Thursday, April 26, 2012

Recall the Dogs (errr Raptors) of War...

I got a very prompt reply from Cretaceous Studies in regard to my recent email, and very clear lines of communication have now been opened. (There is a strong chance my initial email got spam filtered... I only wrote three lines with a link... A classic spam configuration. That was my bad!)

I am declaring an immediate cease fire against Cretaceous Studies for the timing being, as its owner and operator Stan has admitted mistakes were made, and has shown an eager willingness to try to change and fix the problems on his site. An initial move that has impressed me (considering he did it all within hours).

Hopefully we can work with Cretaceous Studies to get Stan's picture crediting and usage up to snuff (and for a few hours effort he has definitely tried quite hard) so he doesn't have this artists up in arms problem against his site again.

The take home message for everyone, especially non-artists, is when trying to approach an art community be sure to extend credit to the artists and image makers that have helped make site interesting. Above all else do not open with a joke about art theft or illegal image use (Stan has admitted that this joke of his really backfired, and I would have to agree putting aside my pitch fork...)

Thank you again to everyone who pitched in and helped us really flesh out this case for Stan to see. Also a public thank you to Stan for taking this seriously, and wanting to make things right!

The storm is building against Cretaceous Studies...

Our case and momentum against the art thieves at Cretaceous Studies is now really collocking along. To start off with we've identified 70% of the artists whose work was ripped off on this site. So a big thank you to all who took the time to point out an artist or three! Also a huge thank you to those who twitted, Google +ed, Facebooked, or blogged about this case!!! (Sorry I'd try to track down and backlink to as many of you as I could find, but I'm at work with only a little bit of time...)

Progress so far:

1. After discussions with fellow AE administrator and artist rights guru Glendon Mellow, I have decided to directly email Cretaceous Studies, and give them a chance (within a week period) to remove all the pieces we highlighted for which they do not have artist permission (which I suspect is all of them!) OR I would contact all the artists and have them help me contact Tripod to shut down the entire site.

The rational is that while their email and attitude towards art theft was quite irritating, in a way it is a bit extreme to remove all their content without fair warning (really the only content that is just theirs is the writing... most of the other images belong to movie studies or photographers). Please note I said a bit extreme. I'm still perfectly fine engaging in the total shut down strategy should they ignore my reasonable (but sternly worded) demands.

So that email is in their inbox, and I'll be sure to inform you of their response...

2. Now a time limit of a week is fair warning in my opinion as demonstrated by another development on their site...

Cretaceous Studies' new rip off of my photo (original below)
 This new version of my photo popped up on the site since I was last there 9 days ago. I revisited Cretaceous Studies to see if they'd caught wind of our mobilization or not. It seems that overall their oblivious, but someone else seems to have noticed, and demanded either the Tyrannosaur by Joe Tucciarone and/or Albertosaurus is by Jeff Poling and Chris Srnka be removed. To me this is the most reasonable explanation for why a new version of just this particular image was replaced, and none of the others (I found all the other 10 as of yesterday).

My original photo from The Tyrannosaur Chronicles
This demonstrates the unacceptable part of Cretaceous Studies operation and conduct with images. When told to take down stolen work, they only took out the part that was specifically identified as stolen. They kept using the other parts even though they're just as stolen as those stipulated! (In this case my photograph...)

Well that's okay. It means I can be justified in my one week ultimatum. Even if they only take down the 11 images we IDed, I can be assured Cretaceous Studies is out a whole image worth of time on photoshopping for no real gain, as this new version was made in just the last 9 days!
So to the unknown person who demanded the last version of my mutilated and hijacked photo be taken down, thank you! Not only did you correct the wrongs against those other three artists, you've given me a set up for some mild but satisfying revenge of time wastage!

3. Other profile Dinosaur Blogs are starting to take notice and are ceasing the promotion of Cretaceous Studies on their sites. Our friend and member David Orr has removed them from Love In The Time of Chasmosaurs, and we are hoping any other sites that might have them in their blog rolls consider doing the same...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I'm impressed with Tripod on paper (Let's see how it plays out for real)

As our case against the art thieves at Cretaceous Studies builds (we've identified over half their victims!), I've been looking into our options for going after them on an overall site basis. While the pictures that feature stolen palaeo-art only make up 7-10% of their overall image content, I'd say nine (at moment) separate violations of different people's copyrights should be sufficient cause for at the very least severe sanction by their host server (and this is not mentioning the other 70-80% that feature no doubt equally illegal movie stills). I'm kind of hoping for an outright shut down of the site myself.

Now in looking into what Cretaceous Studies' host server Tripod has to say on image copyright, I'm actually very encouraged. According to my reading on the Tripod site's terms of service, all Tripod users must tick a box in their image uploader stating they own the copyright to anything they upload. Therefore our thieves at Cretaceous Studies have violated their terms of agreement with Tripod. This also means they should not be able to hide behind satire of parody claims when we go after them.

All I need to do now is contact and rally the affected artists, and once I have them all confirming their copyrights were violated, we can inform Tripod. Hopefully, based on what I've read, it should be a pretty clear cut case with this number of substantiated violations.

That said, this is all only in writing. For all I know Tripod is going to disappoint by not actually actively or diligently acting on its terms of service. So for now I'm on the fence, but soon I hope to have many praises for Tripod and its copyright policies soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cretaceous Studies is stealing art, help us ID their victims.

So through some dumb luck, and blatant arrogance on the part of the thief (by directly boasting they have been stealing art), we here at ART Evolved were handed a pretty clear cut case of a Dinosaur "comedy" site that has been taking other people's photographs and artwork without crediting them or asking their permission (that alone compensating them) and thinking this is totally acceptable! The case broke here, and I found one of my own photographs taken here. I thought I'd setup a central post about the whole situation...

Here is a quick recap if you're just tuning in. ART Evolved recieved an email invitation to check out and plug the "Center for Cretaceous Studies" website (link included below). However they opened with the line, which we can only presume they thought was a joke, "[a]bout the only 'art' our websites have is stolen or 'not quite legally borrowed' as our lawyers tend to say". They really didn't do any research into their target audience here on ART Evolved apparently, as one thing we do not think is funny is art theft!

This led to a quick check of the site where I found indeed Cretaceous Studies was using several other artist's work, not to mention one of my very own photographs. As I'd never heard of the Cretaceous Studies Center before, but yet there was my photo, I could confirm they had not been obtaining permissions for these images. What broke my patience was they weren't even giving basic credit or backlinks to people whose original content they were using as the basis of all "their" content.  I contacted another artist whose work was on the site and he verified they didn't have his permission either.

Why am I going on the warpath? While the use of my photo left me less than impressed, in reality I'll be the first to admit it's not particularly amazing. Rather I'm very annoyed at Cretaceous Studies for their sarcastic attitude towards the subject of content theft. None of this "their" content would exist if not for the original creators they lifted images from. It'd be one thing if they didn't make light of this fact, but to outright boast/joke about it is totally unacceptable! Furthermore they have ads on their site, meaning that any traffic they get due to this "borrowed" content could be giving them money. When you really look at 95-98% of Cretaceous Studies' pictures they are based on other people's work. It doesn't seem right Cretaceous Studies should get 100% the profit from their ads...

I've gone through all their images and collected all those that contained artwork. I assure you that everything else on their site (which I haven't grabbed) used photographs of statues and animatronic robots or stills from Jurassic Park and Walking with Dinosaurs. As identifying these photographs strikes me as a long shot (and the movie stills are a problem for studio lawyers), I am only targeting the clear artwork violations.

I am in the process of contacting all artists whose work has been taken. So far the one artist I have gotten in touch with has managed to get the picture successful taken down in the past 24 hours (I didn't come across it today while collecting these others in any case). So let's try to increase this stat!
To show the Cretaceous Studies people how you're supposed to post pictures, all works you are about to see are from the Center for Cretaceous Studies site.

I have not asked Cretaceous Studies' permission to repost these though, as all these pictures contain components belonging to other people that were uncredited and thus implying they were posted in the first place with no permission (and DO I have two confirmed cases where there were no permissions given) thus they have no right to require me to need permission. While I do not have these original artists' permission either, I am crediting these artists as I find out who they are, and I am more than happy to remove these images if asked to do so! I do credit Cretaceous Studies with photoshopping the elements together, but that is the only acknowledgement I will give them without further crediting or explanation on how these pictures came to be.

If you spot any artwork or photos for which you know the owner or creator that I haven't identified please let us know in the comment section of this post or email us at

Identified Works

That Tarbosaurus belongs to Raul Martin, and I am in the process of contacting him about its misuse .
This is a decrested version of Joe Tucciarone's Cryolophosaurus. I am in the process of contacting him.

A big violator, that involves four people including myself. Photograph by Craig Dylke. The upper Tyrannosaur is by Joe Tucciarone and the lower (slightly modified) Albertosaurus is by Jeff Poling and Chris Srnka. I am in the process of contacting them all now...

UPDATE: Thanks to Julio Lacerda we have identified the Carcharodontosaur on the left as that by Gerhard Boeggemann. It should also be noted that the Dinosaur in the middle is simply a still of an Allosaur from one of the BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs programs.

UPDATE: None other than THE Willam Stout was able to identify that Tyrannosaur as belonging to John Sibbick

UPDATE: Our new resident palaeo-art detective JD-man was able to show these Tyrannosaurs belong to Frank DeNota.
UPDATE: JD-man was also kind enough to find that the top Gorgosaurus in this picture is by Sergey Krasovskiy. The bottom Gorgosaurus was lifted from National Geographic's Sea Monsters movie's website.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tuomas Koivurinne we now know the recolored Abelisaurus in the background is by Shiraishi Mineo.

Unidentified Works

Please if you know the artist behind any of the Dinosaurs (or for that matter photographer of any of the plates) below!

UPDATE: Thanks to our readers and friends many previously unidentified pieces have now been recognized, so there are now gaps in the lettering scheme. This is a great thing, and we hope soon to have no letters left at all!!!


So if you recognize any of the Dinosaurs or photographs in any of the above images please contact us and/or the affected artist.

We also ask you consider boycotting the Center for Cretaceous Studies site until they either change their stance and practice on art theft (in which they contact artists and photographers to get permission to use and alter their work and/or properly credit and back link to the real content creators) OR they remove all the images which contain unauthorized image components (which frankly is nearly 95% of their sites pictures).

I'll be posting updates and original image credits on this "case" as they come in.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Art Theft Update

Remember yesterday how I shared that email from the sarcastic art thieves? Well, I've confirmed another of their victims: me.

Sadly, I said one of the first thoughts to go through your head was "is any of that art mine?" when an email informs you that "About the only 'art' our websites have is stolen or 'not quite legally borrowed' as our lawyers tend to say." Turns out these instincts and worries were all too true!

Here is what I found:

The offending image. The base photograph is mine, but they've also spliced in stolen artwork from not just Joe Tucciarone, but also Jeff Poling and Chris Srnka!

Here is my original. If you compare the two you can see exactly where they have brushed out Lillian, and cloned elements to fill in and/or extend the photo.

Nowhere on the page is there a link back to me (or all those other artists) or a credit line... 

With this discovery I've decided to reveal the website, more for censorship and boycott reasons. Before you rush off to make sure none of your work is there, and give them more hits and traffic, I can assure I've checked very thoroughly and no one's art from ART Evolved is on this site.

The majority of what they've stolen are people's photographs and movie stills from the Jurassic Park movies, Walking with Dinosaurs, and other CG documentaries. The very few artistic works present are professional level ones like Mr. Tucciarone's (and my other confirmed victim... whom I won't name without permission), that have been mashed into photo backgrounds like mine. Most of the photos are not related to palaeontology (again most of the Dinosaurs are from film stills... 20-30% are photographs of statues from museums or outdoor theme parks) and are either people's family vacation photos or current affairs shots.

The offenders are the Center for Cretaceous Studies, and I would appreciate it if you considered boycotting them (perhaps with one visit to ensure none of your stuff is there). They have demonstrated with their sarcastic remarks about art theft and the outright act of doing it, they have no respect for the actual effort it takes to actually create art or photographs.

The question remains what am I going to do about this?

Normally I wouldn't care all that much about this amateur mashup to my photograph. For one they removed my actual artwork from the photo, and mangled the photograph pretty badly (and in honest neither the art or photo were that amazing to begin with). It's not like what they produced is going to get them famous.

There is a minor issue with them making money off it though. Their site has ads which leads me to suspect they get money from traffic. Some of that traffic is due to their picture content. Guess what I'm a share holder in that content, yet I haven't received a cent.

However to me it is their boastful attitude of knowingly taking this without my permission that has pissed me off so much!

I have a fairly lenient creative commons on this piece. All you need to do is not make any money off it, and credit me for its existence (I did go to the effort of taking the photo, not to mentioning paying to get myself to Australia and into that zoo, something they clearly weren't willing to do). How much is that to really ask? Link back to me... (Well okay and technically contact me if you're modifying my stuff, BUT a link or credit still would have appeased me!).

Since they couldn't be bothered to do that, and have told me directly they think stealing my stuff is worth a joke, I'm going to take measures to have this picture removed from their site. Depending on how that goes that could be the end of it, or simply the beginning (it would be interesting to see what the various studios they've lift stills from would have to say... and I do mean this simply from an academic point of view. What would they do about this infringement on their franchise properties).

Keep you posted. As this is also the second time I've had an annoying misuse of my work I'll throw together what I think a good stand on acceptable uses of your art by others should be.


Clearly the post I created did after this one has had an effect somewhere. In revisiting Cretaceous Studies to see if they'd noticed the campaign building against them here, I discovered they'd re altered my photo. They'd taken out the artwork by Joe Tucciarone, Jeff Poling and Chris Srnka and replaced it with what I think is a statue (please let me know if I'm incorrect).

That is still my photo though, and I'm now unimpressed that they only removed PART of a stolen piece (probably because they were told to) rather than the whole thing... So I'm sending my ultimatum today and GETTING my photo off (with the pleasant reassurance that I'll be wasting all that time and effort they took to re alter my photo again a mere few days after they put all that work into it).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stealing art is not a joke!

Borrowing a concept from PZ Myers (which is different from stealing... important to note in a moment) I give you a segment of ART Evolved "We get email"... Unlike PZ we're not going to give you the whole email, though not to avoid a lawsuit but rather prevent giving the questionable site in question a plug as it was desiring.

So people out there if you're ever emailing an artist or two don't include an opening line like this:

"Don't get all excited [about our website]. About the only 'art' our websites have is stolen or 'not quite legally borrowed' as our lawyers tend to say."
Whether you mean this sarcastically or seriously, it's just not a good first impression. Thoughts that will go through an artist's mind upon reading you only use stolen art will include "is any of that art mine?" "is any of it by my friends?" "are you threatening to steal my art?" "why would I help this site be successful, if none of the artists will get any share of that success due to their hardwork being STOLEN?"

Stealing is stealing. Declaring it to an artist as though it is a joke and/or okay is frankly adding insult to injury. There is no way we're going to look at your project in a positive or trusting light!

In this specific case the offending website was not only serious about stealing, but it stated in a sarcastic tone... As there was indeed stolen artwork on their site. I know some of it was stolen as I recognized a piece, alerted that art's owner, and he confirmed my suspicion. He also now intends to pursue the site's operators to have it removed.

Needless to say there will be no plug for this website here. (Though to calm all palaeo-artists since I'm not including the link, overall most of this "art" was in fact stills from movies and TV show or photographs of Dinosaur statues (badly) photoshopped into other photographs. There was only one 3D piece, and it just so happened I knew the artist...). We may have more on the saga to get some of the artwork taken down... We'll see how it goes.

So come on people of the web, instead of emailing us to look at your ripping off our colleagues, email them and ask their permission to use their work first!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Dinosaur money!

The Royal Canadian Mint is releasing a limited edition coin this week that features not only a picture of Pachyrhinosaurus, but also its skeleton which glows in the dark!

Sadly the press releases I've read do not state who the artist behind the rendition is, but as it is a cool and unique piece of palaeo-art, and I thought I'd give it a bit of coverage.

You can pick one of these up for $29.95can at most Canada Post outlets... If you are in Canada. For those out of country I have no clue, they might have an online purchase capacity on their site (if you're really desperate most of us AE admins are canucks and can probably help you out. Just leave us a comment).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How much is enough?

Zach put up a great post last week calling into question the rational behind the creation by master artist Julius Csotonyi reconstructions of the new Unescoceratops and Grphyoceratops ceratopsians. Now Zach makes it clear (as I do now) there is no problem with the quality or composition of this piece. It is one fine looking bit of palaeo-art.

No, the questions Zach raise are over the fact both these animals are each known from a single broken chunk of lower jaw only. Yet the Csotonyi piece displays both animals in full form. Zach wonders what the utility of such art is, since it is almost surely inaccurate. 

How much of a fossil organism is enough to justify a reconstruction? Why would palaeontologists commission the creation of such a piece when so little of the anatomy is known? Do such pieces benefit or hinder the science?

There certainly aren't any clear cut answers for these questions. This post is more to stir the pot and try to get thinking and dialogue on the topic going. I'll present what I see the pros and cons of such art being. I'm sure I'll miss a few points, so feel free to add to my points in the comment section

How much of a fossil organism should be known before we recreate it in art?

As palaeo-art is concerned with long extinct organisms we can't be picky on exactly which parts of these once living things we get. We just have to deal with what we are lucky enough to find. So while the obvious answer to this question is we'd like to have complete specimens for all fossil organisms, this is rarely the case.

To me, one's stance on incomplete fossil based art depends on their demand for scientific accuracy in the art. For most organisms that are over half complete I would say there is less of an issue for anyone. However for less than half known fossils there are reasons for concern if accuracy and pure science is your desired outcome in palaeo-art.

Yes we can try to reasonably extrapolate and guess what an animal looked like by looking at close relatives. However this is NOT accurate, nor (in almost all likelhood) EXACTLY what the animal looked like. So incomplete specimen based art is a conundrum if you want a totally accurate reconstruction.

Now for someone more laid back like me this is not as big an issue. While you might not guess the unknown bit of the animals right, it's really only a bit worse than already (basically) guessing the animals soft tissue or colouration. We do not know what any of these creatures actually looked like in real life. So getting anatomy we haven't yet discovered wrong in a drawing millions of years later isn't the worst issue in my estimation. Getting people interested and passionate about palaeontology and evolution is a bigger problem.

Why would a palaeontologist commission artwork of an animal for which so little anatomy is known?

One would think a practising palaeontologist would be a real stickler for accuracy, and to be fair many of them are. However in my experience the majority also have a vivid and active imagination about prehistory like the rest of us. They enjoy speculating and imagining what extinct critters were like, and art is the closest thing any of us will get to a time machine.
I suspect on some levels this is part of why we see scientists commissioning art about very fragmental organisms. It is as much a way for them to "see" long gone organisms as for us.
Though probably a more official reason is press releases. The average member of the public is not going to care about a fossil discovery unless they have an idea of what was found. Heck palaeo-fans are a lot like this too! We want to see the "living" organism. So what better way to get some coverage of a discovery than to commission some art and attach it to your press announcement. Is this good or bad, well that's the last question...

Do such pieces benefit or hinder the science?

Once again your philosophy on degrees of accuracy will determine your answer to this question.

If you see out reach and getting people interested in palaeontology and science as being the most important function of palaeo-art than any and all art is good, no matter how complete a fossil it is based on or not. Any piece of art that gets people interested and engaged has to be of some benefit.

However if you want art to impart and communicate only solid science, I can totally see why you would see this sort of art as harmful. It implies we know more than we do, and if people look more into what we know about a very incomplete fossil they may take the wrong message about how the science works. They will probably ask the same tough questions as Zach but not be aware that the palaeontologists were engaging (essentially) pure speculation, and assume palaeontology is all about making up creatures from scraps. This is definitely something we do not wish to occur, as there is a lot of solid science involved in even identifying critters from fragmented remains...

My take... 

For what little my opinion matters, I'm not quite as worried about the reconstruction as Zach is. However I do follow his concerns, and when it comes to that final point on lay people being possibly misled to think palaeontologists make up whole animals on tiny scraps I do believe we need to be careful.

I personally feel any piece of science art is harmless if given proper context. Communication is key. If you are recreating a very fragmented fossil critter, including an explantion on your online portfolio/website would be helpful to point anyone confused on how your reconstruction came about. Taking people through how we compare related creatures is good for illustrating how such art is a very educated guess (usually).
For this specific case study, not on a single (official) online story I read about Unescoceratops and Grphyoceratops did I see a note or acknowledgement that Mr. Csotonyi's reconstructions were based on a large amount of conjecture. Certainly journalists may have omitted or ignored this fact, but even on the official Royal Ontario Museum and Cleveland Museum press release pages it was not noted or highlighted.  

If mentioned in a proper context I think this sort of reconstruction is fine. For the majority of people it brings prehistory to life in a tangible way, and helps connect them with their deep time roots. Capturing imaginations to me is far more important in this age of scientific cut backs, than purely accurate palaeo-art reconstructions. We do need to ensure we are communicating what we are doing with speculative art though so that we aren't misrepresenting our level of knowledge or techniques.

Please feel free to let your thoughts on this topic be known below in the comment section (or contact me at if you want to write up your own post on this topic)...