Ford Dealership Swipes Video Game Art For Ad; Doesn’t Understand How DMCA Works

We live in an age where a digital copy of just about any piece of artwork is obtainable for free with a couple of clicks and taps on your computer or phone. That doesn’t mean you can just use said artwork in an ad to tell people about some deal on a 2016 Ford Focus.

A Boston-area Ford dealership is dealing with some internet blowback this afternoon after folks realized that the car-seller had swiped artwork from the indie game Firewatch to promote the “Ford Freedom” sales event.

This isn’t a case of similar artwork; it’s identical, aside from the Ford sales copy:
Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 4.00.22 PM

The irony, as Game Informer points out, is that the Firewatch game is all about walking through the wilderness. So of all the driving and car-themed games out there from which the dealership could have swiped more relevant artwork, it picked a game about the joys of exploring on foot.

The art theft was first noted on Twitter by app-maker Panic Inc., and then picked up by the co-founder of Campo Santo, the company that made Firewatch:

When Game Informer called the dealership to inquire about the ad, they were pointed toward the auto group’s ad department, which responded by hanging up on the reporter after admitting that it did no vetting of artwork.

The ad exec then wrote back to say clarify that “We always use DMCA compliant sites when getting images,” referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The ad guy claimed that the Firewatch image was obtained from a DMCA-compliant digital “wallpaper” site, but he seems to be confused about complying with the DMCA actually means.

Yes, this site has a way for copyright holders to file a grievance about stolen artwork being used, but that doesn’t mean that everything posted to the wallpaper site has somehow been pre-checked to make sure the copyright holder has given permission, or that the image is in the public domain.

That would be like saying it was okay to put a YouTube clip in your Ford TV ad without permission just because YouTube has a way to file a DMCA complaint.