Mary Engelbreit: A Cautionary Tale in Copyrights and Using Google For Research

Late last night I was flipping through Facebook and I came across the below post from my friend, and author of several books including the incredible UnMarketing, Scott Stratten. Scott has his stuff swiped pretty frequently, but in this case he was not credited for the quote and the artist was planning to sell the artwork with his quote as a print.

ignore-the-haters-scott-stratten

Now quotes are a funny thing – Mary Engelbreit claimed that she searched on Google for the author of the quote and that it was attributed to many people.

When I Google “don’t try to win over the haters you are not the jackass whisperer” I see results attributed to Brené Brown or Scott Stratten.  On closer inspection though Brené even attributes the quote to “her friend” Scott Stratten.  So not a whole lot of ambiguity to the quote, and obviously not a whole lot of time spent researching.

Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker (Scott Stratten)

As the evening went on the comments started to flood into Mary Engelbreit’s Facebook page asking that she attribute the quote to its proper owner (here’s a sample).  It was fairly late here in Texas so I imagine Mary was not aware of the growing comment flood.

matthew-egan-facebook-quotes

Hundreds of comments total, mine among them with the photo above, all asking why, when other works of Mary’s had given attribution for the quotes she uses when selling her artwork… why was Scott’s name left off?

Eventually it got later and we all went to sleep, assuming (correctly) that all of our comments would be deleted by morning.  We were right.

mary-engelbreit-will-not-use-scott-stratten-quote

The entire post with all of our comments was removed from Facebook and replaced with a new post giving credit to “Scott Straten” (which was later corrected after enough commentators gave her grief for not even bothering to spell “Scott Stratten” correctly.)

She is still using the image to promote her online store via Twitter.

mary-engelbreit-on-twitter

Many of us were banned from Mary’s page (myself included) and if you look at her page you would think she was the victim of a smear campaign – her fans wondered who this Scott guy was and why he wasn’t happy “for the exposure”.

mary-engelbreit-quotes

One of the UnMarketing fans found Mary’s copyright and trademark page and shared a screenshot in the discussion.  It seems Mary takes trademark’s very seriously… when they’re hers.

mary-engelbreit-copyright

In the end, there is only so much you can do to protect your copyrights, and in this case Scott leveraged a little social shaming to protect his, but we live in a time where companies will download videos from other websites, repost them without giving any credit, and leverage that content to build their brand.

Companies pay millions of dollars a year into Errors & Omissions insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits erupting in copyright violations and the use of trademarked content.  It certainly happens.

The lesson here:  Don’t just copy something off the internet to use as your own, especially commercially, and if you are going to “borrow” content from others it’s a good idea to make sure they don’t have a rabid fan base that will stand up for you in the face of intellectual “borrowing”.

always-give-credit

Full disclosure – as seen above – I have had the “Jackass Whisperer” poster on my wall since August of 2012.  Mary has taken responsibility for the borrowing of the quote without attribution, and I can imagine in the future she will be searching a bit deeper before placing a quote on her artwork to sell.

UPDATE – Due to being heckled Mary has removed her apology.


EDIT – This was too good not to attach to this post.