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DAPL Profiteers Steal Marty Two Bulls Designs

After finding his designs offered for sale illegally by third party sellers, Marty Two Bulls comes up with a plan to stop the theft and help the cause.

You’ve probably seen and shared at least one of the many brilliant political cartoons by Marty Two Bulls at some point in time. Marty Two Bulls—an artist from the Oglala Lakota Nation—has been drawing political cartoons with great success for many years. His work has long been a staple on the pages of ICTMN. He’s known for bringing clever humor and hilarious imagery to hot, controversial issues: most recently the anti-DAPL movement in Standing Rock.

But now, you might see his work in places it shouldn’t be: dozens of t-shirt sellers who are hoping to make a buck from the #NoDAPL campaigns have ripped off Marty Two Bulls designs and been using them to sell t-shirts of their own with no credit, profit, or acknowledgement offered to the artist. Now, Two Bulls has taken the matter into his own hands. In addition to filing dozens of reports to stop production of the rip-offs, he has decided to sell t-shirts of his own.

The design thieves are mostly from overseas with no connection to Native country.
“So far I caught over 20,” Two Bulls said, “I go online, I search terms like #NoDAPL and Water is Life on Facebook, and there they are.”

A screen-capture of a website selling t-shirts with designs stolen from Marty Two Bulls

A screen-capture of a website selling t-shirts with designs stolen from Marty Two Bulls

Two Bulls explained that it’s mostly third party companies who are making the shirts: any individual can use one of these companies to upload designs and make a small profit. The company itself trusts the customer to use their own images, but there’s not much oversight, so often people get away with design theft. If somebody finds that their art or design has been ripped off, it’s up to them to file a report for violation of copyright. Two Bulls feels fortunate that he has the wherewithal and resources to catch the theft, but finds it morally troubling that there are probably many artists out there whose designs are being ripped off with no opportunity for recourse.

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Two Bulls says that it’s unfortunate that people with no concern for Native communities or intent to use the money to forward the cause at hand are willing to profit from the anti-pipeline efforts. As a matter of artist integrity, Two Bulls does not like the idea of low quality versions of his images being sold. That’s why he decided the best way to fight them is to join them. “I can’t afford to start a mail order t-shirt business,” he lamented. “But as long as people want the shirts I can at least make my work available.”

Another screen grab of a seller identified by Marty Two Bulls as having ripped off his design

Another screen grab of a seller identified by Marty Two Bulls as having ripped off his design

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“The only way for me to fight it is to put my own designs out there,” he said. The designs are taken from the original editorial cartoons with alterations to the layout to fit the t-shirt format.

“The only drawback is I have to use the same third party t-shirt companies so to keep the cost down I earn just a couple of bucks,” he noted. “And of course I will donate a portion of the profits to the Standing Rock Tribe.”

You can find real Marty Two Bulls t-shirts at m2bulls.com. The t-shirts on his site include popular images with catchy phrases like “Stop the Black Snake” and “Lakota No Access.”

Two Bulls’ foremost intent is to create political cartoons to reach Native peoples. Artists make art to feed their families; the business of art responds to the marketplace that is diverse and often non-Indian. “As Native artists we have to ask ourselves just who are we making our art for?” Two Bulls said. “The rich non-Indian? Or do we want to reach our people?”

Authentic Marty Two Bulls t-shirt designs for sale at M2B.com

Authentic Marty Two Bulls t-shirt designs for sale at M2Bulls.com

“Sometimes Native people can’t afford a painting but they want art. I do this [political cartoons] to reach my own people,” he said. “The combination of words and pictures together distributed through mass media is powerful.”

So, what is the ultimate purpose behind his work?

“I want to help people feel for the cause or inspire them to do something about it,” Two Bulls said.

****You can purchase authentic t-shirts from Marty Two Bulls at M2bulls.com. Support Native artists!*****