It’s a given that it would cost Shopee a pretty penny to have footballer Cristiano Ronaldo pull off a silly looking dance for an advertisement. However, this isn’t the case for artist Adam Ellis when he found out that the Malaysian branch of Shopee was using one of his comic strips for a promotion without his permission.
Artwork theft in the internet age is, sadly, very common. Some lifted or traced artworks are shamelessly claimed as another person’s work, while others are altered to become memes that spread through social media like wildfire. Adam Ellis’ artworks and web comic strips are no exception, especially to the latter.
Ellis’ four-panel comic strip in question was originally uploaded to this Instagram account on 20 January 2018. If you’re familiar with the artist’s work and sense of humour, you’re right to expect that the punchline in the last panel of the comic is unexpected. To those who’ve not read the original, we suggest that you check it out on your own via this link. Just a head’s up, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
The comic strip was a hit where it received more than 190,000 likes within 24 hours on Instagram, and would later get even more shares and likes when it was uploaded on Ellis’ Facebook page. Thanks to its popularity, the artwork has seen multiple rehashes as memes uploaded by other users on various social media platforms.
The altered forms of the comic strip are used mainly for recreational purposes and most would actually give credit to Ellis. However, when companies such as Shopee incorporate the artwork in their advertising, Adam had to put his foot down. Let alone the fact that the e-commerce platform did not credit the artist whatsoever.
When are brands gonna realize that "memes" aren't free clip art for them to use in advertisements? pic.twitter.com/4jurEiK3Cf
— adam ellis (@moby_dickhead) December 11, 2019
Ellis called out to Shopee Malaysia on 12 December in Twitter saying “When are brands gonna realize that ‘memes’ aren’t free clip art for them to use in advertisements?” and included a screenshot of the ad featuring his artwork to his tweet. The artist then followed up by tweeting “Anyway @ShopeeMY lemme know where to send an invoice” and later expressed his amusement that the brand may be unaware of the comic’s original punchline in its fourth panel.
Hi Mr Adam Ellis, we’d like to first sincerely apologize to you for this regretful event. We appreciate the hard work that comes from being an artist, and the value of your work. We want to make this right and have dropped you a private message to discuss further. Thank you.
— Shopee(MY) (@ShopeeMY) December 12, 2019
Fortunately, Shopee Malaysia later replied to Ellis’ tweet with an apology for the incident and stated “we appreciate the hard work that comes from being an artist, and the value of your work.” The company also arranged a private discussion with the artist in the same tweet with hopes of mending the situation. We’ve recently reached out to Ellis for more information regarding this and have yet to hear from him.
(Source: Adam Ellis via Twitter.)