Artists and photographers are up in arms over a website that is selling cheap posters and prints of their work, without their knowledge or permission. Called the Poster Shop and located at Wallpart.com, the site is tied to an incomplete address in Sydney, Australia, its phone number follows a British format, its packages ship from China, and according to Kotaku the domain was registered by a man named Sergo Zuikov, who lives in Moscow. It has been the subject of many articles and forum discussions warning artists and would-be buyers of its shady ways, and a petition calling for the site to be shut down has garnered over 62,000 signatures.
Wallpart.com’s administrators, apparently anticipating the backlash, have provided a dedicated copyright violation claim form that some suggest is the entire point of the site, which is nothing more than an elaborate phishing scam. “This is actually the main purpose for the site’s existence — they completely anticipate artists being upset about their work supposedly being sold, so they developed a system to exploit those who complain,” the blog Peter & Company writes. “Various pieces of malware and other malicious code have been found embedded throughout their pages at different times. … These people are pure scam artists, plain and simple. Avoid them at all costs.”
In other words, Wallpart.com is intended to enrage artists in order to prompt them to provide contact and other information. A quick search of the site reveals that, indeed, posters of virtually any image on the internet can be purchased from the site. A photo of the rapper Coolio scrubbed from Wikipedia? Check. A shot of the Centre Pompidou taken from France’s official tourism site? Check. A photo of Hyperallergic editor-in-chief Hrag Vartanian and senior editor Jillian Steinhauer giving a talk in Baltimore taken from the blog BmoreArt? Check. More insidious than the selling of images from Wikipedia and tourism sites — or Flickr’s short-lived fiasco of selling prints of Creative Commons images uploaded by its users — is that Wallpart.com threatens the livelihood of people who make a living from their images: artists and photographers.
“I received the first email alert about my art on Wallpart.com from Thomas Smetana, founder of 12by15,” said Joseph Nechvatal, an artist and Hyperallergic contributor. “12by15 has produced a t-shirt with me using one of my images and texts. Thomas told me that the image we used was popping up on Wallpart.com — because they ripped the image for my shirt off of his 12by15 site … I hope people understand that what they are buying, if they receive anything at all, is a shitty unsigned poster and not a work of art by me.”
Because the site pulls in any image associated with shoppers’ queries, searching for “Joseph Nechvatal” will not only turn up images of the artists’ work, but also photos of him from various blogs, images that accompanied his writing on Hyperallergic, and other tangentially related images, all available for purchase as posters. And the same is true of virtually any artist who has a website, has been photographed at an event, or had their work posted on Instagram. Search for “Carla Gannis,” for instance, and you’ll find not only images of the artist’s hugely popular “Garden of Emoji Delights” artwork, but also photos of her at openings, profile photos, and a slew of seemingly completely unrelated images.
“The most popular work of mine showing up on Wallpart.com is in fact a mash-up of Unicode characters and a classic work of art authored by a 16th-century painter. I find that ironic,” Gannis told Hyperallergic. “Stranger, photos of me at events are showing up there, for sale, and I have no idea who would want to pay money for these photos? Especially when they can download any of these photos directly from Google and print them out on their printer, but again who wants a pic of me at an art opening to hang on their wall either way? Seems unlikely. Thus I imagine there is a back story to Wallpart.com, something nefarious and unethical, or a conceptual prank? I’m not sure. The site seems highly unoriginal, if it’s an art stunt or a real business.”
Hyperallergic has reached out to Wallpart.com for comment but received no response.
Correction: Due to the likelihood that Wallpart.com, among other things, is an elaborate phishing scheme intended to gather visitors’ data and information, all links to the site have been removed from this article.