As a followup to my article “Outlaw Press, aka Jim Shipman, Is a Big Crook“, I have an comprehensive update provided by one of the artists Shipman ripped off. The story thus far:
A small RPG Publisher (Outlaw Press, Inc. run by James L. Shipman II) that exclusively publishes Tunnels & Trolls RPG materials was accused of extensively using and publishing unlicensed art and text for profit by several artist and writers who own the copyright to the art and content in question. Some of the images used by this publisher are work-for-hire art copyrighted by big-name companies like Dreamworks SKG. Games Workshop, Upper Deck/Blizzard, and Wizards of the Coast.
The discussion about the whole matter of this publisher using unlicensed art started on this thread at RPGNet (which is now 101 pages long, and has been closed). The thread started when it was brought to the attention of an artist, Kevin Bracey, that he was wrongfully credited with the cover art of a product that had actually been created by Mauricio Herrera and used without permission. Kevin Bracey was, however, the creator of the original cover for the product, which was changed when the work was made available in PDF format by Outlaw Press, Inc.
After repeated unanswered communications sent to the publisher by the growing number of artists who recognized their work as being used without a license, mainly as covers for his products, his Lulu and DriveThruRPG stores were taken down with all the questionable products removed. The products were also removed from his own website for a while, but soon afterward were re-listed without showing the cover art–the most readily recognized and easily identifiable circumstance of copyright infringement. Moreover, Outlaw Press, Inc. removed their e-mail address from their main site, although the publisher’s actual contact details can still be found here and here.
After many more unanswered communications to the publisher, some from past contributors requesting the removal of their freely contributed material from his publications (Tori Bergquist, Simon Lee Tranter, Ken St. Andre, Gianmatteo Tonci, and M. E. Volmar included) as a result of their outrage and in solidarity to the affected artists, the matter was still unresolved and being ignored by the publisher who continued to sell – through his own website, Lulu’s Amazon Markeplace and Amazon’s CreateSpace – products that were no longer just suspect (on a grand scale) of copyright infringement, but whose permission by the contributing artists and writers to sell their materials had been rescinded.
Some artists, prompted by a lack of answer from Shipman, resorted to leaving notes of art theft on the Reviews section of the products listed on Amazon.com. And eventually, all but 5 of the roughly 130 listed items were removed from the Amazon.com and Lulu’s Amazon Marketplace stores at the request of the art’s copyright owners who were left no choice but to contact Lulu and Amazon.com directly. Of the 5 remaining products (which can still be found here), 2 still present covers with verified unlicensed art – “Troll’s Blood & Old Delvers: Tunnels & Trolls Anthology” with Jon Hodgson’s art, and “Lizardmen In Red Water Bay: A Tunnels & Trolls Fanpostal Novel” with Allen Palmer’s art.
So far, the list of artists that have confirmed the use of their unlicensed art featured on the covers of Outlaw Press, Inc. products (without counting the 10+ contributors who have so far rescinded Shipman’s permission to use their materials) is overwhelming and growing (with around 20 or so other artists who are being contacted to confirm if indeed their art has been used without permission). These 30+ artists, some whose 70+ pieces of unlicensed artwork is featured on several of the publisher’s products (see attached PDF file), include:
- J. P. Targete
- Sylvain Despretz
- Simon Dominic
- Mauricio Herrera
- Jon Hodgson
- Daniel Horne
- Michal Ivan
- John Shannon
- Bill Corbett
- Martin McKeown
- Mats Minnhagen
- Ursula Vernon
- Jeff Lee Johnson
- Henning Janssen
- Zoltan Boros and Gabor Szikszai
- Jhoneil Centeno
- Johann Valentin Andree
- Bera Karoly
- Alan Lathwell
- Ken Jeremiassen
- Jan Patrik Kresny
- Fredrik Rahmqvist
- David Lightfoot
- Allen Palmer
- Alejandro Guitierrez
- Daniel Falck
- Storn A. Cook
- Norbert Vakulya
- Thom Scott
- Darrenn E. Canton
- Tibor Szendrei
- Goran Josic
- Per Eriksson
- Kory K.
One of the artists, Daniel Falck, wrote about the situation in his own blog.
Others have also written about the matter at:
- Concept Art
- The Other Side
- EN World
- Gaming Brouhaha
- Stardust Publications
- The Omnipotent Eye
- Dungeon Mastering 101
The publisher was also accused of reprinting and selling without the author’s permission a magazine called “Mazes & Minotaurs,” which is offered for free on the author’s website. The details of this accusation can be found here.
Moreover, most of the art identified by the artists as used without a license is art featured on the covers of this publisher’s products, meaning that a thorough examination of the interior art used on his publications is yet to be undertaken, and that more artwork could have been used without a license by this publisher and more artists may be in reality affected by his practices.
The requests to remove freely contributed art and content, and the cancellation of the license to publish Tunnels & Trolls materials made by the makers of the Tunnels & Trolls game, Ken St. Andre and Flying Buffalo, Inc., have so far been completely ignored, and nothing close to an apology or explanation has been offered by the publisher to anyone – although he has appeared as Shipy (also his nickname on http://www.trollhalla.com – Ken St. Andre’s Tunnels & Trolls website) in this thread (post 162 and 168) mocking the requests and comments about his practices made by the RPG community.
At this point, the publisher claimed that his art was bought from an art broker called David Levine (or David Levin) from the United Kingdom, of whom no record exists anywhere on the Web and to whom Shipman claims to have paid around $2000 for all the art used in his publications. Still, after having been repeatedly informed of his use of unlicensed art, the publisher tried to sell the infringing print products through his own website and made no effort to recall or remove the publications from any of his other still active sales outlets.
Subsequently, after the posts were made by Shipy on the Trollbridge, the publisher’s website announced on its homepage:
“All this month we will be having a X-mas sale. That means most of our T&T prices will be listed for half price or cheaper. So if you are looking to buy something, this month will be the best time to do so.”
And went on to boast about the money he was making off products that still featured all the unlicensed art in question.
“We have lots of new T&T items planned for the coming year (Novels, Solos, T&T Supplements and even a T&T Battle Dice Game Ken St. Andre created). Our sales have continued to grow with the site statics breaking down as such; roughly 3,241 people visit here each day, with 1 in 122 people making a purchase of $50 or more. We are shipping world wide and we continue to expand.”
It is also of note that the publisher sells a magazine called “The Hobbit Hole,” although the word Hobbit and its use is trademarked to the Tolkien Estate, and highly unlikely to have been licensed to an obscure independent publisher such as Outlaw Press, Inc. and/or James Shipman.
This week, and after having been contacted through e-mail by Shipman (who cited bogus publication rights and falsely claimed owning the copyrights to freely contributed materials whose copyright was never given to him by the rightful copyright owners), Ken St. Andre terminated James Shipman membership at Trollhalla–St. Andre’s own Tunnels & Trolls fan club–after issuing the following statement:
“Because James Shipman has shown himself to be neither truthful nor courageous nor ethical, I declare that he cannot remain a member of Trollhalla any longer.”
Although the publisher’s website has now been down for a few days, he continues to sell his products on E-Bay under various user names including: jimship1, Hobbit_King, actionseller99 and selling4u2, using the email@example.com PayPal account.
Still, a storefront for this publisher and most of his products (which still feature the unlicensed art) can be found by following the product links at the Noble Knights game store here, probably selling old stock.
Not only have the actions by James Shipman been damaging and disrespectful to many, including his contributors and the Tunnels & Trolls community, but his practices have muddied reputations, impacted artists and fans alike, and cast a bad shadow on the whole RPG community and on legitimate independent publishers. This situation needs to be exposed, if only in the hope of helping the affected artists and contributors who have been wrong by Shipman, and the RPG community and independent publishers alike.
Please help support the artists and legitimate RPG publishers by not patronizing this ripoff artist, even at discount prices. If you are an artist or writer, do not compromise your own professional reputation by working with him.