Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Revenge Primer for Art Theft Victims

Don't buy this book: the latest art theft outrage.

Today's report of massive internet copyright image theft on Apefluff is becoming an old story. So is the reaction: trying to block the offending item, in this case a book, from distribution. It's already too late.

I spent five years as an eco-commando for Greenpeace's Toxics Campaign -- five years undercover, in the sewers, working at night, penetrating facilities, eluding security goons, snagging discharge samples and having no life. I can tell you a better way.

The answer to misappropriation is massive counter-misappropriation. Companies that steal art have their own images to protect, from the corporate logo to the chairman's portrait on the annual report.

You're an artist. You have Photoshop.

Immediately form a group that will fight the criminal. A catchy acronym is essential:  Working Artists Resisting Theft (WART). Design a good logo.

The goal is a sensational press release that will go to major media from Jon Stewart to the Wall Street Journal. Don't forget bloggers! Very important to hit bloggers. Grab a temporary email address from Lycos or one of them.

Your headline might be: Internet Artists Strike at Corporate Theft. A few paragraphs outlining the crime, with links and pictures, comes next. You can find style guides online. This part must be 100% true.

Following that is a link to a sham web site you have cooked up for the company. You've varied it from the real one by making it seedy, a bit slimy, kind of defiant. Don't go overboard; it has to be believable. Have the CEO call your group "a bunch of childish idlers." Have him say "not a penny will go to artists" because "they should have something better to do."  Include normal pages inside. Do not affix your real name to anything. If the company has a foreign language web site, copy it and write your own text in English

Use a lesser-known free host site, like Synthesite, so you can have a believable URL. If they use, be Use the feature that allows you to download a ZIP file of the site in case the host is forced to remove it. That way you can resurrect it some where else quickly.

Create a blog for the CEO of the company. Populate it by appropriating material from various blogs on golf, travel, internet selling and rebuilding your life after incarceration. Speak favorably about the sex tourism industry. Send a link to the company. Give it about 24 hours and delete it. Repeat.

See where Google mentions the company, and look for opportunities to make sham links and pages.

Make a phony press release using Barnes and Noble's logo. Post it on the fake evilco web site saying they cannot be held responsible for selling illegal materials as they cannot check each image in every book, and this is not a high concern item for customers anyway." Highlight the last bit with a Photoshop streak imitating a highlighting marker. Send the link to Barnes and Noble.

Write bad reviews of the book that use good vocabulary to say nasty things, so that it slips by the wet-behind-the-ears censors, and post them on Amazon.

Call the company and ask to speak to executives who will be too busy to take the call. Leave messages using real names, numbers and affiliations of various reporters. Have the FTC Fraud Bureau call, but make it a non-existent agency by altering it slightly, to protect yourself legally. Note that many newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal, have reporter's email addresses after the story, so send your press release to them, too. If you get blog coverage that's good, send that along too.

If the company issues a release recalling the books, release a real fake release calling it a fraud and being defiant about a recall. Sow confusion.

Find others published by the company by using search on Amazon. Ask them to speak out on your behalf and script a fake if they don't. Again, conceal your identity.

As you can see, the best thing is never to go public with your discovery of theft. You launch a guerrilla war instead and document it and sell it when the time is right.

When art thieves with vested interests see that they will be castigated, humiliated and bled, this won't happen so much.

When the company is too embarrassed to risk harassing you, turn it all into a comic, book, screenplay or other media. Think Roger and Me, but with intelligence.

There are other retired and semi-active eco-spooks available to consult for an hourly rate. I'd write "not me," but you won't believe me, so I'll just say believe what you want, and good luck. If you know me at all, you've noticed I spend most of my time posting comics on the internet, hoping someone will be dumb enough to steal one.