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Thread: Swimtails Violates Copyright Use + Other issues summary (includes screenshots)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Swimtails Violates Copyright Use + Other issues summary (includes screenshots)

    Warning, this is a long post.

    This went down on Facebook so I am sharing it here because with all the drama with this company people should be aware so they can make educated decisions when purchasing from tail makers.

    Disclaimer: Several mers have been threatened with cease and desists for sharing these facts. If you have proof of similar dealings please share but with proof.

    A few things to note:

    In 2015 they were caught ripping off Finfolk by placing FFs photo of tails they've made over their fabric design. The community chalked this up to a misunderstanding, but it's documented here:

    In 2018 there was a big social media storm when their instagram claimed that the husband cheated on the wife and the company was going under. Shortly after they back tracked that, but cancelled a bunch of people's orders. Many folks in 2019 are still waiting on orders:

    As of the end of Feb 2019 their account is in delinquency status for failing to file their business paperwork:

    The Issue: Violating the Copyright of another Artist.

    Swimtails had this post up for several days of a new tail they had for sale.

    The problem with this post is that it contained an actual digital overlay file copyrighted by a well known fairy artist. So to be sure everyone understands, the issue at hand is not a tail that looks like someone else's work, but rather a tail physically made using a digital art file that was copyrighted and available for licensing.

    The artist in question, contacted swimtails. I am posting their communication with permission as they are not on Mernetwork:

    After a lack of response (2 days), the artist made a statement on their website about how to properly use these types of files, which was then shared around in groups:

    It was shared in one group, and the co-owner of swimtails decided to reply with threats of legal action for sharing the link:

    Swimtails then took to instagram to reply to the artist in question, after failing to do so via email:

    Then they replied to the emails:

    Then back to instagram:

    Then back to email:

    At this point swimtails decides they will not cooperate with the artist and would rather set their own terms AFTER STEALING HER WORK.

    Then Ryan stepped in, all of a sudden this is a huge money making opportunity for the artist despite the fact that swimtails has no money to pay her fee or money to refund customers...

    So if all of this is a little over your head, here's a summary:

    • They violated her copyright by using the file without clearing the use or paying the appropriate fee
    • They refused to pay the fee
    • They tried to impose on HER for the use
    • They've threatened multiple mers with an attorney for mischaracterization
    • They've got a bad history in the industry at this point

    Nerdmaid Faith did an excellent recap of issues prior to this if you want an easier way to view:


    Last edited by AniaR; 02-28-2019 at 01:09 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod Trade Winds's Avatar
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    Not surprised at all

  3. #3
    Yep, I think that's everything.
    (BTW I'm a forum member now, fixed the membership join issue so, HI!)

    I am allowing my conversations with Swimtails to be posted online because:
    1. I and others have been accused of misrepresenting or mischaracterizing, or spreading false information about the company and I want the facts presented clearly
    2. I am passionate about educating the public about the myths and facts about IP law and don't want anyone else to get the idea my stock can be used in this way after seeing it used on the Swimtails
    3. I feel it's in the public interest to share my own experience with Swimtails and their unlicensed use since the company has already seriously broken the trust of many of their customers by failing to fulfill orders or refunds and even removing Paypal to make it harder for them to file claims, and people should know about the potential to experience issues with them

    Swimtails had issues about 'the whole story' not being communicated was stating things had been mischaracterized or what have you, so these are all the receipts of our entire communications about my IP claim AFAIK.
    Screen shots don't lie. If I'm accused of spreading false information or misrepresenting something, well that should be cleared up now and everyone can make up their own mind about me or Swimtails based on seeing what actually happened.

    I tend to get my hackles up when my reasonable, and fairly standard terms are met with resistance and refusal to pay the penalty for unlicensed use, especially when it's such a low amount compared to what statutory damages could get you - they start at around $700 and go up to $150,000, and statutory damages don't depend on sales at all. They can be awarded even if no profit was made, and the amount can be determined based on evidence of the infringement being willful.
    I REALLY don't like it when someone tries to hard sell me on letting them continue to sell product with my art with an agreement that's on their terms and refusing my request for an initial fee to be paid.
    Trust has already been broken with the initial negligence in complying with the terms, so allowing continued sales based on only a promise of future payments when a company already has so many complaints of unfulfilled product with no refunds to their customers for the last 4 months PLUS history of past infringement without even the excuse of purchasing a limited license stock, would be naive of me.

    I've learned that the butterfly tails are also based off a stock image, and there's more I could say about that but due to a legal limitation in their email, that can't be shared as a screen shot.
    Here's that butterfly:

    At this point, it's hard not to question whether they purchased the clip art on their other tails via the proper channels and commercial licenses.

    I'm happy to clarify anything or answer questions about this, I have nothing at all to hide or be ashamed of here and TBH I'd be insulted by their condescension towards me if it wasn't so comical by now.

    I have been down this road long enough to recognize when there's something off, and too often there is a mysterious employee or designer to blame that is never identified.
    The aggression in Ryan's response to this leaves the impression that he was personally responsible, and after all it's his name on the receipt.
    Seriously, if you are running a business that profits in any way off of licensed art, you HAVE to make damn sure that not only you but the employees working for you understand the terms for every license they are working with. Most clip art, unless it's public domain, is in fact just a license to use the art, it does not grant all rights to all types of use, neither does it give you exclusivity without an agreement or without that being spelled out in the terms of the asset.

    Although I didn't have a chance to grab a screen shot of the landing page for the tails with this description, the word 'exclusive' was used to describe the design. That, among other things, makes me wonder if whoever put that tail together knew that they certainly did not have exclusive rights to that design but assumed they could sell them without getting caught at least for a while after some cash was made. No I don't have proof of this, not saying it's fact, but that's the impression I had from the get-go. After all, they copied that Blue Tang Finfolk tail pretty accurately in the past and it's hard to believe that they had no inkling that was wrong to do.

    I wasn't even going to offer them licensing at all in the first place, and only did so because I have friends in this community who are familiar with the company and I had been told that they were trying to recover from past troubles. I was trying to be kind by contacting them directly and sending an invoice for a fee under $500. No IP attorney is going to take on a case without us each getting at least a couple grand when hiring on a contingency, which is all most of us can afford to do, and the process is very time intensive.
    They seem to want to convince me that deciding not to work with them is a huge loss for my company and that I would have made hundreds of thousands (LOL), however money is not always the most important thing to me and I find it hard to believe I'm missing out on hundreds of thousands when an initial fee of a few hundred won't be paid.
    Not everyone works this way, but I won't work with companies that seem to lack integrity especially when it comes to using others' IP, and in my own opinion they seem to be building a pattern of it.

    TLDR - Don't fuck with the fairies

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pod of Cali Saelyyia's Avatar
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    Hi Angela, Saelyyia here. I own a few sets of your wings and have had the pleasure of meeting you at LOJ a few years back. I am very sorry to hear that this has happened, but wanted to thank you for providing this evidence as well as your continued work to educate folks on how to properly respect artists rights and copyright/licensing agreements. You are always very reasonable, and professional in how you go about these things and I feel like that helps folks understand things better.

    I do hope this issue gets resolved soon. If only we could see the doors close on this particular company soon. I am very tired of seeing them mistreating their costumers and artists time and time again over the years as I'm sure many in this community (and now the faerie community as well) can say.

    Sometimes Life Just Needs a Bit of Magic

  5. #5
    Senior Member Pod of the Great Lakes Theta's Avatar
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    Yes, thank you to both Raina and Angela for coming out with this. IP law is so important in this industry, and we've had issues with it in the past - I'm sorry you had to deal with this, but at the same time I'm grateful to see how the gears go round, so to speak.

    Also, welcome to the forums, glad to have you, and sorry it wasn't under better circumstances.

  6. #6
    Wow, that is so sad to hear... I will never purchase anything from them. So sorry to the artist that you have to deal with this. Also, thank you Raina for bringing this to our attention.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    For some reason Angela is having trouble posting here (she messaged an admin) just an FYI

  8. #8
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Thanks for bringing this to light, Raina! I'd hoped Swimtails would be able to get things together, but I guess there were deeper issues than any of us thought.
    "Only in death does duty end." -- Warhammer 40,000

  9. #9
    Testing, testing, will I be able to post my comment this time? LOL

  10. #10
    Okay this is working! I couldn't get comments to post earlier.

    I just wanted to thank you all for the support, also that I'm not out to ruin their company or convince people not to buy from them but I do want people to be aware of my own experience with them in case there is reason to be wary.
    I genuinely hope that this was a learning experience for everyone and that at least more awareness about IP law and artist rights has been gained.
    And I hope that Swimtails does turn things around because I have been in a situation where a business grew too fast and before we knew all the ropes we got stuck having to fix a lot of mistakes.
    But from what I can remember we had been pretty transparent about what the problems were and did our best to fix it.
    We even had licenses we were really late with because of the 2008-09 market crash and recession affecting every aspect of our business, tanking it, and my father dying of lung cancer at the same time the marriage was coming apart.
    It was a mess, we kept making changes to make sure we didn't disappoint customers in the future but finally had to dissolve the company.
    We both had to file for bankruptcy after.

    I've also been in situations where my business partner was spending company money on cam girls without my knowledge and hey I don't know if that's something that one half of that company and I could relate to but from what I heard of past drama, maybe our past shares similarities?

    What isn't cool is the way this incident was handled and the bloated implication that I needed them, all the while straight up refusing my terms as if they weren't warranted and trying to make their offer of no payment up front sound like it was the better deal.
    I think that last email from Ryan says it all.
    It's late, I'm tired, and tonight is the first time I've seen a news graphic made by a stranger about one of my copyright posts on an Instagram story so it's a bit surreal!
    I did not expect quite this much noise over it, often my copyright posts fly by without a lot of static.

    I wish the best for Swimtails in the future, and I hope they understand finally why I don't feel comfortable licensing to them as well as why I can't really walk away happy with this.
    However I am walking away. Possibly a brisk jog. I know they aren't going to pay the fee so I'm not holding my breath and I consider it done.
    This issue sucked up enough of my time, and my time is money, so not having sold any tails with my art is a small comfort but it cost me, and it's clear I won't be reimbursed so some bitterness is to be expected.
    Hoping along with the lessons learned they eventually make the majority of their customers happy and run over future designs and licenses with a fine toothed comb.
    I think anything more I might be circling back and repeating, and I want to catch the Colbert Show, so, 'night mers!

  11. #11
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    TO CLARIFY SOMETHING because I see post on social media where people are misunderstanding...

    No one is saying the swimtails pic is stealing from the one Angela posted on her website. No one seems to be reading... lol. The pic on angela's website is an EXAMPLE of how to use the stock lol. We aren't saying wow look at these two similar tails. Swimtails DOWNLOADED THE OVERLAY FILE and violated the copyright/terms of use by including it on their commercial design.

    If you download the Nike symbol to use on your product you're selling, it's not a matter of copying. You are literally trying to use a trademarked/copyrighted item lol. Make sense now?

  12. #12
    Senior Member Euro Pod Echidna's Avatar
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    thanks for the summary.

    I won't be ordering anything from this company, and I will advise all mers I know against it.
    Swimtails is all over Germany atm, and I don't want anymer here to have to deal with such stuff and be disappointed or lose money.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    So swimtails made a big public apology on instagram which is nice and all and I'll defer to Angela on that

    The concern I have is that it didn't come until the community got upset, and no matter how much Angela tried to explain this to them they kept doubling down with Ryan making constant baseless threats to her, me, and anyone else who called it out.

    Everyone can understand a mistake, when you admit to it, and then work to make it right. But doubling down, refusing to pay, hurling insults, making threats... like really? it also seems like once again the wife is stuck apologizing for the husband's shitty behaviour

    That's my two cents, take what you will. But yes on their instagram now is a public apology.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Pod of The South Slim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AniaR View Post
    So swimtails made a big public apology on instagram which is nice and all and I'll defer to Angela on that

    The concern I have is that it didn't come until the community got upset, and no matter how much Angela tried to explain this to them they kept doubling down with Ryan making constant baseless threats to her, me, and anyone else who called it out.

    Everyone can understand a mistake, when you admit to it, and then work to make it right. But doubling down, refusing to pay, hurling insults, making threats... like really? it also seems like once again the wife is stuck apologizing for the husband's shitty behaviour

    That's my two cents, take what you will. But yes on their instagram now is a public apology.

    While it's nice there was some apologize, I wouldn't count it as a full apologize if I was in her shoes. I congrats Kristie for willing to stand up. But the fact remains that Kristie made the apology while Ryan that threaten and insulted Angela stay silence based on what I see in the screenshots. An apology from Ryan of him admitting his faults may help change of our mind on how we view Swimtails if they are truly looking for a good way to start repairing their image. Amazing talent Swimtail has but there is so much wasted potential currently.
    When you make the impossible become possible, that when the magic happens!

    Survivor of cyberbullies

  15. #15
    I'm glad you and Angela posted all this. I own a Swimtails Betta tail and have had nothing but good experiences with them personally but those screenshots make me very hesitant to recommend them...

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  16. #16
    Just throwing in my two cents on Swimtails here but, my money has still not been refunded from my order back in September of 2018.
    My order of a Siren tail and Mahina never shipped and now I'm still fighting to get my money back.
    This copyrighted art mess just further solidifies that I won't be ordering from this company again.
    "Beware, Beware the Daughter of the Sea. Beware... Beware of ...Me"

  17. #17
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    They deleted their post and STILL continue to make condescending "apologies" to Angela. Blaming her for the screen shots going public- which was only done after Ryan continuously accused of lying publicly and threatening people. So they were posted to prove.

  18. #18
    Senior Member North Pacific Pod
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    Not surprised they have been insanely unprofessional and rather Ponzi if they are claiming to make new sales for old refunds.

    Hence why i filed and posted the AG colorado info

    Anyone expecting this company to change is definitely mistaken at this point. People like this send off red flags to those of us in the know FOR A REASON.

    Any person going off on rants like these as a business EVER for ANY reason is a serious dumpster fire
    -Siren Gita
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    User formerly known as derBears

  19. #19
    The level of unprofessionalism is abysmal. I'm all for businesses making a comeback, especially if its from being overwhelmed by popularity in the product but this? Just disgraceful.

    Not only do I feel extremely uncomfortable giving money to a business with people that conduct themselves like this but I don't want my purchase to be a gamble. I should be able to pay for a product and receive one. Period. The fact that it's a gamble on whether I'm going to get a product is ridiculous.

    It's a real shame, I was rooting for these guys. I really wish they conducted themselves better and just owned up to their mistakes and paid the penalty. They made the mistake and it's the least they can do. But I guess they can't even do that. That's not even to get into the public level of unprofessionalism.

    Unfortunately looks like I won't be swimming in a swimtails product unless I purchase one secondhand. Not going to entertain the idea that this kind of behavior is acceptable.

    "She felt a sarcastic impulse to point out to him that in some circles "inhuman" would be considered a compliment..."

    - Waking Storms, Sarah Porter

  20. #20
    Senior Member North Pacific Pod
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    If anyone is curious as to why some people recognize these red flags, lots of communities have extensive bois. I'm familiar with the one reptile breeders have on a fantastic forum that has a well known "boi" aka board of inquiry section.

    Every person that is blacklisted acts JUST like this. I could swap out 100s of names and have the crazy be IDENTICAL.

    Check it out on fauna classifieds if you ever want to see some serious crazy.

    Everything from the cajoling to the accusations when other people find out, the paranoid responses to shared info that has been violated when they have not been named (boy guilty conscious much???), to the promises and "opportunities" and switching between cajoling and extreme aggression and juvenile calling. I've also seen many create fake accounts to promote themselves and talk crap about their victims.

    They seriously WORK HARDER fighting to do things wrong and lie than it would be to just be professional! Plus they lose an f ton of money!!! Smh


    Eta: these are also dating red flags for abusive partners. Its no coincidence these folks usually have accusations of infidelity in their personal life.
    -Siren Gita
    Blue ocean "siren"

    User formerly known as derBears


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