Modern Dog is a design firm in Seattle that was founded in 1987 by friends of mine, Robynne Raye and Michael Strassburger. In 2008, they published a very cool book entitled Modern Dog: 20 Years of Poster Art. For the end-papers of that book, they illustrated a bunch of “dogs we know” and another bunch of “dogs we don’t know” (clever, right?). The book was a relative success… then fast forward to 2011, when they heard from someone that had seen a Disney™-branded T-shirt for sale at a Target™ store that appeared to feature “their dogs!” Here’s a little video that explains what happened next (watch video).
So, Modern Dog did what you would expect proud and proper dog-owner-artists to do… they complained that their work (and the likenesses of their own dear pooches) had been stolen, and then filed a lawsuit “against the Target Corporation, The Walt Disney Company and a few of their subsidiaries who sold the T-shirts” as is explained in this Huffington Post article (read the article).
Thing is, it’s “allegedly” quite well known that Disney et al “allegedly” employ a very large number of lawyers to dissuade little folks like Modern Dog whose work has “allegedly” been ripped off from successfully suing the large corporations for exploitative profits and resulting damages — because hey, that could set a disturbing precedent of “creators” like Modern Dog actually being able to protect their very own creations(!).
In June of this year, Modern Dog felt they had no choice but to sell their dear Greenwood studio home (the most valuable thing they owned) to relieve some of the growing financial burden of the stretched-out legal proceedings. That’s a damn gutsy thing to do, to protect the rights of “the little guy.” But that wasn’t enough (law suits in the USA are damn expensive), so Modern Dog has also launched a crowd-funding effort (visit it here). As Christopher Simmons puts it succinctly in a piece he wrote, “If they win, we all win. Modern Dog’s stand against copyright infringement benefits all designers and anyone who makes a living by creating.”
So, now there’s just over two weeks left until the Friends of Modern Dog online fundraiser wraps up, and they’re still in need of $15,000. That’s where you and I come in. Please consider making a donation (even $5 helps, and it sends a very clear signal to Disney, Target, et al…). Please also share this story of these brave “little dogs” and their loving caregivers who won’t back down from doing the right thing—even in the face of teeth-baring hegemonic corporate behemoths.
Thanks in advance!
Above, you see the end-papers of the book with the original doggie illustrations. Below, you can see the dogs that appear on the T-shirt… need more proof? Take a look at this comparative video.