Cosplayer Pillows: The Actual Story

This is probably the worst possible way to kick off my blog, but there are so many things that need to be corrected…

In an attempt to be the first to report it, Linwood Knight wrote an article for The Outhousers regarding a vendor at AnimeNEXT selling pillows of varying sizes with cosplayers’ images on either side. His information was gathered from the comments on my friend’s Facebook status, and no one directly involved was interviewed to clarify the hearsay that was written within the comments. He then went on to publish the article, filled with improper credits and a severely large amount of fallacies about the events of this past weekend. I understand wanting to be the first to break the news, but have a little bit of journalistic integrity before you post things like this.

Anyway, I decided to take the time to explain what actually happened…

image

On Saturday evening, I received a tweet from my friend Carrie with a photo of me in my Dark Phoenix cosplay emblazoned on a pillow. She asked me if I was okay with it. Obviously…I was not. Upon getting my response, she spoke with the vendor (Eric of Imagesolutions), who claimed I had signed an agreement stating he could sell my image whichever way he pleased without asking. Once she got the head of the dealer’s room involved, it was a different story. Within an hour, I was informed that the vendor was ejected from the convention and would not be allowed back into the dealer’s room the following day.

Fast-forward to the following morning. I received a phone call from the head of the dealer’s room, informing me that the pillows were within the vendor’s right to sell because they were being marketed as promotional material for his services, something that was in fact allowed according to the agreement I signed in February 2012. He was allowed back into the convention center and continued to sell the pillows.

And this is where the problems lie. The services being promoted are moving digital images (literally, a cosplayer spinning around in a circle). Using a stationary photo on a pillow to market a moving image does not promote his services. His services listed on his website do not include pillow mass production, and is therefore out of the scope of his business. So how would this be allowed?

image

Furthermore, like don’t recall him checking my ID to ensure like was of age at the time of my shoot. Who’s to say that he didn’t photograph minors and is now selling their photos? That screams shady and illegal.

The vendor also would not let my friend Carrie buy my pillow (specifically mine) on Sunday to remove it from his stock. He then removed it from display instead, but still kept it. Another cosplayer and friend of mine, Pixie Belle, managed to buy the pillow with her cosplaying Marvel X-Men’s Pixie. After buying it, the vendor exclaimed, “That’s one of our most popular ones!” She then informed him that she was the cosplayer pictured and didn’t approve of him selling the pillows.

But it wasn’t until then that we learned what was on the back of the pillows…our butts. So not only do I have to deal with the idea of having my image all over pillows, but now I have to deal with the fact that my rear end is on every single one of them. As if cosplayers don’t already have to deal with being over-sexualized, now this vendor is promoting that idea and the people running AnimeNEXT are condoning that activity.

I will not sit here and let that happen, and I’m determined to fight this until this guy stops. I’m not looking for monetary compensation, but would rather just know that I can go to a convention and feel safe. I want to know that the other people there have common decency to go about their business without exploiting others to make a quick buck. We don’t need that kind of behavior in this community and I’d like to see those running conventions acknowledge how harmful this could be to cosplayers.

EDIT 8:02 PM: At this time, 2 Image Solutions has agreed to change their policy and will no longer be selling posters, prints, pillows, stickers and other materials of cosplayers unless the individual cosplayer requests the products themselves. Thank you, Eric, for listening to us and following our wishes! For a reference to his new policy, please go here.

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204 thoughts on “Cosplayer Pillows: The Actual Story

  1. I’ve been looking at these posts on my facebook, and I’ve quickly browsed through the comments with some that stick out the most. For the comments relating to the photoshoots that sports illustrated and other magazines, the models are represented by actual agencies that look for the best interests of the models. They accept an offer and that’s when the photographer/company is given permission to take the photos. Depending on contract, this may also include royalties and part of the profit to the models.

    Now from my understanding, there had to be a written consent that you personally had sign a contract. If the contract is signed, then the photographer MUST have a copy of the contract signed with the EXACT terms to what you agreed upon. This is what I can say to this: if the contract that the photographer has isn’t the same contract that you signed, he’s liable for forgery (I believe that is illegal). In addition, if he is selling these products WITH underaged cosplayers, then he’s also liable (and with a serious charge I believe). Either way, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to get away with this.

    By the way, has anyone posted this on Reddit? I’m sure they’ll love to hear this.

  2. File a lawsuit.
    Don’t sign legal agreements at conventions when you’re cosplaying.

  3. You’re just going to have to suck it up and take it, sweetheart. You’ve probably had a few hundred photos taken of you by convention goers over the course of your time doing cosplay(gasp! What? People are taking pictures of me wearing skin tight costumes? And someone is…double gasp!…exploiting that image? I’m shocked! Shocked to see gambling going on at this establishment! LOL!). There are probably tons of guys jacking off to those pictures and you don’t even know it. Does one more image on a semen stained pillow really matter at this point? This is actually a pretty brilliant idea on his part. If anything you’re probably going to see a lot more women turning up on a lot more pillows. By the way, do you have his phone number? I’d like to see if he has any of you or Power Girl or Vampirella on bath towels. Or hey! How about putting CosSluts on a pair of boxers? That would rock! Thanks for the idea!

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  5. How are you calling these pillows ‘sex pillows?’ These are BODY pillows…. and he has all the right he can saying its promoting his 360 photography… its a photo of your cosplay from the front on the front of the pillow, and a photo of the back of your cosplay in the back…. you let him willingly take a photo of your rear…

    I’m kind of offended how much you are not taking ANY blame in this. and don’t you dare compair this to rape. This article is written from a VERY bias one sided angle from someone who wasn’t even at the con. I’d like to read what the photographer has to say for himself.

    • @Sam

      Where did she say “sex pillow” or “rape?”

      And where is the bias in things like “this is what was said in this phone conversation,” and “this is what the thing I signed said?”

      Don’t read things that aren’t there and get indignant about it.

      I’m kind of offended that you lack reading comprehension skills

    • Anders Scott Hudson’s comment down there is 100% accurate. I model for a living and cosplay for fun. As soon as someone begins selling merchandise with your image on it, it is no longer promotional. Promotional is a display, or something given away freely; but selling the pillows requires a separate contract from the one you signed. For example, my school is allowed to use the work i create in classes as promotional material, but if they need my permission to print it in an anthology or to sell it in any form. This right here, the issue of promotional verses sale, is where you are going to get your money in court. I suggest finding some of the other cosplayers and girls he used and seeing about filing a class-action suit for the revenue he earned and also for your revenue lost [in the sense that, by him selling merchandise with your image, you may have lost business selling prints or other merchandise of yourself. not sure if you do this as a cosplayer but it IS something you can use in court]. He has broken a lot of laws–you have a right to be angry, but keep a cool head and fight smart. I would suggest being very careful now with what you and other cosplayers say online in regards to the situation, to avoid saying something that could be used against you in court.

  6. Except, unlike you who doesn’t give a flying fuck in resolving serious matters, I rather have people start taking action than letting things slide. So kindly take your insensitive comments elsewhere.

  7. I would definitely let ConnectiCo nn know because CT isn’t so far away. If he tries to show up {the con isnt too far away} hopefully theyll turn him away,

  8. If he is charging for the pillows, that’s not “promotional use” and he is generating revenue. This requires a license for the use of “likeness”, not a model release. Even if he is using the revenue to support an oblique project related to his actual company, as soon as he takes cash, he is in violation of his usage contract. If any of the cosplayers are professionals and use their likeness in conjunction with an LLC or other form of “brand recognition” he is in big, big trouble.

    • Then so is nearly every cosplayer who sales copyrighted materials: Just because you’re modeling a copyrighted character, doesn’t mean you own said image to sale in any form. The selling of any copyrighted character is strictly prohibited (and illegal) unless otherwise stated from the title holder. Ie, you dress like SPAWN and take a picture, you cannot sale said picture for any monetary gain without permission from IMAGE comics and Todd McFarlane. What this man is doing, is illegal, however what many cosplayers do as well, (selling an image of a copyrighted character they portray) is also illegal.

      • Wearing the costume can be illegal too. >.> Just fyi. There’s case law on that. The difference is whether or not people bother to enforce the rules on smallfry. I commented in another thread on this same issue that if anyone has a legal bone to pick it’s the owner’s of the character’s likeness. But neither cosplayers nor cons want major companies suddenly getting interested in cosplay issues. Believe me.

        Also, I keep seeing people throw around the term “promotional rights” as if that’s the letter of the law. For anyone who didn’t bother to read the contract now online, the term “promotional rights” does not appear. The term “promotion” does, IN A LIST of rights that includes the words “FOR ANY PURPOSE, including…” Again, outside of a specific court ruling yet to be brought to someone’s attention, he’s operating within known boundaries of law. At least as far as the photographer-model relationship goes. Character likeness is a completely separate issue to which no one here has any right to utilize.

      • He does not actually have a physical copy of the release I signed in February 2012 with my signature on it, so I’m not sure what contract you’re referring to. If you have seen something with my signature on it, however, please link me.

  9. Posted onto facebook with my friends to spread the word. I am personally not a cosplayer, but this is disgusting and just wrong. I have many friends that engage in cosplay and I want them to be able to do so, without having to deal with jerks like this.

  10. ” As if cosplayers don’t already have to deal with being over-sexualized…” SAYS THE PERSON WEARING A SEXUALIZED VERSION OF A NORMALLY FULLY COVERED COSTUME!

  11. Consent issues aside, most people GIVE things to promote their business, not SELL them. Dude’s trying to make a buck from people’s likenesses without their permission.

  12. I’m kind of disappointed that my comment was apparently dropped without approval for posting, since I think I contributed significantly to the conversation. :( Maybe it was an error, or I’m just unfamiliar with wordpress and did something wrong. Here’s another post, with corrections and alterations made since the actual document HAS been published.

    The wording is as follows: “…and Assigns my permission to license the Content and to use the Content in any Media for any purpose (except pornographic or defamatory) which may include, among others, advertising, promotion, marketing and packaging for any product or service.”

    Sadly you would have to resolve this issue in court. Seeing the document, I now am sure you’ll be the one having the hard time in court here. As an amateur photographer myself, I can tell you that it wouldn’t be too farfetched to argue that this particular product can exhibit his skills in his profession. You can argue the point all you like, but my recollection of case law would be siding with the photographer here. And unless there’s a prior case of a court ruling otherwise, it seems he’s operating within the language of the contract. While undoubtedly this was not your intent, all I can say is be cautious of EVER signing-away rights of ANY commercial nature in the future.

    Also for the few people who commented on the issue of enforceability: there’s rarely such thing as a voluntary contract that is too broad to be unenforceable (note: contract law is state based, so fair warning in other jurisdictions this may not be the case). Unless a law or constitutional provision is being violated, the court is the normally sole determiner of how far the application of “broad” clauses go. Contract disputes are handled as a civil court matter. The determination wouldn’t be whether or not it’s enforceable, it would be whether or not the specific actions of the photographer are covered by the contract. And for that, you’ll have to sue. You might try sending a certified “Cease & Desist” notice first to see if you can convince them without legal action. Honestly, I’m not optimistic of your chances in the courtroom. :( Best of luck, whatever you decide to do.

    (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I am a historian who studies case histories from time to time. The above is given without any specialized training in the field of law and is offered as informed speculation. Please consult full legal consul before making any decisions of legal action.)

    Final thought (this is not directed at anyone here, just a related comment): I’m seeing cons take a bit of flak on this and many other dealer’s room issues, and I’d just like to point out that the staff of any convention works very hard to ensure the event runs smoothly. They are not equipped, nor do they have the time, to deal with private commercial disputes. Whether they be something like this or if it’s with a guy selling possible bootleg keychains. They shouldn’t have to be either. I can sympathize with people on the short end of things like this, but one thing I’d like to see stop is people blaming the cons.

  13. Simple. Sue him in magistrate court for the reasons you stated. He will get a cease and desist order from the court. Case closed. If he has made a penny from any item you can collect those monies. One step from taking his business license all together.

  14. This is why you should know your photographer. I only do shoots with people I know personally. And if I do post photos I watermark them. Helps with the stealing. Yes, you can still get a “drive by shooting” of your costume but the photo isn’t very likely to be of quality to sell. Still, I’ve had images show up in publications I did not endorse. It is something you have to risk as a cosplayer. However, situations like this one can be avoided if you only work with people you know. The issue with this particular situation is more the implied usage of these body pillows that you buy at cons which are often covered in Hentai like drawings of anime girls. I believe that is why these cosplayers are so upset.

  15. While I agree this is awfully creepy and not the type of vendor any con would want, I’m not so sure it’s illegal either. This isn’t meant to defend him … but brings up a few points relevant to the discussion.

    I see a lot of people making assumptions that are not necessarily true. Using a stationary image to promote a moving image service could easily fall within marketing (movie poster anyone?) You’ll forgive us for asking to know what the contract said *exactly* when you can’t even remember if he checked your ID.

    C&D costs nothing but is just as easily ignored. Saying his business is illegal and he’s selling sex pillows is questionable and potentially defamatory though. If people here are going to say cosplay isn’t sexual…and then claim an image of the same IS sexual because it’s on a pillow…how does that hold up?

    Also, a relevant question is what, if any, compensation did you receive?

  16. If minors are involved in this then it’s possible the police could be involved in helping resolve this matter as they are being portrayed inappropriately and I doubt he had consent from a parent or legal guardian making it illegal on a whole other level.

  17. To add one more point…for someone with a bach in legal studies no less! Signing a release DOES NOT mean both parties agreed to terms. A release is just that – you release rights. The photographer releases and guarantees nothing. Zip. Nada. That’s called a “contract” which is a very different thing.

    • “A written or spoken agreement, esp. one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law.” Is a contract. If you want to mince semantics, all “legal instruments” take on a very similar cast.

      Also: since the document contains a provision saying the photographer won’t share the model’s personal information–that’s an obligation on the part of the photographer. Either way, dictionarily and legally one can argue it’s a contract. But as different states have different rules, I won’t quibble further.

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  19. Word of this needs to be spread throughout the cosplay community. If it is alright with you, Ms. Grey, would I be able to mention and credit your article on a podcast I host?

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  21. Myself and a friend had our photos taken by this man two years back. I’m going to be pursuing this legally. It can be argued in a court that he had no right to make the pillows and sell them. The definition of “PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL” is that the item is provided free of charge. Selling the pillows is not promotional and is a breach of the model’s rights. He did not attain rights to make money off of these images, only gain contacts and clientele. I will set up a Facebook group with more information. I have worked for several attorneys and this needs to cease.

  22. Damn! I am on SDCC Page 3 as Quorra. A couple other cosplayers I know are on there too. This piece ‘O shit! I totally remember doing that 360 degree shoot with him. What an asshole to take cosplayers images and put them on a pillow for sale! How tasteless! No class! I don’t remember signing a waiver. I’m writing this fool to send me proof that I did, if I did.

    Even if I sign a release form that totally doesn’t give him a right to put mine or anyone else’s image on these pillows.

  23. Even if his model releases are valid, and even if every model whose likeness he exploited signed a release that he possesses a copy of, a court might find the contract unconscionable, and is unfairly one sided (he’s selling their likeness without compensation) and cannot be enforced (in whole or part). That does require taking him to court, however.

    If he traded anything in return for the photos (one of the 3d images, for example) that would probably constitute compensation. A court would have to decide if it was fair compensation.

  24. fuhrerkingpanda, having read the release form, I think I agree with you — assuming that is the actual release form (and the people who posted it claim that at least one of the people who are named in the complaints did sign that version of the release).

    The release says the photographer can use the picture for just about anything he wants. And the release ALSO says that the person signing is over 18. And since he was taking rights, not selling you beer or cigarettes, it is probably not his fault if the people signing were not 18 (especially since he did not do pornographic or sexually explicit pictures).

    It may well have been skeevy. And I’m guessing that people under 18 who complained could get their product pulled, based on the contract being false. I suppose theoretically the photographer could actually SUE such a minor for misrepresenting (to collect damages for having printed the pillows). My guess is he wouldn’t do that, given how bad his publicity is at this point.

    I fully understand the outrage people feel, not knowing that their pictures would be sold on pillows. But the people who signed that release may not win a legal battle, because that release is pretty comprehensive.

    He could well still get hung up if the pictures were depictions of copyrighted characters. But that would be between him and the holders of the copyright.

    • The release is only comprehensive if he has the model’s name signed on that same sheet of paper. I recall when I signed that I signed a separate sheet of paper with multiple names on it. So no release was present on that form. I’m fairly certain that wouldn’t hold up in court of law. That being said, I haven’t seen myself on any promotional items (I doubt I will) but if others were similar to my case, they’d have cause to pursue legal action.

  25. Good news for you i veined interest in the 2 image site and the pillows in particular with this reply back:

    “Thank you for your interest but we are discontinuing selling cosplay pillows. There has been a few privacy concerns which we take seriously. Thank you again.”

    Hope this helps resolve the issue for you.

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