Tee shirt flash sale website TeeChip has a new print on sale for the next four days. It's a beautiful collage of Darth Vader assembled from pieces of Star Wars comics. You can get it printed on a poster, a tee-shirt, an iPhone case, a hoodie, and a coffee mug, amongst other products. But there's just one problem: the artist of the work isn't the one selling it, and he didn't give his permission.
French collage artist who goes by the name Mr. Garcin and is known for appearing in public wearing a luchadore mask, began making collages from comics as a child, and unlike many childhood pursuits, this one paid off for Garcin. In 2011, his work was noticed by Marvel comics, and he created the cover for the landmark 700th issue of Amazing Spider-Man.
Other Marvel covers followed, as did fame at comic book festivals and convention, and a loyal fanbase. Garcin's art is frequently sold in gallery showings, but reproductions are rare, since his work often involves trademarked characters that require licensing.
TeeChip is one of a large crop of art print and design flash sale websites whose website promises an easy experience for fundraisers looking to sell some art and collect the profits:
It doesn't take too much effort to get a sale running that looks like this:
And sells products like this:
What doesn't appear to be so easy, according to Mr. Garcin, is getting that sale removed when it's selling your work without your permission (and, in the case of something like this where Garcin would sell only the original, not prints, due to trademark issues, without Disney's permission as well).
After Garcin took his case to Facebook, we caught up with him for an interview, and though he wanted us to know, "Sorry for my English, it is not very good," it's actually perfectly fine, and we would totally hire him to replace Rich Johnston. Anyway, here's what Mr. Garcin had to say:
What's the story with your poster on TeeChip? Have they responded to you yet?
A friend told me that you could buy reproductions of my work on this website. The Facebook page "Rogue One Fans" shared the link. There were more than 6000 "like" and 300 shares. No one knew this was my job. It's a shame all the same!
Are posters of this piece available for purchase directly from you?
I sometimes make posters when people ask me. It's rare. I can not trade with reproductions of my works because I use characters under copyright. I want to earn my living by selling the original artwork.
Your unique style creates incredibly intricate collages out of comic books. How long does it take you to complete a single piece?
For a work of 48×30 inches, I need between 15 and 20 working days. You have to be very patient! First there is the cutting and then the assembly.
Back in 2011, one of your collages became the cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700, and you've done some more covers for Marvel since then. Do you have any future collaborations with Marvel planned?
Since Stephen Wacker left "Marvel comics", I no longer work for the "Marvel". It makes me sad! It was so incredible to hold in my hands a comic with my work on the cover! It was crazy, especially for the cover of "Amazing Spider-Man" # 700 !!! Wonderful memory! I secretly dream that this happens again.
When you sell prints of your art, if they involve something like a trademarked character or logo, do you need to acquire a license for it? Has a comic book publisher ever given you trouble?
I can only leave official posters with companies that have copyright. I work with "Frenchpaper Art Club". We released 6 posters in 2 years.
What do you want to see as the outcome to the TeeChip situation?
I wrote to "TeeChip" to remove my work. That was 24 hours ago. I am waiting for a response from the Legal Department. I do not expect anything anyway …
What is vicious with this site is that these are "flash" sales. They remain a week and disappear. Hard to find the seller after.
Where can people go on the web to see and buy your work?
My next exhibition begins on 9 March in Paris (Galerie Arludik). It is possible to request the catalog here: email@example.com Here is my website: mrgarcin.com.
We tried reaching out to TeeChip.com through the telephone number listed on their site, but when we pressed the button for inquiries beyond order or sales status, we were informed by recorded message that the service was not available at that time, despite being within their listed business hours, and to try their online chat at TeeChip.com/chat, so we did… but it didn't exist.
Googling for "teechip chat" in case we might have misheard the address opened up an entirely new rabbit hole. The company has dozens of unresolved complaints on various consumer websites like ScamGuard and PissedConsumer, and has even spawned a Facebook page called "Shame on TeeChip," where disgruntled TeeChip users gather to vent their complaints, of which there are a wide variety, but which Bleeding Cool has not investigated, so we won't address the details of any of those here. One of the posts there has a suggestion for copyright infringement complaints: to send a DMCA request directly to the site's Amazon webhosts. And TeeChip even got one complaint from the entire city of Cleveland about selling a shirt with the city's police department logo.
We tried calling TeeChip's Seller Support line as well, but also got an "unavailable" message. We then sent them an email through their website, and at that time, we noticed a chat box on the bottom of the email page, so we tried our luck there as well, and achieved an online chat. This is the transcript of that conversation:
Question: Question about copyright infringing campaign
Agent Jazzlyn has entered at 5:16 PM
5:16 PM Jazzlyn
Thank you for contacting TeeChip! Please provide me with your order number and your question/concern and I will assist you momentarily. To ensure that I address the concerns of each of our customers, chats are being responded to in the order in which they were received. I apologize in advance for this delay and I thank you for your patience.
5:17 PM judeterror
Hello Jazzlyn. I do not have an order number, but I am contacting TeeChip for information about this campaign: https://teechip.com/swphj#id=2001&c=000000&sid=gloss-poster-16×24
I should let you know that I am a reporter for the popular and awesome comics website Bleeding Cool, and I am following up on a story, a thing that comics journalists totally do.
The artwork in the above campaign is created by famous French collage artist Mr. Garcin, whose work has been featured on the covers of Marvel Comics.
However, Mr. Garcin is not, by his report, the one running that campaign, and has not authorized it.
He tells us that he has been in contact with TeeChip.com for the last 24 hours attempting to get the campaign removed, with no success so far – it is still running.
Would you like to comment on this story, Jazzlyn, or put me in direct touch with someone who would like to do so?
5:20 PM Jazzlyn
Can you provide me with the email address?
5:20 PM judeterror
5:22 PM Jazzlyn
Thank you for this information! I am happy to assist you in this matter! One moment please while I look into this for you.
5:22 PM judeterror
The owner of the artwork will have to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org requesting for a DMCA take down request.
5:24 PM judeterror
Yes, he did that, 24 hours ago.
The campaign is still up.
We are going to run a story on it in the next half hour on Bleeding Cool, if anyone at TeeChip would like to comment on it.
5:27 PM Jazzlyn
Okay, great! Since it is a legal process there is nothing further that I can .The department in charge of that is the copyright team . They are currently working on this issue.
5:28 PM judeterror
Is there a way I can reach them for comment?
5:29 PM Jazzlyn
Is there anything else I can assist you with?
5:31 PM judeterror
That is all, thank you very much. I understand this isn't your fault personally, Jazzlyn. Have a nice evening.
So we also sent an email to TeeChip's copyright department. At press time, we have not received a response.
Again, if you're interested in the work of Mr. Garcin, check out his website at mrgarcin.com, and if you happen to be in Paris in March, you might want to swing by his show: