Thanks to the internet, artists— no matter how old, proficient, or prolific —have been better able to share their creative works to a wide audience composed of fans, fellow artists, and even potential clients.
On the flip side, a lot of creatives also find that the internet has made it harder to trace incidents of art theft. Many also struggle with protecting their work from being stolen and reposted. Even worse are the people who, when confronted, argue that everything uploaded to the internet is fair game.
Have you seen your original artwork on a website selling merch? Or maybe you've seen art floating around reposted or even credited to a different person on Twitter?
Here's what to do if your artwork is stolen online.
Check if the offending party has, according to copyright laws, stolen your work. Read up on the term fair use.
Unfortunately, you can’t really claim ownership over “style.” Other artists may have had similar inspirations. Keep in mind that there’s getting inspired, and then there’s plagiarism.
Next, check if they’ve stolen any of your other works. To scour the web for other possible instances of theft, upload your art to reverse image services such as Google Images and TinEye. Meanwhile, copyright website Binded can keep tabs on the web for unauthorized use of your work.
Take screenshots of all posts with the stolen art. Don’t forget to note the date, URL, and — if they’re profiting off it — the price they’re selling your art for.
Contact the individual first with a cease and desist order, introducing yourself as the original artist and forwarding proof of theft. If you get no reply, escalate the issue to the website domain.
Still nada? Alert your contacts and online community about the theft. Create art or write an article to raise awareness about the issue. The more people who know about it and call the offending party out, the more likely you’ll see results. Hopefully, the offending party will also make fewer sales as people avoid buying stolen artwork.
Lastly, consider getting a lawyer if you want to be paid for damages.
Commercially appealing artwork will always be vulnerable to theft. If it happened before, it can happen again—unless you take precautions to make it harder for people who want to steal your work.
This can be a draining experience, which leaves a lot to be said about the creation and implementation of laws that protect artists. But at the end of the day, try not to let it deter you from creating and sharing your passion.
Making art your career can be both fulfilling and lucrative. As more embrace creative professions, and as the community of artists and art appreciation grows, one can hope that so too does the knowledge about intellectual property.
For now, by educating yourself and your audience about intellectual property, you can play your part in protecting not only yourself but also other artists.
Are you looking for opportunities to connect with clients who you can work with? Visit the GetCraft Marketplace today.
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