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Treasure of Life Series Author, Illustrator Allege Gary Vaynerchuk Copied Work for VeeFriends

Treasure of Life Series Author, Illustrator Allege Gary Vaynerchuk Copied Work for VeeFriends article feature image

Responding to a tweet that influencer and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk posted about his mother and what she taught him, Welsh author Karen Ritchie fired back.

“Hi i’m Karen Ritchie the lady whose pictures you copied where was the kindness accountability and empathy for a disabled retired nurse from uk, i did my work for the betterment of children who do you aid…oh yes GaryVee?”

The retort was not seen by many.

@KarenRi36771033 has 22 followers to Vaynerchuk’s 3.1 million.

Thanks to a sleuth on Twitter — @AG_NBA_ — work by Ritchie and her illustrator Laura Love were juxtaposed to two of Vaynerchuk’s VeeFriends, which had very similar names.

Of Ritchie and Love’s 20 books in their Treasury of Life Series, two matched — Determination the Dolphin is Determined Dolphin for VeeFriends. Gratitude the Gorilla is Gratitude Gorilla in Vee Friends.

Two other examples — Ritchie’s Loyalty the Lion and Healthiness Horse — have noticeable picture similarities to Vaynerchuk’s lion and horse.

In all of the drawings, Vaynerchuk’s are all directionally facing the same way. The dolphin and the horse have a side profile and the gorilla and the lion are staring straight on.

While Vaynerchuk’s original series of VeeFriends NFTs has generated $537 million in sales, Ritchie is a retired ex-nurse living on a pension. She told Action Network that she self-published and self-funded the books, but said she’s in the red as a result of COVID shutting down book fairs.

Her books retail for $6.

Ritchie says she thinks it’s very unlikely Vaynerchuk did VeeFriends without knowing of the work of her and her illustrator. While the publishing and sales have been small, they can be found on Amazon.

“Common sense would have told him to use other adjectives, but his ego overlooked that,” Ritchie said.

Vaynerchuk said that his lawyers carefully checked his drawings and filed for trademarks, which he says he does have for Determined Dolphin and Gratitude Gorilla.

Five months ago, two versions of Vaynerchuk’s Gratitude Gorillas sold — one for $219,264, another for $162,601. At $537 million, VeeFriends is the 10th-most valuable NFT of all time. But in the past seven days, its trading volume is 50th.

VeeFriends Series 2, which came out in April, has generated $67 million in sales.

The illustrator Laura Love also thinks it’s not possible Vaynerchuk didn’t see her drawings.

“To just draw a gorilla off the cuff without reference and get the hands and face proportions all right in one go is quite clever especially when it has human features,” Love told Action Network. “As a designer or artist you research your project. A simple type into Google brings up Karen’s books and my drawings.”

Ritchie, who is 56 and has lung disease and chronic fatigue, and Love say their hands are tied because they can’t legally fight Vaynerchuk. Love, a former professional DJ is a full-time mom who gets her degree in graphic design this week.

“It would be nice if the right thing was done,” Love said. “Who wants to buy NFTs that are not original or authentic?”

For his part, Vaynerchuk told Action Network last week that the similarities between his VeeFriends and the books are a coincidence, that he’s never heard of them. Given the sheer number of characters, which number more than 280, it wasn’t a stretch, he said, that a couple might look the same.

Said Ritchie: “Any exposure we can get to get our books seen by children is truly my heart. If people want, they can buy a book or two. I would be happier than him with his millions to see them reach more people.”

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