Lee Valley is Corrupt. What Do You Think?
In May we discovered an image of ours on Pinterest being used as a link back to the Lee Valley store. The image is of a woodcarving crooked knives set and an adze, carving tools we had made.
I posted a comment saying it was our image, they were our tools and left our web address. I thought, well maybe that will be ok because that image and some other pins were all we had on Google image searches at the time. In hindsight, that was a mistake.
Earlier this year we had launched a new site replacing an old Cariboo Blades site only to discover soon after that our images weren't being indexed by Google. Disaster, we had had excellent presence, now we had disappeared.
Homestead, our website builder host, had no idea when they could fix this. We had no time to build another site with another provider. The only images of our products on an image search came from Pinterest. When a craftsperson is considering buying a high end tool or knife they can search for images to see what's available, for ideas. That's how we get business. Traffic to our site by the links from our images to our site. Alt's, keywords, seo.
We got busy with living here and the image linked to Lee Valley slipped our minds.
Over a 6 month period we were able to scrape the time together to build another site with Squarespace. Our images are beginning to show up again. I began searching keywords, phrases etc... to see how we were doing. We found our image of a crooked knife set and carving adze still linked back to Lee Valley everywhere that was important to us. When I clicked on one image during a search, crooked knife carving sets and followed it to Pinterest, my comment was gone. Any link to us had been taken off? How does that happen. Instead there was a broken, misspelled, incomplete address to our site that didn’t work. Now the situation was annoying. We contacted Lee Valley, said it was our image, we make the tools in the image could they take it down. They were apologetic, had to find the pin but they were on it. I did another search a week later for woodcarving crooked knife sets, clicked on our image and went to Pinterest. Same image was on another pin to Lee Valley Tools but this pin was saved by Lee Valley. This pin had my name attached to it.
It looked like an advertisement. Lots of keywords in the title, description, scrolling tags and an information button. I clicked the button and found my name. It looked to me like I was making tools and knives for Lee Valley. They wrote that . .
I emailed Lee Valley with a screen shot. Asked them how my name got there. Again they were very apologetic and would remove the pin as soon as they could. No mention of my name but within an hour my name was removed and replaced with another description of the tools under the information button on the pin. The image was not removed. I mean, everything was the same, somebody just took my name out...?
Lee Valley customer service emailed (in case you're wondering, we don't have a phone) and said an employee saved the pin by mistake.?. ok, but in our opinion that is hard to believe. Doesn't explain why there was a writing job done posting the Scott Richardson name on a pin clearly meant to advertise.. That seems to be a bit more than just a mistake...in our opinion.
We think Lee Valley thought it was ok to use our image of woodcarving tools because we weren’t present. Rather than contact us they just took it.
Variations of the keywords. Different terms. Custom woodcarving crooked knife set and adze, carving crooked knives etc... The best search was "Lee Valley crooked knife". Our image came up linked to them among their knives in the first row of images. Lee Valley claimed they had no control over Google’s algorithms. Lee Valley employs the best social media experts and web designers. They know what they are doing.
Lee Valley dominated all of the search ranking we used to have with our image and with our name associated with them! I have a small library of screenshots.
Woodcarving Crooked Knives
With over 40 stores between Canada, the US, UK and Ireland, an online store, linking our image, my name and our tools to their store and using Pinterest, one of the biggest social media networks in the world, bothered us. It doesn't make sense they'd do this. Is this just business? Using our image and name worldwide. Their tool and knives are 1/3 the cost of ours. .We just thought, what a score, buy Cariboo Blades carving knives and tools at 1/3rd the cost.
The Lee Valley pins were up for almost 2 weeks after we'd sent our first request to have their association with us removed. We were hoping Lee Valley, in good faith, would take them off. The pins could have been up for 6 months. We don't know. They know.
We contacted Pinterest and told them of a copyright violation (our opinion). Pinterest checked out our site to see for themselves and took the pins off their board within 24 hours.
Their crooked knife blades are 1/3rd the cost of Cariboo Blade's crooked knife blade blanks (you get what you pay for). Their adze, chisels, draw knives are all inferior and much cheaper. Linking the idea these are Haida tools and we make them worldwide is disgraceful. We don't do that. This constant rip off of First Nations is really unfair. Ripping us off. Their moral compass, ethics. Lee Valley should be leading not showing the colours of a greed-driven corporation.
Copyright infringement is complicated lawyers tell me. Appropriating somebody's images and work without their consent, appropriating anything unethically is a problem created by unscrupulous people. When large corporations partake in this practice they should feel the pressure from a society trying to grow in a positive, justice-driven way. It's harder to understand if it hasn't happened to you. Think of a company using your child's image to sell cheap, plastic action figures. When you confront them they apologize profusely, tell you it was a mistake, do nothing and blow you off (leaving it up to you to have the images removed as well).
Life living in the Cariboo/ Chilcotin bush has its challenges. We had been under an evacuation order for 2 months for the summer of 2017. We try and make everything with solar energy so losing July and August was tough. It put us way behind. It was the snowball effect as the sun got lower in the sky in the fall. We were spending all our time catching up and growing our food, the gardens are a priority. Just trying to survive. This experience was like getting kicked while we were down.
So, could there be a scale or is it a line in the sand?
Aki and Scott