• I want to thank all the members that have upgraded your accounts. I truly appreciate your support of the site monetarily. Supporting the site keeps this site up and running as a lot of work daily goes on behind the scenes. Click to Support Signs101 ...

When Software Piracy Reaches Saturation

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I got an email today from an apparently honest but financially stressed young man. He purchased one of these vinyl ready clipart collections with about 250,000 pieces of art for $79 on ebay and then decided he could burn CD's as well as the next guy so he began immediately redistributing the already illegal copy he had purchased. Why he chose to contact me, I don't know but he had yesterday received an attorney letter and knew he had a problem.

This is what he wrote me:

I have been collecting clipart from various collections and was wondering if you could help me..I want to sell some of the clipart LEGALLY in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>..can you please point me into the right direction on how to do this? I’ve seen people selling the same things all over the place...is there some way to do this?...thanks!

This guy had no clue there was anything wrong with selling clipart. After I responded by email with two legal paths to sell clipart, he called me in tears. When I told him how much time it took for various artist to create what he was selling and that at least 200 of my images were in the work he was selling, I thought he had a heart attack.

I was told today that ebay is finally cracking down on these clipart sellers and that this is probably what started the process that ended up with him getting the attorney letter.

The sooner the better.


New Member
I tend to agree with this. I love quality clip art, but I am saving my money for legal copies of clip art like Plotter Art Originals, VectorArt, Mr. Clipart and EZ Flames. I also feel the same about all the other software I have, as well as my MP3 and .wma music files from Walmart. I do not share my software partly because of copyright issues, but also because I had to pay good money for the stuff! I'm also trying to gain the knowledge and skills to create my own clip art so that it is unique. I'm sure I'll use some stock stuff everyone sees already too as long as it came from an original collection. That's kind of why I don't really have any yet. :smile: I'm looking to get VectorArt Mega Collection 1 and 2 together first and then EZ Flames, or possibly all 3 together to save some money. I would assume since these are all original clipart collections that there would be little if any duplicate art and they would all cut real nice.

By the way, what are some other highly recommended cutter ready collections?

I've also heard of a few "sign template" type collections. Has anyone ever tried one of those? That is kind of like cheating isn't it? :Big Laugh


New Member
I'm amazed at how easily people pirate CDs, DVDs, and software when they wouldn't dream of stealing other things.

I find that so odd.


New Member
I have a policy to NEVER under any circumstance reproduce trademarks without written permission from the owner. This has cost me more than a few jobs. People can't understand why I'm not going to knowingly copy trademarked and copyrighted goods...
Locally, at the flea markets, you'd see burned CD-R's of music, cassettes, VHS etc. Lots of Chinese, Latino and Arabic pirates. Then after 9-11 A LOT of them disappeared. I know that there was a big bust of some bootlegger in the Philly area in the winter of 2002. Saw a TV show about it. They had been under observation for about a year. The Feds really were looking at the tens of millions of dollars these Lebanese were funneling to Syria and Hezbolah terrorists. They were openly selling on tray tables outside Union Station in DC, the Amtrak stations in Philly, NYC, Baltimore.
I don't think this gang had the New England market, but they certainly had the mid-Atlantic market for pirated music and movies. When they took down the manufacturing facility, I guess they actually ran into several armed guards. This was like a drug bust.
I suspect because these big time pros were taken out, a lot dried up. Small time knuckleheads have seen a new market open up. Now they pounce on the little guy because they know where to look.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
It's very pervasive. I think people view it like some view insurance fraud ... oh, it's just some big company covered by insurance. What I do won't matter.

I had a young man work for me on the side a couple of months ago. He's a fulltime "graphics designer" for a local company. The last day he was in he was outwardly exuberant and proudly announced how happy he was that he had "snagged a copy of Photoshop CS" on a peer-to-peer network. He'd been trying to find one for several weeks.

I think he would have rather obtained his copy in the way he did than if he hit the Lotto for enough to just buy a legal copy. Wonder how he'd feel if one of his designs ended up with a competitor.


New Member
iam an "old sign guy". back when you needed talent to be in this work. talent meaning you had the ability of eye-hand coordinationand was able to look at something physical and translate it to canvas/wall/board/sign WITHOUT NEEDIN OR USE OF SOMEONE ELSES DRAWING !!!!!!!!! so i understand the time, effort and talent it take to produce a quality drawing. the problem is when you do this today....and now everybody thinks just cause they can pull it up on a computer screen and feed it to a plotter...IT IS NOW THEIR ARTWORK...WRONG WRONG WRONG BIG TIME WRONG.
so to all of those who cant draw a stick figure and are in this business......you are missin the best part of this line of work...CREATING YOUR OWN ART......not stealin it and reproducing is to make a couple bucks. sorry but thats how i see this business going.....nobody can OR NEEDS TALENT to draw TO BE HERE.....so sad........and the worst part the lest capable have the biggest egos.....i again dont undrstand that.


New Member
It's funny that the same people who wouldn't dream of robbing a liquor store don't understand that they are committing a crime. There used to be a time when it took a lot of effort to copy something, now anyone can do it and because they can, they don't feel like it's wrong. It's not a matter of talent or anything like that that drives these people to copy disks of clipart, it's that they really don't understand the "this doesn't belong to you" statement that comes with the clipart. They figure if they buy it, they own it. The only thing we can really do is to not be a part of any of it and reject any offers for Cd's of stolen stuff. Not having a market to sell to is about the only way to stop this.


New Member
Fred, I'm being nosy here! How did you know your graphics were on the Ebay CD's/DVD's ?
I know some of my stuff which I posted on another forum board has been harvested by one of those ebay entrepenuers in USA. He also has parts of the Mega Collection along with Havana Street and claims his own full copyright for the whole shebang.
Piracy down here is big business especially at sunday markets where you can buy the latest movie DVD copies even before they've had a Hollywood premiere. Flexi pro 7, VMP or Signlab E6 with crack files along with the latest PS2 and X Box games are also available for about 8 US dollars. Every so often the police will blitz a market but only catch the small fish as the Mr Bigs can smell a raid coming.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I know because I've had a door to door "entrepreneur" come in here and try to sell me collections that contained my own work. These guys have basically harvested from every source out there and then put it up for sale. Then the next guy buys from the first and it feeds on itself.

Here's a guy: Key Clipart that has current advertising running at SignIndustry.com and who is showing images on his website. You'll notice that there is no way to reach him by phone and there is no business address either, so he's ready to shut down at a moment's notice.

The race car under the Jose Cuervo logo is mine as is the bull rider and the cow skull in the western section. Lots of other images from Vector Art that I also recognize. I downloaded his 5 MB of free work and found one other image of mine included.

I'm pretty sure that the original 200 images we published in 1995 as Plotter Art™ Originals are all in every collection that gets sold. I don't know about the 700 we added on the last go-around.

We're looking into how to best proceed now.
I was just wondering the other day what will result in the music industry since it's to easy to copy music and listen to in on your computer, MP3 players etc.

The only end result I can think of is the record co. will be phased out since their profits come from sales. The artist will be played and spread through radio & internet and the only money to be made (Which is the only way for artists anyway) will be from live concerts.

As for Software, that's a killer for the creator. The only for sure sales will be from corporate sales. But i'm curious about what the statistics on piracy from the 80's till now are like, ratio of user to legal software. I have a feeling there's not to much change.

Clip art though will be probably impossible since it's individual file based. My only thought on clip art and prevention is this. No more bulk CD art, in other words clipart will have to be bought by individual piece. More expensive but it will protect the artist. If someone gets a hold of a CD full of art it's on the net that day. Star Wars III is already on the net.

K, time for work my heads already spinning with things that need to get done


New Member
Thanks for the info Fred. Being new to the business I am looking for any resources I can for all types of information including clipart. I was up late last night and found the sign industry site a thought I found another great resource such as this one. I also found the Key clipart link and downloaded the 5mb free art. As I was reading this and clicked the link you inserted I almost felt like I just was unknowingly forced to commit a crime. What I mean is I want to run my business as legit as I can so I can be proud of the fact that I am supporting the industry and getting paid for things I paid for. It is really hard to find legit resources amongst all of the "crap" out there. One thing I have learned is to stay far away from eBay for things to do with my business. I will stick to my local distributorsfor now.


Steve C.

New Member
Anything digitally created is being pirated including fonts. The problem is so bad that Chuck Davis (Letterheadfonts) has been forced to stop creating fonts and now spends much of his time just fighting font piracy. He has even helped me in many situations to get my fonts removed form free font sites. Dave Simpson (SignDNA) has also been very helpful in notifying us about piracy. We all sort of help each other, but it is a continuous battle. Most people are pretty cooperative, they don't even realize that they are committing a crime. There are also many others who are crooks out to steal others work and make a fast buck.
Last edited:

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I think a lot of people including a lot of individuals in various ares of professional graphics and signmaking just think that all this stuff magically came to be and no one had to sit down and create it.

I proposed an idea I had for an online database of clipart to provide for the growing need of finding clipart efficiently to Andy Holmes at Vector Art. The ervice would search across various collections an display results to owners of various collections or those considering buying them. His immediate response was that such a service would play into the hands of everyone with an illegally duplicated copy of his or mine or anyone else's clipart.

Have to admit he was right and I have to agree that eventually it will all come down to online selling of individual images.

The figure 15 years ago that was generally accepted as an accurate estimate for illegal font duplication was 1000 copies duplicated for every one sold.

The whole thing definitely stifles the development creative solutions. The collection we are releasing today contains 1600 images and totals approximately 12,000 manhours of work. It's heavily tied to the user guide that comes with the files which is an inconvenience to our customers and adds significantly to the price of the product, but is the best tool we've found to reduce theft.

Bobby H

Arial Sucks.
Clip art is an extremely misunderstood item in terms of legal use -especially computer based clip art. There are two key problems.

Problem one: the general public, and this includes 99.99% of business people, view ALL clip art as "generic" and, by nature, royalty free imagery that's legal to use anyway they see fit. This certainly has to be the route of logic taken by some of the folks who (through their own ignorance) collect the files, repackage them and then redistribute the images to make money. At first I was kind of surprised that the fellow spoken of in this thread's beginning could be so naive. At some point it just had to occur to him that copying other clip art collections and then reselling them could not have been completely okay.

Problem two: the general public has ZERO RESPECT for any computer generated artwork. They may be impressed just a little by CGI sequences in a movie which took a 100 CPU render farm a month to put together. However, they don't give a drop of snot over something like a logo design, sign design, magazine layout, etc. They just figure the computer created it, with the "designer" only hitting a couple buttons to get it done in maybe three minutes. This general perception also has to be one of the chief reasons why so many untalented people try their hand at computer based art when they never would have tried drawing or painting in "analog" ever in their lifetimes.

I've never been one to rely on clip art much at all. Our shop does have the Vector Art "Mega Collection" and Digital Auto Library. A couple other folks use that stuff a bit on smaller signs and banners. For permanent lighted signs and other higher value projects in need of illustrational elements, I'll usually create some original hand-drawn (and vectorized once we get the job) artwork for the sign. IMHO, this is the only way to go for electrical signs. With clip art, you run the extreme hazard of seeing the same image used on another permanent sign. For instance, you can spot one Signtronix display and 50 miles down the road see another one using the same piece of clip art for an unrelated business.

To get some appreciation of the "original nature" of original artwork, we'll let the customers see sample pencil sketches of the rough design. They'll get the "wow, you know how to draw" vibe and the warm fuzzies of having something unique on their sign. And they'll know there's something more to that logo than just a few digital ones and zeroes.


New Member
Software Images

That is why I went the honest route and bought the right from free to put them on my site.


New Member
Just spent 10 minutes this morning, explaining a guy that i can't use Gears of War logo (skull) on design work because of copyrights, i don't think he understood why.... LOL


New Member
I have a CD from back in the 90's that is a sampler of a couple hundred FREE art pieces on it. Sign DNA or something like that. Red print on a white booklet came with it. Have not used it in years so I do not remember it exactly.

I remember owning several different samplers back then. I would guess the sampler art is on the pirated cd's because people thought it was FREE so that meant they could have it.


My thought on the matter is that the people who pirate the software/clipart/music, etc on the internet aren't people who would buy it in the first place so the loss of income due to the theft most likely doesn't have as much impact on the sales of the material as it's estimated. If they had the money to purchase the items legally, they most likely would. I remember when I was a teenager and Napster originally came out and everyone thought it was legal. I downloaded a bunch of music that I never would have paid for and if it hadn't been available, I wouldn't have purchased or downloaded it. Of course, 20 years later with 13 years experience as a police officer, I know it's illegal, but I also know that in Indiana, it's not illegal to possess the material, but it is illegal to record or manufacture it. It's still illegal under federal law but they are busy with Hillary's email and don't pursue the small users.

The whole system is pretty messed up and if they did get caught, the would probably get 3 months probation and a fine that is smaller than the cost of purchasing the software.


New Member
this thread started 10 years ago. wondering if anything has changed for the better or is it worse than ever

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
this thread started 10 years ago. wondering if anything has changed for the better or is it worse than ever

There have been changes, but its a mixed bag.

  • Stock sites have emerged as the primary resource to get images to market. With millions of images and sophisticated use of the latest internet technology, they do a better job than one can do independently.
  • We were seeing decent improvement through our own marketing until the economy crashed in 2008. After that, about 50% of the sign companies we had sold to were no longer in business. Confirmation of the decimation is also evident in our Signs 101 member records.
  • Digital art users are also the losers with the introduction of new collections slowing to a trickle.

From my perspective, even the individual image stock sites will fail to provide a viable solution for art developers and publishers due to the difficulty in receiving a sufficient return to offset the costs of developing new artwork and turn a profit.