The Impact of Pirated Decks

I’m featuring a little of Ciro Marchetti’s work* in the photo above because there won’t be any more new decks. Ciro has announced publicly that he won’t be doing any more. Shoddy pirated copies of his decks have been turning up for a long time now. It’s everywhere, and he’s tired of the constant effort of fighting it. I think he means it. He’s out. This is what he had to say:

“As I have already indicated, I will probably not design any more decks, and certainly not license the remaining ones I’ve self published. Because I simply can’t deal or compete with the pirates. Who are pretty much just sitting there waiting for whatever my next deck might be so they can get to work and steal it. I’m not even going to discuss anymore the absurd justifications that people have for buying them, for example that it’s the only way they can afford a new deck…and quite frankly I’m becoming increasingly cynical that anyone can be that gullible as to think that a new deck going for about $7 is anything but a rip off. So it is what it is. All I ask now, is please at least don’t add insult to injury by contacting me directly and asking if I can provide the companion book or meanings of the cards, because that “bargain” copy you bought didn’t come with a book…I’m simply not that nice a person…”

I’m sure there will be much more piracy to follow. Virtually everyone who’s been creating popular, well-received decks for awhile has had their work ripped off this way, and it keeps getting worse.

The biggest offenders seem to be the printers in China, Russia, and the Ukraine. This is what Mr. Marchetti has to say on the difference between Russia/Ukraine and Chinese piracy:

“Russia and the Ukraine as a source of piracy was, based on my experience, more one of opportunistic individuals. From what I could tell they were small scale and basically producing their rip offs by scanning a legit deck. Not nice, still theft but the scale wasn’t a great threat. China was also of course dabbling. But I sensed a ramping up of the quantity and sophistication of the operation in China over the last year. It seemed to me that this had gone from individuals such as those in Russia and the Ukraine who I had had some success in shutting down to a more ominous operation. More titles and more savvy. The number of decks being offered on platforms such as Amazon, Etsy, Wish etc, were too many and it was obvious they were connected. Despite the variety of price range and product description, they often used the same product photos. This approach serves a very practical purpose, by scattering their presence via supposedly appearing to be different sellers, they are in fact one and the same, as such they are somewhat invulnerable to any cease and desist letters that might cause one of their many tentacles to be taken down, the others remain actively wriggling away. This to me suggests a more organized infrastructure that knows what its doing, along with access to duplicates of the original files…not simple crude scans. This is far more ominous, and despite my sharing my fears, the publishers seemed to be reluctant to even consider this possibility. They were sure their suppliers were legit. And so they might be, but doesn’t mean that everyone in the art department who has access to those files isn’t a potential source of the duplication…it would be naive to dismiss that possibility. Based on more recent communications with them, I sense the publisher now seem to be acknowledging the seriousness of the threat and are beginning to take more active steps in their attempts to combat it.”

This site is currently offering more than 200 different counterfeited decks and many examples of stolen art on spreadcloths, bags etc.:

A closer look:

If people were free to speak openly about this, the offenders would be known and noted. One deck creator who was badly burned by a printing company in China, and advised by their legal counsel not to send files there, was recently accused of racism simply for quoting that advice.

But it’s not racism – pirating IS a major problem in China. The copyright laws have no teeth over there, and it’s very difficult to sue if shoddy $5 copies of your deck end up on Wish. With few or no consequences for deck pirating, people take advantage. If it were the same here in the US, you’d see people of all races doing the same thing. It has nothing to do with race, it just happens to be taking place in China on a large scale because of issues with the legal system. We have issues with our legal system, too, just different ones. We’re not “better”, we just have different issues.

Warning people not to send files there after being badly burned that way, having files leaked, having to shut down unauthorized sales, and seeing it happen to many others, is not equal to calling on people to “boycott China”, which was another accusation. It would be impossible to “boycott China”, since most of the things people use are made there. Those words were never used. This whole thing is being twisted. People are starting to open their eyes and acknowledge that a lot of what goes on in the world is racist. That’s a good thing. But it’s disingenuous, to put it mildly, to exploit these good intentions in order to gaslight and attempt to destroy a business rival, deflect attention from the real problem, defend one’s own connections with printers, or whatever might be at play behind the scenes.

I’ve gone to the mat with people who disparage the Chinese – and other races – both IRL and online. People who know me know that I do this. But if one is not familiar with every printing office in China, which factories are affiliated with or contracted by them, and the full history of all of these, then it’s a huge risk to send files there due to the difficulty of suing in the event that the files are leaked. NOT because Chinese people live there.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop them from obtaining a deck and scanning it. But those scans would not have the quality and resolution of files from the artist. And when you hire them to print your deck, there’s nothing to stop them from running extra copies without your permission, and selling them. That’s happened, too.

Piracy is rampant, and should not be tolerated. Every printing company that leaks files SHOULD be called out, named and shamed, even if they happen to be in China. All this gaslighting is going to accomplish is to make people hesitant to speak up. It’s toxic.

We have a choice: Call them out, or lose our artists.

*The top photo features the Mini Tarot of Dreams and spreadcloth. This deck and more are available here https://www.ciromarchetti.com/

4 responses »

  1. Absolutely agree with you. Seeing sterling creators give up because their work is being routinely stolen is heartbreaking.

  2. Thanks, guys.
    I thought this was interesting:

    According to Forbes, in 2018 counterfeiting was the largest criminal enterprise in the world. Sales of counterfeit and pirated goods totals $1.7 trillion per year, which is more than drugs and human trafficking. It is expected to grow to $2.8 trillion and cost 5.4 million jobs by 2022. According to The Counterfeit Report, “China produces 80% of the world’s counterfeits and we’re supporting China. Whether or not it’s their intention to completely undermine and destroy the U.S. economy, we [in the United States] buy about 60% to 80% of the products.”
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterfeit_consumer_goods#General_description

    Acknowledging verifiable, documented facts is not racism, nor is it a matter of opinion or bias.

    • Additional commentary (minus identifying information), that I left on someone’s blog. They’ve apparently deleted it:

      I do feel obligated to point out inconsistencies.
      The “all files” comment was, once again, a quote from [redacted]’s attorney.

      As for whether I agree with it, I’m told that there are honest printers in China, and I believe that. But the counterfeiting problem is so widespread that sending files there risky. Even a trusted business could have become lax in their monitoring of the printing process, or had recent personnel changes that one may be unaware of. It only takes one person to leak files.

      Of course, printers in the US, EU, etc. might also leak files. But in those cases, you’d have legal recourse. When it happens in China (and the odds of that happening are strong) there’s little or nothing you can do to stop it, or recoup your losses.

      If China ever takes the enforced legislative action needed to at least give artists some recourse when these things happen, I would be supportive of printing there. Having consequences in place would make piracy much less attractive. Until then, I wouldn’t recommend sending work there. It isn’t a race issue, it’s a legal issue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s