Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In Defense of Trestle Press

Of late, a publisher I work with---Trestle Press---has been been sledding though some heavy snow.  A brouhaha exploded recently about the use of copy righted artwork and whether the publisher had or had not the required permissions to use said artwork.

This issue generated instant fallout.  A number of talented writers decided to remove their material from publication under the banner of Trestle Press and go their separate ways.

I respect their decisions.  I applaud their commitment to not be a part of any perceived plagiarism.  As a writer I know the feeling of seeing your work being bodily lifted out of its original context and used by someone else and under their name!  As artists . . . as moral and ethical human beings . . . it seems to me we are morally bound to protect each other's artistic endeavors.

However . . .

The issues at hand that should be better explored before major decisions such as withdrawing from the enfolding arms of a publisher are these; were the images truly plagiarised.  And were they done so maliciously.

The answer to the first question is unclear.  One one hand the publisher says they he acquired the necessary permissions and/or paid the require fees to use such artwork.  On the other hand is this shared view by a number of writers that surely an upstart of a company like Trestle Press could not possibly afford acquiring . . . or paying . . . the required permissions/fees.

A cogent assumption.  But to date . . . only an assumption.

Trestle Press is a year old.  It has dozens upon dozens of titles listed in just about every major ebook market that can be found.  Their titles span the globe. The Call Me Smitty  series I have, alone, has nine installments.  The artwork used for these works covers the gamut of artistic creation.  To my knowledge there has not been one rumble, not one 'official' accusation, not one demand to cease and desist, or even one letter from an irate lawyer and/or artist demanding their artwork to be removed.

Not one.

So the question has to be asked is this; is this issue a legitimate issue?  Or is this a erroneously perceived issue brought on by a disgruntled outside source bent on achieving some kind of retaliation?

If evidence exists that proves wrongs committed has come to light, for god's sake share this information!  As a writer and as an artist I too want to do the right thing!  But on the other hand, if assumption and innuendo gave birth to this pie of acrimonious pickles, shame on all of us!

We have unceremoniously condemned a man, and a fragile start-up company, of wrongs he may be innocent of, and in the process, potentially mortally wounding the company's ability to survive.

As to the question as to whether this supposed wrong was maliciously intended, I am going to go out on a limb and categorically reject this altogether.   Blame the decision . . . again, IF TRUE, on ineptness.  Blame it on inexperience.  Blame it on the fact that a fan of great story-telling with no intent of ever becoming a writer, wanted to create a vehicle to get gifted writers out into the markets.

But I for one, doubt any form of avarice or greed were ingredients in the decision making.  There is no evidence to suggest this.  None.  In fact, there is more evidence to suggest just the opposite.  Every writer working under the banner of Trestle Press has found an owner more than willing . .  in fact, absolutely ecstatic, in complying with the creative wishes of each and every one of his authors.

He politely warned me not to use photos in a book trailer because of this very issue of plagiarism.  That, for me, cements my opinions concerning intent.  He was protecting my interests.  Which interpreted, means he was cognizant of what the implications were in plagiarising artwork and thus was protecting himself as much as protecting me.

So why would he knowingly comment such a desperate act across a wide range of published works?  He wouldn't.

This blizzard of words and accusations will blow over.  It is my hopes Trestle Press survives and expands.  Lessons have been learned.  Actions have been taken to correct perceived problems.  Let's now put this issue to bed and move on with our lives.


  1. Hi B.R. I was approached by TP back in October but had reservations so sat back and watched what went on with them. Those worries are now coming to fruition. I understand that writers want to be published but TP just don't seem professional. Their ebooks are full of editing issues and the covers, well.....

    You may have had good dealings with them/him but there's no way a new company would be able to afford to buy the copyrights for images from major players like Hollywood.

    Here's a link that may be of interest.

  2. Yes, David. I had that link waiting for me the moment I walked in the house yesterday. She sent out to all the writers at TP.
    The arguements and counter-arguements have been issued. The word is out there now--if this is a real problem, we should ALL hear about it shortly.

  3. Really hope all writers involved come out on top. Good luck, my friend!

  4. Here's one artist who's work was stolen.

  5. It's simplistic to suggest that this all boils down to one disgruntled individual. There's also this: which predates the current issue by several months.

    Leaving aside the other issues of quality (or rather, the lack of it) and focusing on the copyright issue, I cannot believe that Marvel, for example, granted permission for the Ghost Rider image to be not only used, but used without accreditation, and also butchered. And I equally cannot believe that any artist would allow the abuse of their work as evidenced by the distorted images on TP covers.

    It is implausible to believe that a businessman could be so ignorant of the law as to imagine that he could simply download images and use them for a commercial venture without either permission or crediting the artist. It is a publisher's job to know how to handle such matters, and ignorance is no defence in law.

    I believe you are trying to defend the indefensible. This organisation should close its doors.

  6. Julie--if Giovanni did this intentionally, then I agree with you 100%. But here's the deal; Marvel Comics,the gaming company that did Hitman, and the movie company that did the Hitman movie, aggressively go after those who use their copyrighted material. So . . . where are they?

  7. They just don't know, because TP is a tiny little outfit that few people have heard of. Mr Gelati has been lucky to get away with what he does for so long. It's that simple.

  8. Some of the examples I have seen, especially the "Ghost Rider" cover, really make me screptical. There are plenty of sites you can join and pay a really low fee to use their art. It's s tough issue for sure, but then again, covers don't influence(good or bad) what I read, at all. Same thing with copping music lyrics, there are rules that need to be followed. I just read a novel that quoted a bunch of tunes, and as good as the read was, I'm fearful that the author is going to get slammed for it.

    In any event, best of luck with your own decision, and I really dig Smitty!

  9. It wouldn't be hard to show some proof that he's paid marvel. Surely? If anyone still thinks Giovanni is this guy's real name then I'm sorry for what will become them. It's a sham set up. How many publishers ask people to work with them? 1, TP. We need to ask why that is?

  10. I encourage all of you who are skeptcal to remain skeptical. I defend GG because he has shoved my characters out into the public's eye for more than anyone else has so far--and I defend him because I want real, demonstrable proof actual wrongdoing has taken place. That means someone who clearly owns the artwork has to step forward to make their demands known.

  11. Jaime Jasso - who's a pro matte artist at ILM - has already come out to say he never gave permission. That's concrete.

    By his own admission, GG used images where he'd tried and failed to reach the artist. That's also concrete, because right to use has to be explicitly granted, and anyone working in a rights-based field like publishing has no excuse not to know that.

    Marvel have never licensed their artwork or their characters to anyone outside specific tie-in work featuring those characters. Their stable of such *is* their IP. Likewise, IO with Agent 47 from Hitman. Character is brand in both cases, and the likeness of that character has never and will never be given to use on something completely different. That's maybe only 99.999% concrete, but short of hearing from either company, it's near as damn it.

  12. Incidentally, and I hate to point this out, but here's the original for the image used on the 'Smitty' books:

    (Found on page 2 of Google Image results for "skull bullet holes".)

    AAC seem, on a cursory glance at their blog, to be quite big on graphic work (they sell a lot of t-shirts etc.), and that skull and crossed assault rifle motif is the company logo. We could ask if GG asked to use it on the books...

  13. ... and the cover for 'Hunter' is taken from the manga Hellsing. It's a character called Alucard:

  14. I'm the artist of one of the images plagiarized. Mine is on the cover of "Without Notice" by Jason Hughes. I can tell you that at no point was I ever approached or seemingly attempted to be contacted for use of my art from Trestle Press despite my current contact information being easily located wherever the image is found.

  15. It is not an assumption when multiple artists have come forward and stated that their art was used without their permission. At that point it becomes a fact.

  16. Wow. I can't believe you're defending this guy. It's clear that whether he was malicious or not he committed the crime. There are a ton of affordable cover artist available. Or you can look on deviant art for stock pictures many of which are free, some of which have a very small fee (like $20). Being a small press or a start up DOES NOT excuse him. Lots of small presses buy their own cover art or make it legally, without stealing. (and some even make good cover art.)

  17. There is now lots of evidence online that yes, Trestle Press has been thieving. The only real question remains, was it malicious or pure, rank, unprofessional stupidity?

  18. Tracey, I WANT to believe it was pure naievety and stupidity. That's want I want to believe.

  19. I was one of those authors who left TP because they didn't hold up to their end of the bargain on the contract and I was a bit skeptical at first, I should have stuck with that feeling before signing, but I got out of the contract without any problem.
    But if I may, even if they said they got permission, what about the other times they couldn't reach the artist and STILL used the artwork anyway. Seriously, to me that's so wrong on many levels. I design book covers for authors and I would not ever use someone else's picture. Bad business ethics on their part.

  20. Sue, the best we can say now is this; trestle Press is behind us now. Gone like a bad dream. You live and and you learn, and you still hope to find that literary break in life. We all do.