Utah Sculptor Surprised To See Her Work Copied Overseas

Sep 19, 2018, 10:23 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2018, 1:18 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – There’s comfort in knowing you’re not forgotten, that even as time moves on, moments are remembered.

Lena Toritch has made a career of stopping time.

Lena Toritch working

“I feel that’s the purpose of my life,” said Toritch.

She’s a sculptor who specializes in portraits of people and pets.

Often, her sculptures are done after the person has passed away, and the family of the person commissioned her to create the sculpture.

“I like making people happy. Or bringing them some closure or comfort depending on what the sculpture is,” said Toritch.

Finishing touches

Inside her Salt Lake City shop, Toritch works hard to create that feeling of comfort.

Unlike a photographer or a video, there’s something about a sculpture that’s unique.

“Touching the cheek again, or hand, or even paw of your favorite dog,” said Toritch. “It’s a moment in time but you can still touch it.”

She puts a lot of emotion into her work.

Toritch working on a dog sculpture

“Like a crazy woman, I actually talk to them when nobody is watching,” she said with a laugh. “I tell them their family is coming to see them and everything is going to be OK.”

With that as an example of how much emotion she puts into her work, you can probably guess how Toritch felt when she found out her work was being stolen.

Clay dog

“Frustrated, really frustrated,” she said while looking at her computer inside her shop.

A website for a company in China was using her pictures to sell duplicates of her work.

“All these pictures are taken from my website. Each one of them,” she said pointing to the screen.

The copied work includes sculptures she made for the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial outside of the state capitol building.

Sculptures at Utah Law Enforcement Memorial

“It symbolizes sacrifice of our law enforcement,” she said. “It’s not a cheap trinket.”

Neither is her sculpture of a young girl that now stands in the Chicago cemetery where she’s buried.

The website is offering a copy of that sculpture for only a hundred dollars.

“It’s a specific child. It’s a specific tragedy and sorrow and you’re just trying to sell it as a keychain,” said Toritch.

For as upset as she is, Toritch also knows getting them to stop is tough.

“I looked it up and they make it so difficult,” she said. “You have to create an account, claim something, you have to have your own legal department to deal with them.”

According to John Rees, who is a copyright and intellectual property attorney in Salt Lake City, there is something artists can do.

If the work is being sold in the United States, an artist can sue the company in the United States.

If the work is being sold outside the U.S., though, the artist would have to sue them in the country where they’re operating.

Often, artists don’t want to go through that trouble when dealing with an overseas company, especially China, where Rees says he’s noticing a growing concern with these types of claims.

Rees says there is another course of action artists can take.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a law designed to inform an internet service provider, company, or search engine that they are hosting material, or providing a link to material, that could be a copyright infringement.

A DMCA “takedown notice” could be sent to them in an attempt to remove that material.

However, in order to get that going, it does take a little bit of time and work.

Toritch says, right now, she’s too busy working on her next sculptures.

Even though she admits, there’s a chance her future sculptures could be copied, too.

“Karma will get them. I know that,” she said. “I will just keep doing what I’m doing.”

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Utah Sculptor Surprised To See Her Work Copied Overseas