Astucemedia

Just when you thought no company could not sink any lower than Andre Leite Alves of Aware Bear Computers, think again. If there ever was a company deserving of being exposed in the “hall of shame” of copyright infringers it’s Astucemedia, Inc. in Montreal, Canada. I present to you the fraudulent misrepresentation and copyright infringement:

Astucemedia in Montreal using a copyrighted image without permission:

The design and graphics of the site are, I hope, actually their own and not also snatched from elsewhere. I have blurred the design out of respect for their copyright concerns, which is more than I can say for them and their total disregard in such matters. If you want to see what it otherwise looks like check their site. I’m sure you can find the original image here or here.

Notice how they pasted their company name and logo onto the wall. Why do that unless they wanted to create a false perception? What reason could Astucemedia have to associate me with their business activities? The obvious ones? Perhaps. But there might even be ulterior motives involved that I can only theorize about and will share with you later in this “hall of shame” exposure. Or you could just scroll down a bit.

How Astucemedia’s copyright infringement was discovered

A mutual client (which remains nameless) of Astucemedia and more recently of yours truly asked me what my involvement with them was. None, of course. After a few seconds of confusion and further communication it was pointed out to me that my office was prominently displayed on their website. What a great move, using my office on your site, this client now has doubts about the professionalism of Atucemedia and I most certainly agree with the client on that. How’s that for being stupid… unless it wasn’t mere stupidity?

Astucemedia’s response to the copyright infringement

Of course, Astucemedia was contacted about this blatant copyright infringement. Since they are a company that is technically playing around in my “backyard” of 3D computer graphics I offered them a chance to take responsibility and own up to their actions. Unfortunately they decided to quickly swap the image with another (one watermarked as copyright 2006 by Google) yet didn’t show any common decency or professional courtesy to respond.

No “sorry”, no apology, just total silence. This shows me exactly what kind of company Astucemedia and its management wishes to be and highlights the unprofessionalism they convey. It’s possible that the management at Astucemedia wasn’t creative enough to come up with a typical lame excuse or a flat out lie. Not the kind of non-response you’d expect considering that they had the benefit of using my home office image since April 2008 (according to caches on the internet that were used in the research of this case of infringement).

What sort of company is Astucemedia?

It is important to know that Asucemedia is “a design and technology company providing on-air broadcast graphic services using exclusively using Vizrt, Wasp3D, Ventuz, Orad, Brainstorm, Chyron Hyper X and Miranda/VertigoXmedia and also traditional tools”. They are specialized in “elections, weather, news, sports and branding” and has staff based in the USA, Canada (147 St. Paul West, Suite 320, Montreal, Quebec), Switzerland (Rte de Taillepied 85, 1095 Lutry, Lausanne) and United Arab Emirates (the UAE one operating only through a cell phone number). They create visual content for TV networks such as ABC, ABC7, CBS, Fox sports, AlJazeera International, TF1, TSR, WBZ, MusiquePlus, MBC, and others.

In their own words they offer; On-Air Broadcast Graphic & Virtual Set Design and Integration, Interactive Graphics for screens, Video Wall and Virtual, Stereoscopic 3D Services, Real-Time Data Integration, Broadcast Graphic System Advice & Rental, Channel Branding, “Turnkey solutions for Elections, Weather, Sports, News, Finance”, Graphics for Event and Presentation, Live Web Streaming with graphics, and Training.

I’m sure my readers understand that a company like Astucemedia, having as its core business the creation of content for clients, must be intimately familiar with intellectual property and copyright matters. For a company that presents itself as experienced professionals it is nothing less than absolutely shameful to be negligent using unverified and unauthorized content. Shame on Astucemedia, indeed. Reckless, careless, and unprofessional are the words that come to mind to apply in this situation.

Who are the people responsible for the business at Astucemedia?

The owner, Alexandre Leclerc, currently appears to be busy in trying to sell software in the Middle East as the managing director of Feeling Software. This company is involved in “big brother” type solutions for security and surveillance cameras; Omnipresence 3D Security Platform (3D Pro Design, Central Command, GeoLink, iGuard) and provides things like license plate recognition and mobile surveillance. If only it could have been used to keep an eye on his other company and prevent t from negative attention. I think I have a client for Feeling Software, a company called Astucemedia certainly could use some internal content surveillance to guard against the use of unauthorized materials and prevent it from being used to create a fraudulent misrepresentation.

Alexandre Leclerc, by his own information, is the owner of Astucemedia since October 2003. The domain certainly has been registered at that time and shows the registrant to be Alexandre Leclerc, 301 Chemin Club Marin, Iles-des-Soeurs. However, information on the Feeling Software website claims he started the company in 2006. Since March 2010, Alexandre has taken up a role as the managing director at Feeling Software but Alexandre but is still very active for Astucemedia because he’s been posting about job positions as recent as August 2010. Perhaps Feeling Software isn’t working out too well for him or isn’t keeping him busy enough. Obviously Alexandre is too busy to apologize for the copyright infringement conducted by his company.

Previously, during 2003 to 2006, Alexandre was a project manager at Miranda Technologies (also in Montreal). It appears that many people at Astucemedia have come from Miranda Technologies, such as Michel Croibier (listed on their website for their office in Switzerland). And there is Jean-Francois Poirier, named as the CTO at Astucemedia and formerly a software designer at Miranda Technologies.

I never had any contact with any of these individuals but in order to provide full disclosure in this expose I shall mention that I have experience with some Miranda Technologies products. However, that dates back to 1994 when we were doing a large development project that involved Matrox Studio OEM systems and hardware 3D DVE boards. Titania, I think those were called, forgive my memory since that’s 16 or 17 years ago now. So my connection to the company that some of the people at Astucemedia came from predates Alexandre Leclerc’s arrival at Miranda Technologies by some 9 years. This was even several years before Mr. Leclerc started as a graphics designer at VertigoXmedia.

Why Astucemedia simply used an image without permission?

If you have any ideas about that feel free to leave a comment on this article. However, because Austucemedia has declined to respond to their flagrant image theft while having been provided ample opportunity to do so I am going to make a few educated guesses.

Perhaps Astucemedia does not have nice offices to show. Maybe, for their commercial marketing purposes, they figured it would impress their (potential) clients by using an image they felt was impressive enough to use even though any person with half a brain would know that using images without permission or from an unverified source is a really carnal offense, ESPECIALLY in the content creation industry!

One could also argue that Astucemedia had a strong desire to enter the “hall of shame” of copyright infringers and desperately wanted the number one position held by Andre Leite Alves of Aware Bear Computers in Rochester. Or maybe they wanted to show they were better than David Dik of Linado at modifying an image. It’s possible they just wanted to show themselves as an unprofessional business that lacks moral judgment while displaying a disgraceful disregard of other people’s materials. But why wish to be perceived as lowly as “common thieves”?

An ulterior motive for using my office without permission?

Oh, right. You were probably waiting for this since I mentioned it earlier. Again, lacking a response and clarification from Astucemedia and concluding that they wish to stick their heads in the sand regarding the responsibility of their actions, I am forced to theorize along a different direction.

Let me start by saying that the field in which Astucemedia conducts its business is a field that I am intimately familiar with. After all, I’ve been around in that field for over two decades (over 20 years). Astucemedia is not, by any leaps or bounds, a market leader or “big name”. Of course, marketing statements may imply otherwise but that’s certainly not my perception of them. I think I had vaguely heard of them many years ago, at best. I don’t know what reputation Astucemedia has, whether one exists or not, but can certainly say that according to my experience with them their reputation went from non-existent to plain awful.

What I do know about reputations is that my involvement in the development of (realtime) 3D Virtual Set and Broadcast Graphics software and solutions predates the careers mentioned in the profiles of the people in charge of Astucemedia. I might be presumptuous and pretentious for saying it but I like to pride myself on a rock solid reputation throughout this industry. I would even go as far as to say that my renowned reputation probably goes much further than that of Astucemedia and its (ir)responsible management.

It would be beyond stupid if Astucemedia were to mention my name or the names of my businesses on their site because there has never been any involvement or affiliation. But with the widely recognized images of my home office throughout its various incarnations I can’t help but seriously question whether someone at Astucemedia thought that they might gain something by explicitly using an image that is easily and quickly identified with me and my activities. In other words, to simply use an image that might be linked to my reputation for their commercial or reputational gain by fraudulently, falsely, and very possibly litigious unauthorized using it the way they did.

What Astucemedia has gained by copyright infringement and implied affiliation

They certainly haven’t gained the implied affiliation because I’m officially stating right here and now that I am not, nor ever have been, and certainly would not ever now, wish to be affiliated with them in any way, shape, or form.

They also haven’t gained positive attention. I know what happens when I start blogging and when I am inspired to add a company to the public and eternal “hall of shame”. But Astucemedia’s unauthorized use of my content over this long period certainly makes them very deserving of the negative attention they have brought upon themselves. What they have gained is that they are now on my radar in different ways. Pending some more investigation to hopefully uncover the reasons of their actions I reserve my right to take full legal action (in laymen terms; “sue their asses off”) and they’re aware of that.

Astucemedia has also gained generous space and bandwidth on my site and a very serious consideration for the top copyright infringer on the (unfortunately) growing “hall of shame”. There’s no physical prize in being the #1 on that list but there is a price that comes in the form of a big jar of “google juice” (the SEO experts out there will know what that means).

Conclusion

It’s a shame that a relatively small, and to me mostly unknown, company in my very own “backyard” has felt the need to let it come to this. But they had a lengthy period of time to discover their infringement before I did (unless of course they already knew from the moment they used the image that they were doing so with completely different motives). They were then provided a generous amount of time to respond to my inquiry and request to own up to their responsibility in a professional manner but what Astucemedia has shown beyond a doubt in my mind is that they do not wish to act in a responsible manner

And that could be bad news for their clients! I certainly have nothing good to say about any company involved in the creation of content that shows this level of negligence towards the content of other professionals. There are plenty of other broadcast graphics design companies out there and, as far as I know, none of them have felt a need to use content stolen from my site.

Update 12-17-2010

Astucemedia responded to the initial communication claiming that the freelancer/company that did their website provided that image. Right, where have we heard that one before? Oh, a few dozen times already. And guess what, that argument has never held up in copyright matters. It seems Astucemedia does not want to take responsibility. What I find surprising is that a company in the field of content creation doesn’t know that the finger pointing “they did it” does not diminish or alter the responsibility of the company accepting and using material without due dilligence.

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