Theft by Condom

by Heather on April 15, 2010

Daryl Banks is a local shooter who has recently run into some trouble with copyright infringement with a series of his called Crinoline Flowers:

© Daryl Banks

© Daryl Banks

© Daryl Banks

© Daryl Banks

Through an anonymous tip, Daryl learned that this series was being used without permission by a condom company from the UK and China. Though he tried many times to contact the company through his lawyer, those attempts were ignored and, as Daryl says: It looks like they win as I can not afford any further legal action. I suspect the images were scanned out of a magazine editorial.

Condom company! China! Scanned out of a magazine! This is all over wrong. Let’s look at the offending use from the company’s website:

I asked Daryl if there was anything he thought he could do about this:

If the company was based in the west I would pursue it but seeing as how I would need to drag it through the Chinese legal system I figure I should let it go. The fax line and email we have for the company both bounced back. To pursue litigation will cost too much money and take too much time. I thought about having a fundraiser but I feel like I would be asking my friends to throw their money down the toilet. At the end of the day there are more important causes that could use those sort of donations.

If anything I want people to know my work was taken and used with out my permission and there is nothing I can do about it. The company has ignored my lawyers letter of demand. Most likely they are aware that I could never afford to pursue the case half way across the world. Even if I could I am sure it would only end badly after years of headaches.

This has also caused me to have a massive rethink on limited edition prints. The idea of limiting or controlling the spread of an image/idea in this day and age seems somewhat of an impossible feat. Perhaps even counter intuitive. So much amazing information has come to me over the internet, most of which was free. It feels somewhat hypocritical to throw up my arms and stomp my feet. I love taking photographs and I will continue to take them regardless if I make money from it or not. I am curious how other photographers handle their print sales. I sell mine as limited editions but I realize that there is really nothing limited about them when I have no control over other people printing them. I may lose the ability to make an income off my work but when compared to how much I have gained from the internet I am ok with that.

At the very least I can now say I tried to sue a Chinese condom company. Seems like a good party story!

What a drag. I wish this could be a cautionary tale but I can’t think of what else Daryl could have done to protect himself from this theft. But, in the spirit of Daryl’s upbeat attitude and just because it’s funny (and a bit of a cautionary tale in it’s own right), here’s a description from the website of one of the many brands of Solomon Condoms. This first sexy number is called Colourful and Magic:

The colorful sets + shock classic with the magic ring, the young feel, stylish atmosphere, the multicolored magic take you into a magical world! – Colorful, mind you, change!

And because I can’t resist, here’s the description of Enthusiasm Dots:

The ultra-thin design + Zest dynamic combination of large particles, while adding heat-sensitive bacteria especially lubricants, increased incentives, more fun, more care! – There is me, a warm and full of passion!

I hope that Solomon’s lawyers take the lawsuits that are sure to arise from their “heat sensitive bacteria” a little more seriously then they took this copyright infringement case. Thanks for sharing your story Daryl, you’ve brought up some interesting questions on the concept of limited edition prints.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Bridget Wang April 15, 2010 at 10:45 am

As a Chinese citizen myself, I feel totally ashamed by this Chinese company.

John Slemp April 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

Hello Heather!
Several years ago I adopted the stance that is so well outlined by Brooks Jensen, a photographer in Washington state, and the editor of Lenswork. You can read his thoughts here:

Rochemontreps April 15, 2010 at 11:57 am

I have a friend who has his artwork continuously stolen by a chinese clothing company, and they had the same problem. They cant seem to find them. There is a website dedicated to offenders such as Solomon,

Its always fun to boost offenders to the public.

Also creating a cantonese or mandarin campaign against the company using your images could be fun… Instead of raising money for years of law fees, raise money for a month of billboard space in China!

John Slemp April 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’ve had another thought on the Chinese infringement. As many of you know, the Chinese are notorious for copyright theft…of anything. But the Chinese government says they want to fully embrace the worldwide economy, and part of that means playing by the rest of the world’s intellectual property rules.

I think I might spend some time to find out who your national trade ambassador is, and get this information to them. Let them do their job and bring it up with their Chinese counterparts. You might be surprised to find the Chinese government taking your side, and forcing the condom company to pay up. If nothing else, it gives your ambassador more ammunition to use in negotiating international agreements. And it shines a further bad light on the Chinese, and their trade practices.

One of the things not mentioned here is that we are now operating in a worldwide economy. The sooner we recognize this fact, the sooner we can create systems to protect our work, and to have it used, worldwide.

I’d also include a usage agreement, and a fee for worldwide use, in the packet. Base the licensing agreement on the PLUS language, which can be found here:

It’s worth a shot. And let us know how it works out…

Bob April 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Nice work Daryl!

Have you tried contacting the British office?

I see they don’t have a Facebook page, but no surprise as the Chinese don’t allow access to FB.

I would start a shame campaign with website/blog, and your own FB page for the company. Do one in Chinese too!
Keep in mind, they might start manufacturing or distributing to or for the west.

See what some other Canadians have done:

After raising a big stink, you might also get in touch with, and with the Chinese Chamber of commerce or equivalent as well as the branch of the Chinese government that deals with new trade in China. This last part will only be effective if you have a lot of momentum (leverage through eyeballs) with your other efforts.

Good luck!

Bob April 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Another suggestion. After googling condoms in China it seems counterfeits and faulty products are quite prevalent.,+china&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

This will take some effort (though you may get lots of attention). See if you can find some public service orgs that do PSAs in China (or elsewhere) about these Chinese condom problems. Offer them the use of your images (gratis) for a certain amount of time. Then make sure “Solomon” sees the use of your artwork in the public associated with condom problems. They will drop your art ASAP if they have any business sense.

Speed April 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm

With credit cards the merchant is responsible for verifying that the person using the card is the owner. If the card is stolen and the merchant honors it, the merchant is out the price of the product — not the card owner, not the bank.

If the copyright law was written so that the publisher of stolen material (a magazine for example) could be held financially responsible for the theft and use, then theft would be a much smaller problem. Publishers would hate this idea but in a way they are receiving and profiting from stolen property.

Patrick Baldwin April 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Do you know where they are in the UK? If they are in London I’ll go and visit them for you and see what they have to say.
Fantastic pictures by the way.

Chuck St. John April 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Hope all those offending folks in the photo catch some sort of sexual crud and go out of this world screaming for mercy…of which there will be none.

This type of vermin is all over and not one of us is safe.

Daryl Banks April 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for some really great ideas to find my justice/revenge!

We did find them but the UK office turned out to be more of a PO box. They were probably just trying to look like they had an UK office. There are channels I can go through to have the site taken down but it is expensive and has no guarantees.

If companies like Duracell can not prevent Chinese companies from counterfeiting batteries what chance do I have?

One thing I learned through all of this that blew me away was the term laches.

“The person invoking laches is asserting that an opposing party has “slept on its rights,” and that, as a result of this delay, that other party is no longer entitled to its original claim. Put another way, failure to assert one’s rights in a timely manner can result in a claim’s being barred by laches ”

Copyright appears to work solely on the gold standard. He who holds the golds sets the standards.

All of this has been a real headache for the last few months. At the very least the company seems to be somewhat illegitimate. What business uses a hotmail address after all?

JohnV April 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

Develop a website/wordpress blog telling your story and start a boycott against the condom company.

Here’s the offending company:

Hmm… there’s a picture of Model Gisele Bundchen on that page. I’m sure she wasn’t hired by the company.

You could call your website: UC K

It would definitely hurt their reputation and sales. And since your story is the truth they can’t sue you for slander.

Clark Patrick April 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm


Wow, what a world we live in… It’s interesting because recently I have just entered into a fairly major legal battle (for me) over a similar issue. And it’s hard to not let it really get to you… and your case is different from mine because you can’t even get through to your offenders to defend yourself.

But, I think it is important to try and find some positives from this experience. Here are some of my thoughts:

1.) The fact that a company stole your images means they have real advertising value. It means that the images are not only good, but that they also can be attached to an idea… maybe the one you intended (likely not in this case) or a new one (like Chinese condoms). And although this was never your intent… you can show this portfolio to an agency buyer and say, “These images were used (illegally) in a Chinese ad campaign.” In some ways it’s kind of impressive that someone would want your work so much they would just plain steal it… and not even try to copy it.

2.) Charles Caleb Colton once said, “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.” And again, although this company didn’t even try to copy your work – they just stole it… I think the idea holds true. Try to think of this as a case where your creativity via your images inspired someone else – even though it was at your expense – don’t allow it to make you angry.

3.) Focus on moving forward in your work/life/family/etc. I remember a guest speaker I heard while in high school said something that has always stuck with me…”If you have good ideas people will (try to) steal them, but if you’re a person who really does have lots of good ideas keep putting them out there and no one will be able to steal them fast enough… and you will become successful from them. But, if you only have one good idea you’re in more trouble than if you have a thousand good ideas and half of them are ripped off…”

I think the same thing very much applies to photography…. if you keep consistently over your career put out work like the shots that were stolen you’ll end up in a good place.

Either way it’s a horrible feeling to know someone has taken something from you whether it’s an image, idea, or a gold watch. And in my case it has really forced me to think deeper about why I’m even in this business in the first place… not sure where I heard this, but another quote that has been inspiring me lately is, “If you’re working towards something that you no longer believe is possible, but you keep doing it anyway, it will probably work out.”

Heather – it would be cool if you did a little feature for Daryl for his next series of work – as a another way for him to get something positive out of this experience, what do you think? A little redemption for this hit.

Heather April 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Absolutely- Daryl, get back in touch with your new work for sure.

mike April 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm

on a related note……

Heather, curious if you know if Gettyimages or any of the other agencies actually contact via email or phone when a license expires ?

i have had a few clients that “forgot” and renewed only after i contacted them months after expiration.

it seems like something someone RM managing your rights should do no ?

Bob April 19, 2010 at 1:07 pm

@ Daryl

After looking again at the details of this company and the dynamics of business in China, I doubt you will get anything from this company in the way of compensation/consideration.
(Look at the rest of their communications, and research their claims and endorsements on google = zilch).

Your best bet is either to move on, or counter their perceived market with your own campaign in order to get your images removed.

I suggested an idea about contributing these images to a PSA/org about condom failure etc. Actually you could just do this yourself. Do some research on condom use, manufacturing (product failure) in China. Then start up your own page. Make it look similar to theirs. Enlist the help of a Chinese person. Ideal candidate might be a copywriter of Chinese culture.

Interesting note on plagiarism, and forgery in Chinese culture. This is a practice that has gone on for hundreds if not thousands of years in China (and other areas). There are currently Chinese antiques on the market which are hundreds of years old – and they are fakes! Copies made centuries ago to mimic even older artifacts. This has been going on forever in China and will not change quickly.

Geof Kirby April 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Hi Daryl,
A whois search shows that the URL is registered in the USA – I’m sure the authorities there will get very upset about this. The mail servers are in Shanghai.

I’d have a go at the respective ISPs – the chinese one is at and the US one at

Good luck

Mo Haarhoff April 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Get hold of someone local from the IIB (Institute for Independent Business). Ask him to contact an IIB-er in China to present someone in person and come back to you. At least you’d then know someone on the spot and be able to make an educated decision. Good luck

Daryl Banks April 20, 2010 at 8:12 am

Thank you once again for all the advice, ideas and condolences. I will be contacted godaddy this afternoon for sure.

P.T. Barnum April 20, 2010 at 8:54 am


I know this is a drag and all, but let’s not forget that there’s an upside too. Before all this, I’d never heard of you. You’re now garnering publicity from it, and you look pretty sympathetic as the victim, so the word is spreading about your name.

And in the end, how much of a real damage has this tiny company done to you? Yes, they swiped your images, but they also put you on the map. I’d take it further — buy a bunch of those condoms, and do Promo Pieces with them; start a Reality Show where you get accidentally get someone pregnant from a defective condom; try to make lemonade from the lemons. Milk it. Have fun with it. Because, let’s be honest, this is China, and no one is going to come to your defense. I’m saying your best bet is to use the Theft to your distinct advantage. Turn the tables, think Web 2.0; you know Chase Jarvis would. Capitalize on it.

Martijn Schuijt April 24, 2010 at 6:44 am

The option above from P.T Barnum, is in my opinion, the best option to do. Good luck wit it !!!

Eric Gregory Powell April 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

I live in Beijing, let me know if there is anything you want me to take to their office.

Mark Tucker April 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

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