Did Paula Deen’s Recipe Quest Infringe Upon Another Artist’s Work?

An artist claims that Paula Deen Ventures and Dream Forge Entertainment infringed upon his artwork to promote a new mobile game, Paula Deen's Recipe Quest.

Paula Deen's Recipe Quest

Last month, Paula Deen Ventures and Dream Forge Entertainment released Paula Deen’s Recipe Quest on iOS and Android devices. The puzzle game sees players teaming up with the “Queen of Southern Cuisine” to complete match-three puzzle levels, swapping the locations of ingredients in order to receive links to real recipes on Paula Deen’s website.

These recipes weren’t the most interesting thing about the game for one observer, however, as artist Jerrod Maruyama noticed striking similarities between the caricature of Paula Deen from the mobile game, and a piece he created in 2012. The game’s version is pictured at the top of this post, Maruyama’s piece is below. While the images clearly aren’t identical, they seem similar enough to rule out coincidence.

Jerrod Maruyama Paula Deen

Above, Jerrod Maruyama’s piece from 2012. Below, Google Play screenshot as of April 1, 2015.

Paula Deen's Recipe Quest Google Play

Neither Paula Deen Ventures nor Dream Forge Entertainment have returned our communications. We recently spoke with Maruyama, who said his attempts at communicating with the developer have also been unsuccessful.

Check out our chat with Maruyama below, as we also discuss general art infringement and the rise of social media.

SocialTimes: Who brought the similarities between your piece from 2012 and Paula Deen’s Recipe Quest to your attention?

Jerrod Maruyama: A fellow creative on Twitter sent me a link to the image.

ST: Is this the first time you’ve run into a major entity using your artwork, or, in this case, something presumably heavily inspired by it, without your approval?

JM: While there have been several smaller cases of this type, this is by far the incident with the highest profile and exposure. The majority of infringements I deal with are small, online stores.

ST: If Dream Forge Entertainment or Paula Deen Ventures had contacted you during the game’s development, asking about using your art, would you have complied?

JM: Absolutely. I would have been more than willing to work with them or sell the existing image to the developer. That’s the sad, ridiculous aspect of this whole situation. Had they just done the right thing and approached me, everything could have worked out for the best. Seeing as this is their method of developing original content, I suppose I’m not surprised that they didn’t take the direct approach.

ST: Have you decided your next steps concerning this issue?

JM: I’m still researching next steps and talking to people, but I have decided not to discuss that publicly for now.

ST: Have you made any observations, or noticed any trends concerning art theft and the rise of social media? As an example, do you ever see users posting your art to Instagram or Twitter as though it was their own? And if so, how do you respond?

JM: Infringement on the rights of artists happens all the time. Sometimes big companies do it and, more often, smaller businesses and individuals are the culprit. It rarely receives the attention it deserves. I think most people, especially people who don’t work in the creative industry, don’t really care much about the issue. That’s my goal in this situation – to bring as much attention to this problem as possible.

Social media has been a fantastic tool for artists to show their work and get exposure. But with that publicity comes the potential for people to steal your work and claim it as their own or, worse, sell it. So it’s a double-edged sword.

Usually a polite email will do the trick. Sometimes, it takes a little more effort. But it doesn’t stop them. They might take down my images but then turn around and put someone else’s art up for sale. Take a quick scan of these online shopping sites and you can’t help but notice how many vendors are selling artwork that’s not their own. It ruins it for those people using the site as it was intended.