Jess Idres

sketches and musing of a cracked mind

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Don’t Trust Tee-Turtle (or Ramy): How I learned to be paranoid about contests, art thieves, and ‘good’ companies.

So if you’ve ever been to a major comic/anime/gaming convention, and wandered through the dealer’s room, you probably have stumbled up a t-shirt/prints table called Tee Turtle. Some of the shirts might look cute, or funny, or even a little familiar.

You might also have seen Tee Turtle’s designs here on tumblr- listed either under the company name or the name of the owner- A guy who goes by Ramy/Ramyb. Again, the art might be cute, might be funny, but if you’ve spent any time browsing DeviantArt or Shirt!Woot, the design will probably be disturbingly familiar.

That’s probably because they are.

Ramy, and his partner/’ex-girlfriend’ (more on her in a minute) have a long list of bad behavior to their name, but the one that has been dogging them the longest is their tendency to copy other artists and sell their copies as their own original ideas/designs. Sadly, outside of Artist Alleys and some Shirt!Woot regulars, this information isn’t widely know.

Ramy has had a tendency of getting himself in trouble- ‘forgetting’ he was inspired by another artist’s work (or outright claim he’s never seen it, despite the original artists remembering he favorited the original piece), claiming an oddly specific design is simply ‘generic’, and recycling his own (and others) ideas over and over again, and strange cases of voting inflation.  When caught red handed over stealing designs, he’ll try and insult the original artists or just hide evidence to pretend it never happened.  That’s not to say he doesn’t stop selling those shirts- numerous people have spotted those same shirts at their booths as ‘convention exclusives’.

His partner/’ex-girlfriend’, Sylvia Shi, is also notorious about these sort of things, and she’s the main reason I know all this. Although I’d been around when the pair had used fake names and family members to get a record 14 tables at Otakon 2008 (despite a limit of 2 tables per artist), and had heard she’d copied from other artists, it hadn’t really affected me.

Fast forward to 2010, when Button Me Up! had brought me back to working in Artists Alley. A friend, a fellow Artist Alley regular, pinged me through dA, saying she was worried. Sylvia had been at the convention she had been working, and bought some of her most popular cat items.  A few weeks later, someone notified her that Sylvia had submitted the design, slightly redrawn, to Shirt!Woot’s weekly derby and won. Several thousand shirts had been sold, netting Sylvia quite a lot of money.

My friend and her husband immediately contacted Woot!, offering to send them proof of the prior knowledge and copy.  They heard nothing, and Woot continued to sell the shirt.  Finally, they contacted a lawyer to try and get Woot to remove it.  Only then did Woot take the shirt down, and agree to pay my friend the money Sylvia would have made.

And Sylvia? Well, Woot would never acknowledge the theft, and let the matter be swept under the rug. Sylvia made a new account, and continued to enter contests for a while. My friend noted that while this was going on, Sylvia and Ramy were selling the t-shirt at their booths, and claiming my friend had copied THEM, and sent people to harass her in the Artist Alley.  Only when it became clear that my friend was talking to a lawyer did they stop- and suddenly claimed they were no longer dating or working together… despite evidence to the contrary, including her designs being submitted to Woot… under his account, as well as they both selling art that the other has claimed they’ve drawn at some point. 

I’m posting this as a warning both to artists who post here on Tumblr and potential buyers: Beware Tee Turtle, Ramy and Sylvia. They prey on buyer’s apathy and artists’ sharing their work. Don’t let it happen to you.

And if anyone wonders, this is why people demand you credit people for their art.  Because they know this happens far too often.

Filed under tee turtle Ramy Sylvia Shi RamyB art theft t-shirts woot!

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