Digital Publisher Trestle Press Dinged For Stealing Cover Art

Trestle Press accused of stealing images

Today's cautionary tale: Trestle Press, an independent digital publisher, has been accused of stealing artwork for covers.

The story is playing out on discussion boards (here and here), with plenty of examples of images it seems hard to believe they got the license for, like the comic book character Ghost Rider, the main character from the video games series Hitman, and even a photo of the titular characters from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

The scandal hit early this morning and Trestle has since posted a response on its website, explaining that they tried to license images, but sometimes couldn't get in contact with the artists. 

We stand by the fact that if we have used any copyrighted artwork that we have contacted the artist or made every possible attempt to contact the artist. In many cases, we have requested usage permission and made payment when asked.

In cases where no contact was made or no copyright holder found, we apologize for the usage and have removed the identified images.

There's two very important lessons to be had here:

First, if you can't get in contact with the artist, maybe don't use the image.

Second, research is your best weapon against getting tied up with unprofessional outfits like this. Ultimately, the writers who signed with Trestle are going to suffer, and that's a shame. Digital publishing offers fantastic opportunities to bring writers to market and reach new audiences. It's also an easy place to get jammed up.

Be careful out there. And don't steal artwork. 

(And I tip my hat to Keith Rawson, for bringing this to our attention.) 

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RonEarl's picture
RonEarl from Charleston, WV is reading Dove Season by Johnny Shaw February 1, 2012 - 11:28am

I'd have to say Trestle's comments are whitewashed bullshit with hopes to cover their own backside. From the day they started publishing it was obvious, painfully so, that the art for each endevor were Google image search swipes. To add insult to injury, these stolen images were used and abused in the worst possible way, either because the publisher, who on many occasions emoted he took much pleasure in designing new covers, had no usable design skills or deliberately maligned he art in hopes of hiding the theft. I'm going to go with a whole lot of both.

I hope either they shape up or ship out. There's enough discrimination towards small press e-pubs without this kind of scandal mucking up the waters.

Ben666's picture
Ben666 from Montreal, Canada is reading Scar Tissue, by Marcus Sakey February 1, 2012 - 12:15pm

I agree with Ron about shaping up. Trestle Press' problem is not really malicious intent, it's that it's ran like a pawn shop. It's a poor excuse for a business.

Paul D Brazill's picture
Paul D Brazill from England is reading Ask The Dice by Ed Lynskey February 1, 2012 - 1:59pm

I think Ron hit the nail on the head. 

Lulu's picture
Lulu February 1, 2012 - 4:08pm

The first thing I think of when Trestle gets mentioned is crappy cover art.

Now, a few of my friends are publishing with Trestle, so it hurts me to say this. They certainly have (or had, before this scandal) some talented writers working with them. But I have to it's the most unprofessional looking book covers I've ever seen, and that includes indie writers who have designed their own covers.

Trestle's covers are garish and ugly, and the fact that they squeeze their cheesy little white logo onto every book cover just lowers the quality to an almost laughable state. Having a (probably pirated) copy of Photoshop does not make you a designer, nor does having access to Google give you license to use any images you please.

Jacki Whitford's picture
Jacki Whitford February 2, 2012 - 4:05pm

I worked for AOL back in the 1990s and my first job was documenting all the artwork they used online. I built a database of all the artwork and included drop down menus with three things: 1) copyrighted (yes/no), 2) trademarked (yes/no), 3) owner. I had to go back and tell some people to cease and desist using some artwork because the company did not create it or own it. The clean up was quick and since it was before AOL really added pictures and text (something else I was in charge of.) But it was an early wakeup call to prevent lawsuits later.

It is really simple. If you do not own the artwork or did not create it, then you cannot use it without written permission of the current owner. If people refuse to follow these rules, then they will also do other unethical things in the name of profit for their company.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs February 3, 2012 - 3:58am

They just sent me a friend request on goodreads. Odd timing.

Brian Andrew's picture
Brian Andrew March 15, 2012 - 1:20am

Well.I agree with Ron..