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I have posted a White House Petition asking for Congress to address the problem of Amazon thieves.

It reads:

The stolen work of many artists is uploaded to Amazon.com and sold on many products.
When an artist proves ownership of his work Amazon retains the image, claiming it has rights to it. Such open invitations do not go unnoticed by those looking to make a fast buck

Artists endlessly submit infringement reports for images, which have been removed many times.

Not only American artists are affected; this is an international problem. Most are lesser known artists, beginners, or even hobby artists.

There are now so many stolen images on Amazon that it is impossible to keep up. Mass fraud gives the impression that business standards in the U.S. have fallen to a very low level.

The artists have requested relief from Amazon, many times without the courtesy of a reply.

Please help us stop this.

Please sign the petition here.

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The latest update: May 22d

A couple of days ago I was contacted by a representative from Amazon’s office of Executive Seller Relations after Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com and owner of the Washington Post, read one of my email messages to him.

We discussed the situation, actually I did most of the talking. I explained the problem artists are having with their work being stolen and resold on Amazon. I corrected the representatives assertion that this is an every-once-in-a-while occurrence; there are hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of fake, or counterfeit, or whatever you want to called them, products sold on Amazon.com and Amazon’s foreign web sites. Amazon did not need me to tell them any of this – they already knew.

I also informed him that the artists are fighting mad. We will continue to contact artists who are being ripped off and inform them as to how they can protect their rights. We will also continue to publicize the problem with petitions at the White House web site and elsewhere in the US and abroad ; Better Business Bureau complaints, blog posts, writing to Congressional representatives, contacting the intellectual property theft departments of the FBI and OPM, explore the possibility of class action lawsuits, and further options I will not mention here.

I then proposed a solution that I believe would satisfy all involved, greatly reduce the amount of stolen intellectual property being sold on Amazon’s domains, and allow Amazon to rightly point to itself as a pro-active guardian of artists’ rights.This would be a win-win solution for all involved save the thieves.  And I think that, after an initial period to shut down the storefronts of problem sellers, there would be less of a workload on Amazon’s employees responsible for dealing with copyright infringements.

I hope that Amazon is sincere when it tells us that it cares about protecting intellectual property rights. Otherwise we artists are just getting started and more of us are involved every day.

For now, do not enable those who just want to make a fast buck by selling you an inferior product and boycott Amazon. Buyer beware!

For those in the UK here is a petition for greater penalties for online outlets which fail to protect intellectual property rights: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/130718

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In many ways Amazon appears to be little more than an online fencing operation. Here’s how it works.

The criminals copy low-resolution images from the product pages of various legitimate outlets, such as Zazzle, where I sell my art. A low-resolution image has little detail in it. While it is suitable for display on computer monitors, when printed on t-shirts, or mouse pads, or doormats, or whatever, they will be fuzzy, muddy and distorted. The dimensions (size) of the stolen images are also small, so, the thieves, have to enlarge them so that they will be able print them on items to sell; this further distorts the image. Now, the criminal, usually located beyond the reach of US law enforcement in places such as China, print the distorted images on a variety of products and offer them for sale. There are millions of such items available for sale on Amazon. You should be aware, that if you purchase these items, especially if they are shipped from China, you will probably receive a product with a crappy image on it. Buyer beware!

When an artist finds one of his stolen images for sale on Amazon it will be removed if the artist is willing to jump through enough hoops.

It does not end there, however. Amazon claims that when an individual uploads an image to be used in selling a product certain rights with respect that image are irrevocably ceded to Amazon. It seems to matter not a whit to Amazon that the original artist did not upload the image and, therefore ceded no rights. The product image and other information about a product for sale is contained in what Amazon calls a product detail page. Even when Amazon acknowledges the original artist’s copyright has been violated by the thieves and removes the infringing product, the product detail page is retained in a catalog. This is an open invitation to another aspiring criminal to re-post the product and sell it. Not surprisingly, this happens over and over and over and over again, ad nauseum. There seems to belittle we can do about this. Big corporations always ensure that laws are written in such a way as to protect them.

Generally, when artists file copyright infringement reports with Amazon they are asked to remove the product detail pages; all to no avail. Despite repeated personal email messages sent to Mr. Bezos, by myself and many other artist, nothing has changes. As far as I know not one of us has ever been given the courtesy of a reply.

But wait! There’s more! Amazon has an internal theft problem as well. Some of these same thieves who sell on Amazon steal images from other, honest sellers on Amazon and brazenly offer items for sale with these stolen images.

I have talked with any artists who have been ripped off by the Amazon thieves. A large percentage of them are retirees, stay-at-home moms, people who can no work due to illness or lack of employment employment opportunities; some are dying of slow-burn cancer. All are just trying to earn a few extra dollars; the thieves are taking food out of their mouths. If you buy from the Amazon thieves you are enabling international intellectual property crime, screwing over the artists who receive no royalties, and, you will likely receive a sub-standard product.

A couple of weeks ago news headlines announced that Mr. Bezos made six billion dollars in twenty minutes. Easy enough when you profit from the sale of millions of products bearing stolen images.

While intellectual property crime falls within the purview of both the FBI’s intellectual property crime people and OPM which has a similar office; due to limited manpower, they must devote their attention to higher priority matters such as the theft of military and commercial technology by China and other nations. The government of China has no incentive to help enforce US copyright and intellectual property theft law. We are considering a class action lawsuit. If anyone knows of a lawyer who would be interested in this matter ask him to contact me. The same goes for any investigative journalist looking for a good story.

I will never buy another item from Amazon and ask you do the same. Write to Mr. Bezos at jeff@amazon.com and request he address this issue.

Lastly, The Fireman asked me to post this message for the Amazon thieves. “I will continue to burn your Amazon stores to the ground; every single one. If you start a new one, I will burn that down as well. As many times as necessary until you are driven, permanently, from Amazon.

Internet Art Thieves

Due to the growing problem of Internet art thieves the images in all future posts will be marked, defaced, with a copyright mark.  The images in existing posts will also be replaced with those bearing a copyright mark. This will prevent anyone from using the images, selling them without my permission. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Most artists do not make a great deal of money from practicing their craft, however, what we do receive is important.  Thievery will drive many artists away from making art; certainly we will stop sharing it with the public on the Internet.

Please sign this online petition urging Amazon.com to help prevent the sale of stolen art on their site.

You may also want to join this Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/442213309304038. It is open open to all artists, photographers and designers.

Look here for more information on how you can help us stop art theft in the future.

 

It is bad enough that Amazon refuses to remove art when it is proven to have been stolen, but among the stolen works are those intended to support charity in Africa. Zazzle.com, where many artists sell their work, has a program whereby artists can LIFE Line which enables Kenyan mothers to care for their children and provide for their families. Kenyan mothers create handmade products to earn sustainable wages so they can lift their families out of poverty.

Amazon profits from every sale of stolen art, millions of bootleg products are offered for sale on its web sites. Not only artists in North America and Europe, many of whom are in financial straits, but he poorest of the poor. Shame on Amazon! This can not be allowed to continue.

More to consider.

Artists, and the US-based vendors where they sell their art, aren’t the only ones affected by Amazon’s facilitation of Chinese intellectual property thieves. Product manufacturers are also losing sales. the manufacturers hire fewer workers because of the lost sales. Then there is the income tax revenue that would be paid by the designers and all those employees and potential employees to local, state, and federal governments.

And if you buy from artist-authorized vendors, such as Zazzle, consumers receive better products with high-quality graphics.

Do cheap products sold through Amazon and shipped from China meet USA safety standards?

Boycott Amazon!

Please write your senators and representatives.

mr. molotov's pale ale

Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale

A bit of dark humor this time – a label from a bottle of Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale brewed by mythical High Octane Brewing Company.

Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale[/caption]Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs under Josef Stalin. Along with text reading “Mr. MOLOTOV’S Pale Ale” and “OCTANE RATING: 93.” Additional includes health warnings and the name of the brewery. Customizable text reading “Toss ‘Em A Molly” also appears. I often refer to Molotov cocktails as Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale.

The Molotov Cocktail (Russian: Коктейль Молотова) is an improvised incendiary device, usually a gasoline-filled bottle. As they are extremely easy to make they are often used in riots, by street gangs, and by guerrilla fighters. The idea is to set the target ablaze, as opposed to blowing it up with explosives.

While most probably first used during the Spanish civil war in the 1930’s, the term “Molotov Cocktail” was coined by the Finns, as a jibe against Molotov, during the Winter War (1939-40) following a Russian invasion. Molotov claimed on Soviet radio that the bombs the Russians were dropping on Finland were actually humanitarian food deliveries for the starving Finns. The FInns referred to Soviet cluster bombs as “Molotov bread baskets.” Later, the Finns called gasoline incendiary devices used against Soviet tanks “Molotov cocktails,” a beverage to accompany the bread. Minister Molotov did not much care for the term.

Light up the party; toss ’em a Molly. Please do not try this at home or on the street. Leave it to the professional radical; especially as most people make a critical mistake when constructing Molotov cocktails and are more likely to immolate themselves than their intended target.

I enjoyed making this project as it required thinking about both artistic and technical elements. Making the label itself was quite fun, and then so was rendering a 3D bottle with the label image correctly sized and oriented in DAZ Bryce. I think I was fairly successful in giving the label the look of second-rate, poor quality which was typical of many items printed in the Soviet Union.

As usual the image is available on a growing list of items at one of my Zazzle stores. Search for “molotov.”

mr. molotov's pale ale label

A Molly Label

a flaming bottle of mr. molotov's pale ale

Don’t Try This At Home

There are some people in Alaska who would like for the state to become an independent nation. And there are a few who seem to think Alaska is already independent. So, I have another entry in the series of postage stamps for an independent Alaska. This time a 10-Nugget featuring a bull Caribou superimposed on a Caribou pelt.

10-nugget alaska caribou postage stamp

10-Nuggest Alaska Postage Stamp

While Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), known as the reindeer outside of North America, are widespread and numerous, some subspecies are rare and one has gone extinct. The Inuit word tuktu means – deer that never stops moving. Caribou are always on the move, going north to calve, heading for the winter grounds, and south in the summer. Caribou considerably in colour and size. Uniquely among deer, both genders grow antlers, though these are larger in the males and there are a few populations where females lack them completely.

Caribou hunting and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are important to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. Even far outside its range, the caribou/reindeer is well known due to the myth, probably originating in early 19th century America, in which Santa Claus’s sleigh is pulled by flying reindeer. In Lapland (aka Samiland) reindeer pull a pulks, a type of sled or sleigh.

Caribou are present in both tundra and taiga (boreal forest) areas. It was originally was found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and northern China north of the 50th latitude. In North America, it was found in Canada, Alaska, and the northern conterminous USA from Washington to Maine. In the 19th century, it was apparently still present in southern Idaho. It also occurred naturally on Sakhalin, Greenland, and probably even in historical times in Ireland.

During the late Pleistocene era, reindeer were found as far south as Nevada and Tennessee in North America and Spain in Europe. Domesticated reindeer are mostly found in northern Fennoscandia and Russia, with a herd of approximately 150-170 reindeer living around the Cairngorms region in Scotland. The last remaining wild tundra reindeer in Europe are found in portions of southern Norway. A few reindeer from Norway were introduced to the South Atlantic island of South Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are two distinct herds still thriving there, permanently separated by glaciers. Their total numbers are no more than a few thousand. The flag and the coat of arms of the territory contain an image of a reindeer. Around 4000 reindeer have been introduced into the French sub-Antarctic archipelago of Kerguelen Islands. East Iceland has a small herd of about 2500–3000 animals.

Caribou and reindeer numbers have fluctuated historically, but many herds are in decline across their range. This global decline is linked to climate change for northern, migratory caribou and reindeer herds and industrial disturbance of caribou habitat for sedentary, non-migratory herds.

Fur Fur color varies considerably, both individually, and depending on season and subspecies. Northern populations, which usually are relatively small, are whiter, while southern populations, which typically are relatively large, are darker. This can be seen well in North America, where the northermost subspecies, the Peary Caribou, is the whitest and smallest subspecies of the continent, while the southermost subspecies, the Woodland Caribou, is the darkest and largest.

The coat has two layers of fur, a dense woolly undercoat and longer-haired overcoat consisting of hollow, air-filled hairs.

In most populations both sexes grow antlers, which (in the Scandinavian variety) for old males fall off in December, for young males in the early spring, and for females in the summer. The antlers typically have two separate groups of points, a lower and upper.

Caribou have the largest antlers relative to body size among deer, but the antlers of the domesticated reindeer antlers tend to be rather small and spindly.

Caribou are primarily dependent on lichens for food during the winter, especially reindeer moss. They also consume the leaves of willows and birches, as well as sedges and grasses. There is some evidence to suggest that on occasion, they will also feed on lemmings, arctic char, and bird eggs. Reindeer herded by the Chukchis have been known to eat mushrooms.

Some populations of North American caribou the longest migration route of any terrestrial mammal, traveling up to 3,100 mi (5,000 km) a year, and covering 390,000 sq mi 1,000,000 km2 (1,000,000 km2).

There are a variety of predators that prey heavily on reindeer. Golden Eagles prey on calves and are the most prolific hunter on calving grounds. Wolverine will take newborn calves or birthing cows, as well as (less commonly) infirm adults. Brown Bear and, occasionally, Polar Bear prey on reindeer of all ages but (as with the wolverine) are most likely to attack weaker animals such as calves and sick deer. The Gray Wolf is the most effective natural predator of adult reindeer, especially during the winter.

Blood-sucking insects, such as black flies and mosquitoes, are a plague to reindeer during the summer and can cause enough stress to inhibit feeding and calving behaviors.

Caribou and Reindeer have long been hunted by humans since the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, and are today the main predator in many areas. Norway and Greenland have unbroken traditions of hunting wild reindeer from the ice age until the present day. In the non-forested mountains of central Norway it is still possible to find remains of stone-built trapping pits, guiding fences, and bow rests, built especially for hunting reindeer.

Caribou are still hunted in North America and Greenland. In the traditional lifestyle of the Inuit people, Northern First Nations people, Alaska Natives, and the Kalaallit of Greenland, the caribou is an important source of food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Many Gwichʼin people, who depend on the Porcupine caribou, still follow traditional caribou management practices that include a prohibition against selling caribou meat and limits on the number of caribou to be taken per hunting trip.

An out-of-the-ordinary, simple, blue and white fractal suggesting a melt water lake and a river, or stream, in a valley between glacier-covered mountains. This image is rather odd looking, but strangely appealing, a fortuitous randomly-generated fractal. I doctored it a bit to enhance the appearance of ice and snow.

You can find this image on many items at one of my Zazzle stores. Search for “glacial lake.”

glacial_lake_crackle_small

I thought a digital rendering of a pine cone that I picked up in Ma’alot in northern Israel, would look nice with a quotation from naturalist John Muir. Muir was an early advocate of wilderness preservation in the United States, particularly in the west.

Click on image for full-size view.

john muir quote and pine cone

Preaching of Pines

Where the slopes are covered with pine forests, the Galilee reminds me very much of the western parts of North American. Jews began planting pines in the 1930s to reforest lands damaged by neglect and overgrazing by goats when under Turkish rule. Pines were chosen, in part, due to the fact that most of the “olim,” Jewish immigrants, were from Europe and pines looked normal to them. Eventually, the pine forests came under criticism, referred to as pine tree deserts, monotonous and sterile. Many people wanted to see native species reintroduced. However, in recent years much of the criticism has died away. It seems the pines have promoted the rebuilding of the soil. Native undergrowth and tree species, as well as wildlife, are making a comeback. And I can attest that sometimes the smell of pine resin is just wonderful.

The cone pictured is from from one of those pines, an Aleppo Pine (Pinus halpensis), also known as the Jerusalem Pine, is the only species of wild pine that grows in Israel. It is commonly accepted that the tree now called “pine” is the Biblical “oil tree”, as mentioned in Isaiah XLI, 19:

“I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree…”

It is also mentioned in I Kings VI, 23:

“And inside the sanctuary he made two cherubs of oil wood, each ten cubits high.”

The oil tree is also mentioned verses 31 and 33 of the same chapter, as well as in Nechemia VIII, 15.

The oil tree features close to other impressive trees in the description of the vision of the redemption, in the blossoming of the desert and the arid land. In the Mishnah and other rabbinic literature, the oil tree is mentioned as a tree that was used for kindling the beacons that were lighted to announce a new month.

The pine, in its present name, is mentioned in the Bible just once, in the Book of Isaiah XLIV, 14:

“… and takes the cypress and the oak, which he strengthens for himself among the trees of the forest; he plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it.”

There is a mention of pine trees in the Mishnah in the context of the various trees which were used for burning the “red heifer”. There are also those who hold that pines were among the trees used for kindling the beacons to announce a new month.

Here is another view of the cone, superimposed on fallen needles.

Click on image for full-size view.

pine cone and needles

Pine Cone and Fallen Needles

The Aleppo pine blossoms and flowers in the spring. The male cones are shed after the flowering while the female cones develop into fruit. The cone stays closed on the tree until a heavy sharav [hamsin], when it opens and its seeds are scattered.

Several versions of these images are available on a wide variety of items at one of my Zazzle. stores. Search for “pine cone” or “muir.”

White on white. A new 10-Nugget postage stamp, featuring an Arctic Fox, a digital painting of an Arctic Fox, Vulpes lagopus, on the polar ice, has just been issued by the Alaska Postal Authority. The sun hangs low in the bright blue arctic sky. Do not stare at the sun as it can harm your eyes.

Click on image for full-size view.

arctic fox stamp

Alaska Arctic Fox Postage

As usual this image is available on an ever increasing number of items at one of my Zazzle. stores. Search for “arctic fox.”

The Arctic Fox is comfortable in deep cold; it does not begin to shiver until temperatures drop to about −70 °C (−94 °F) due to its dense, multi-layered fur. Other adaptations to a frigid climate include fur on the soles of its feet, short ears, and a short muzzle. Arctic foxes live in burrows, in a blizzard they may tunnel into the snow to create shelter.

The coat of the Arctic fox, sometimes blue-gray, is very effective winter camouflage. The natural hues allow the animal to blend into the environment. During the short warm season its coat changes to brown or gray, again acting as camouflage in tundra rocks and plants.

During the winter, when prey is scarce, the foxes follow hunting Polar Bears on the ice pack feeding on scraps. During the summer the eat rodents, birds, eggs, and even fish. They will also feed on berries and seaweed.
Arctic Foxes have extremely keen hearing, aided by their wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. If it hears something moving under the snow it leaps into the air and pounces, punching through the snow to catch its prey.

The range of the Arctic Foxes is circumpolar; they can be found throughout the far north. The only land mammal native to Iceland, it arrived by walking oversea ice at the end of the last ice age. The species is in generally good shape except for the population on the Scandinavian mainland. However it is losing out to the larger Red Fox where their ranges overlap.

De Havilland Otter

A de De havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, sporting the logo of mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, flies somewhere over Alaska.

Click on image for full-size view.

de havilland dh-3 otter

de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter

The Otter, originally intended to be known as the King Beaver, was conceived as a larger, more capable follow on to highly successful Beaver. The Beaver referred to by de Havilland as a “half-ton truck;” the Otter would be the “one-ton truck.”

The Otter was used by the militaries of many countries and is also popular in  with skydivers; it can be found in many drop zones throughout the world.

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