Calvin & Hobbes and Copyright Infringement - PLEASE READ!!

We've all seen the stickers of Calvin peeing on competing truck logos - but did you know that Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, did not create that image? It was copyright infringement. And sadly, by the time Mr. Watterson realized he needed to stop the thievery, it was too late. They were plastered on nearly every truck window in America. As he said, "I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo." Heck, in researching this topic, the second site that came up in Google was "Bootleg Calvin and Hobbes Items" - products people made using Mr. Watterson's art that he did not approve (and is probably not getting paid for).
     Infringers (thieves) have made millions of dollars off of Mr. Watterson's art. And perhaps saddest of all, a wonderful and pure comic strip was sullied by an image that has perhaps become more iconic than the artist's creation itself.

     I try very hard to avoid the same thing happening to my own art. I put my copyright information on everything I post online. However, people constantly download my art, literally remove my copyright and put my art back on the internet as if it were their own. My "Coloring Page Tuesdays" collection has grown so large, it could easily become my full time job just tracking down copyright infringers. With every search I make, several infringements come up every time (often on the first search).
     That's where you come in. My awesome followers (nearly 3,000 subscribers to my newsletter and well over a million hits each year) often let me know about infringements they see - thank you! Just this week Amy alerted me to a MAJOR retailer who gave out one of my images as Halloween coloring pages (without permission or compensation and my copyright line was removed). This clearly goes against my copyright guidelines (check #6). I alerted the company to the infringement, it went to their legal department, and I quickly received a very apologetic phone call and an offer to pay up. (In other words, they knew they'd done something wrong and I could have sued them for a lot more money than I actually requested.)
     Others I find through "Google Images," through following my stats, or just by typing in the name of an image and seeing what comes up.
     Sadly, along with several other copyright violations (one in a language I can't even figure out), the worst infringement I've ever found also happened this week. A woman downloaded nearly my entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection, removed my copyright, colored the images and then sold them through several Stock Image sites as her own creations. And she made a lot of money doing it. Yes, I'm going after her - I'm disgusted and horrified that she could steal four years of hard work from me like that. But perhaps the worst of it is, there are now hundreds of people out there who purchased "her art" thinking it was legal, and under the rights stated on the stock sites, they may employ the images for commercial use, logos, you name it.
     Lets put this in perspective. I do get requests for usage of my images outside my copyright terms (usually by businesses) and I am happy to work with people. You'll notice tag lines on some of my art mentioning that "this image is used as a logo for..." Those are companies or organizations who have paid for the right to use those images - in some cases, they become the owner of the copyright and I maintain usage rights to continue sharing the image with you as a coloring page (in other words, I don't own it anymore).
     Depending on the usage needs and the business (and whether I'm hearing from them up front, or after I've caught them), I charge anywhere from $250 to $1500 for single usage of my images. And again, depending on the usage needs and the organization/corporation, I charge anywhere from $1,500 to $5,500 for my logo work. (That's average pricing for my industry.)
     With that in mind, lets consider over the life of "Coloring Page Tuesdays" I will have commercial buyers for every single one of my nearly 250 images. But they don't come to me because they can find my work online someplace else, without my copyright restrictions attached. That means this one copyright infringer could potentially cost me as little as $62,500 or as much as $1,375,000. You read that right. That's income that I won't get.
     Never mind that the entire reason I create my coloring pages is to draw attention to MY BOOKS, and when they are separated from my website, the intention is completely undone.
     THAT is why I take copyright infringement so seriously. And I so appreciate your help. When you email me with usage questions "just to make sure you're doing it right" - I want to hug you. When you alert me to businesses using my images in ways that don't look right to you - I want to hug you again.
     There's a lot of ignorance out there about copyright, what it means and why it's important (by individuals and major corporations - you'd be amazed). But the bottom line is, just because artwork is on the internet, does not mean that it's free or that it's okay to use it. If you do want/need to use artwork you find online, please check with the creator of that artwork, make sure its okay first. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and the roof I have to pay for to keep over my head.

Update: Thank you for all your great comments and support. I've followed up this article with a new post: "10 Ways to Protect Your Art Online."


Hardygirl said...

Ugh!!! I feel sick.

We LOVE your coloring pages. I print them up for car trips or rainy days for my daughters. Thank you for putting them out there (and at such a risk!!).

I honestly think that lots of people have the mistaken belief that when they find something on the internet, it's fair game.

My girls are asking for kindles for Christmas. They couldn't believe that you actually have to PAY for the books you download. Eek. I gave them way more information than they wanted to hear about copyrights, etc.


Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Sarah Francis, It's because of people like you that I do keep my coloring pages online. (And trust me, I've been very tempted to take them down.) But I'll take a handful of smiles over days of being crushed by the universe anytime. So far anyhow.
I'm so glad you had a talk with your girls like that. I wish we could afford an enormous advertising campaign on the subject! But for now - it will take people like you, caring enough to spread the word one person at a time.
Thank you!!!

Denise said...

Elizabeth, good luck. I know you're fighting the good fight for all us, not just yourself. So, you go girl!

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

It is for all of us Denise. And it's going to take all of us going after infringers to make sure the message gets out there.
To artists I say: Keep an eye on your work! Use Google Images, check your stats, follow up with people who are using your work inappropriately.
It's going to take a wave of us doing that to make even the tiniest dent. But we must!

Shelly Schmidt said...

I think this is terrible and it would have never occurred to me that people would do this! I try really hard to be careful downloading images- there are too many 'little digi stores' where people either do not know the law or do not care...... I am sorry this is happening to you! Oh- and I love your images!!!

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Thank you Shelly! And you're right, the stamping industry is one of the biggest victims of illegal downloading (and uploading/selling). It's why several stampers started STAMP OUT at . We're teaming up to try to have more power over infringers (thieves). A lot of people use my coloring pages as 'digi-stamps' which I fully support if they're using my art correctly. In fact, you can see some of their awesome creations in my gallery at .

lucie1067 said...

Elizabeth --

My little boy loves your coloring pages posted on Tuesdays. I am so grateful to you for posting them, especially considering the infringement risk you run with every post.

Thank you for being so generous with your talent.

Unknown said...

My boss and I used your Pumpkin Mouse on the white board in the meeting room at our library. We made sure to put your name/copyright information on the board with the picture. And I told everyone that you are our favorite illustrator!

I hope this is an acceptable use... I would hate to think that we had infringed on your property by using it in this way. Please let me know. You can email me at cdeffendall(at)

HighDesertGal said...

We love your pages, too. I am still baffled why people "forget" that they didn't draw your wonderful pictures. How can they claim that the work is theirs? Integrity appears to be a forgotten value.
I love your books and have given several to my daughter and her children.

grandmalee said...

I'm totally behind you and all of the other (legitimate) artists out there! I've had the Stamp Out logo on my blog since Mo Manning started the group. I've alerted many artists that someone was stealing their images, but I wish I could do more. You have done a fabulous job of explaining how much this hurts artists, so hopefully others will also join the fight!

Deebi27 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deebi27 said...

People...ugh! I want to believe the world is filled with more good, honest people than otherwise. After reading you letter to us brings a question. Your Coloring Pages are so warm and endearing, I would cherish the ones I use and feel trerribly for all those who wouldn't be able to enjoy them as I have if you feel the need to take them down! You have to protect your work and your kindness to share them is a very generious thing :o)

Be strong and prosecute to the fullest my dear! Thanks!

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Christine - HUGS for asking!! And yes, you are using my image appropriately. Not to mention, you are a LIBRARY! I love you guys! Thanks so much for the love. And thanks for being my front line!
Do please check out my books to see if any might be a good fit for your patrons! I'd love to know I'm in my favorite libraries. :) e

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

HighDesertGal, GrandmaLee, Lucie and Deebi,
THANK YOU guys! Truly, YOU are the reason my coloring pages stay UP!

Teresa said...

I've used your images for Operation Write Home cards. I made tags with your info and put them on the back of the cards. you do great work--thank you!

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Teresa, Yup - I have a special copyright line just for you guys, and you have all been SO respectful of my copyright. I love that I'm able to help spread some joy to our soldiers overseas. :) e

Kate Hadfield said...

I feel your pain, people often seem to "forget" they haven't drawn my images either. Good on you for blogging about this and raising awareness!

tilly said...

I love your drawings and have quite a few cards in your gallery, I just make one off's but its so sad that some people do not see it as stealing when trying to sell on or use illegally. I did come across your octopus under someone else's name a while ago, I was upset as I knew it was yours but did not know what to do about it. I DO NOW. after all, it is your job and pays your bills.

Char said...

I am just in awe of your drawings and your books. I LOVE your coloring pages even though both of my Granddaughters are not into coloring any more, I have a friend who has a 4 year old that got ecstatic when I sent her your link to your coloring pages.

I am waiting for a book on Oregon!!! ;-) But, I may have to start buying each of the books to have it in my children's collection.

Keep up the fight against copyright infringement....and I'll keep an eye out, as well. I just don't understand people that take what isn't theirs.

Thank you so much for offering your coloring pages.....I love them, as well.

MorningStarArts said...

I am an assistant librarian; is it a violation of copyright to print your pictures to share with the children at preschool storytime?

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

MorningStarArts, That is absolutely allowed! Please see my copyright guidelines at - I create my coloring pages especially for librarians like you so that you don't have to worry about copyright issues. So, please share! :) e