Thursday, February 10, 2011

Careful What You Claim as "Yours"! Part 2

I mentioned in a previous post that another animator had claimed my work as their own.

Today's lesson: Why I am Thankful I Did Not Out This Person, Nor Seek Retribution.

I would like to, first of all, point out that I never once used this person's name, gender, or from which project they claimed my work. I was contacted privately by several people wanting to know who this person was, and to each one of them I said the same thing: This was not about harming a reputation, or about revenge, it was simply about acknowledging that it is wrong to steal the hard work of others.

After sending several unanswered emails to this animator, I finally called them in order to request that they remove my work from their reel. By the end of the conversation, seeing that they simply were not going to do so, I said I would not press any sort of charges, and that I could not force them to remove my work, but that they should remove it for the sake of their own reputation. I thought it was over at that point.

Nothing doing.

I can't give details with regards to the method they used to attempt to take out their "revenge" upon me, as I don't know what is or what isn't considered confidential information. Suffice it to say, they attempted to get me into trouble with the company I am currently at. Thankfully, I have worked hard to maintain a good reputation, and their attempt fell flat. The point I want to make is this: Be a good soul, treat others with respect, and in the face of turmoil show dignity -- these are the things that will prevent cases such as mine from going any further than a pathetic attempt at retribution.

I had not posted anything with regard to who this person was, or what the work was that was stolen, simply because that's not what I believe in: I am not a vindictive person. However, as I have since learned from others who are learned in the law, had I posted this person's name or work, I could have been in serious trouble for slander (or "libel" is I believe the correct word).

The lesson I want to point out here: if someone wrongs you, do not attempt to publicly scathe them. If they turn out to be a vindictive, aggressive person, they might use anything and everything you say against you.

A clean reputation is so very important in job seeking. I have made many friends in this industry -- and apparently, now, one enemy. I don't want to think of it that way, but a person who would attempt to harm me or my reputation, especially after I've gone out of my way to protect theirs throughout all of this, can certainly not be called a "friend."


Dylan Hunter said...

Solid truth! I tend to be one to let the karma of the universe figure everything out, but I always wondered what I would actually do if faced with your exact situation. Plagiarism in this industry is one of the most serious offenses I can think of, and I shall heed your experience regarding libelling or lack thereof. Thanks for the eye-opening story and it really goes to show the power of good moral scruples!

Sam Baker said...

This industry is too small to steal work make enemies. Chances are we may need these contacts we're making in the future to get work. Burning bridges early on will only make things worse down the line, and I hope this person realizes this, and doesn't do it again. If his/her name was posted, it would mean the end of their career as soon as word spread.. and the next person who's work is stolen may not be as nice as AnimatorTrav :D

Aidanicus said...

You've shown an enormous amount of restrain here Trav. If it was me, I would have started an "I HATE JOHN SMITH" Facebook page then followed them round till they walked into a bathroom at a crowded bar, where they would have an 'accident'. Poo poo and shame on them.

Sheeba Kukreja said...

But this definitely is plain wrong. You sure have handled this with a lot of dignity, Trav. Hats off to you. I do believe in Karma. What goes around, comes around. You've got to be honest. Stealing work wouldn't help and yes I agree with that the Industry is too small to make enemies. News spreads like a jungle fire and his reputation will be at stake sooner or later. Its like digging your own grave. I hope he realizes that.

Roberto Padilla said...

I have been in the same situation as you are, Travis. Once, one guy I considered my friend at work included one of my best commercial animations for his reel, and sent it to a big company in the U.S. When I saw that, this guy was as natural as you can imagine, and didn´t even apologize for it. He got a job and moved to the U.S., and I couldn´t use that animation for job seeking, to avoid a possible employer think I stole it from this guy. Here in my country, México, is very common. And I will tell you that I saw a reel from an animation mentor guy that copied an excercise I did and included it in his reel. I think that a thief is a thief, and it´s logical that a guy that steal, also will try to cover his tracks with lies. Stay with your head up, Travis, and keep working as hard as you do. Remember that they stole it from you because it´s good work. You have the talent to do it again, and you can repeat it better than the first time. They don´t.

Phil Willis said...


I sympathize with you.

As a related question, if you have a shot where you did some of the animation, but some was done by other people (or simulation or mocap) - how do you put a shot in your reel and only "claim ownership" of the bits you worked on?

Probably the majority of the shots I'm working on currently I'd love to include on my reel at some point, but I'd hate to have someone say - "well you realize I did all the lip synch on character four" and then accuse me of stealing their stuff.

In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to find a shot that someone else didn't at least have some additional impact on.

Thanks for the tips.

Animator Trav said...

Thank you all for your feedback. As I said in my previous post, animation is extremely difficult for me, and it's taken a lot of work to get to a place where I consider myself "decent." If someone is not willing to put in that effort, I have no sympathy for their failure.

Phil, that's a great question. A lot of people will say "shot lists" are the appropriate answer, but I don't think so, because you run the danger that your reel will be seen w/o the shot list. I think any and all shot identification should be done directly on the reel. One idea I've seen people do before: put a text field at the bottom of the screen, typically with a bright red dot or some other means of ensuring it does not get overlooked. Be as concise as possible with your identification. For example: "Man in Red Shirt ONLY" or "Everything BUT lip sync". Hope that helps!