decide to go for the new dinosaur because I guess he's new and a huge dick. I also loved the Raptor (Blue, I think?) making the slo-mo action movie leap. I listened to the Birth Movies Podcast; I believe one of you said it was Michael Bay esque. Good stuff.

    Agree that it drags at points leading up to the ending, but it still worked well enough for me to recommend. Far and away superior to the other two sequels (imo) I just hope, for the love of God, when they make the inevitable fifth installment, they get away from the kids.

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