Donald Trump borrowed his famous campaign slogans “America First” and “Make America Great Again” from much older political movements. A whole paragraph from his wife Melania’s 2016 Republican National Convention speech was lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. The Trumps celebrated his inauguration by eating a plagiarized cake. Trump’s post-presidential picture book, Our Journey Together, contains no photo credits, and he reportedly thwarted a book project from his chief White House photographer so he could use her work and keep all the profits.
So when Trump released a collection of $99 NFT trading cards last week, there were quite a few reasons to be suspicious that the images Trump described as “amazing ART of my Life & Career!” weren’t entirely original. And sure enough, online sleuths quickly noted that the 45,000-NFT collection — which quickly sold out — appears to feature copyrighted and unattributed images from various sources around the internet.
Journalist Matthew Sheffield of The Young Turks was one of the first to flag oddities in the Trump illustrations (beyond the fact that they depict Trump engaged in adventurous activities he never attempted in his actual life and career). For instance, at least three of the cards suggest that Trump shops at Amazon, DNW Outdoors, and Men’s Wearhouse:
Another is strikingly similar to photographer Benedict Redgrove’s image of a prototype NASA spacesuit, which was published by Wired.
And, somewhat surprisingly, it looks like the illustration of Trump as a fighter-jet pilot was adapted from a Shutterstock image, not a still from Top Gun: Maverick.
Another Twitter user noticed that the card depicting Trump golfing looks especially realistic because it’s a modified Reuters image.
Others spotted Shutterstock and Adobe watermarks that weren’t fully erased from the illustrations:
The FAQ on CollectTrumpCards.com says the images were designed by illustrator Clark Mitchell, who has worked with many major brands:
Award winning illustrator Clark Mitchell designed the beautiful imagery of the Trump Digital Trading Cards. With over 40 years of digital illustration and design, Clark has built a one-of-a-kind career. He has prominent working relationships with brands such as Star Wars, Hasbro, Mattel, Marvel, Time Magazine, Coors, Budweiser, Disney, Corona, and Coca-Cola. His journey has also led him into the sports and entertainment fields designing for the NBA, NFL, MLB, movies, musicians, professional athletes, and much more.
Artnet reported that Mitchell has “become something of a favorite for celebrity NFT projects.” His illustration of the R&B singer Ginuwine opening his shirt to show a Superman costume, which is somewhat similar to one of the Trump NFT designs, was removed from Mitchell’s Instagram and Twitter after the former president’s NFT collection went live on December 15.
As of this writing, Mitchell has not responded to questions about the claims that copyrighted images were used in the Trump card designs. Nor has NFT INT LLC, the company behind Trump’s NFT venture, which is operating out of a mailbox at a UPS Store in a Park City, Utah, strip mall, according to an unresolved Salt Lake Tribune investigation.
Perhaps we will learn that all of the images used in Trump’s NFT collection were properly licensed. But the Trump mysteries truly never end.
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