Stealing Art from Social Media and Websites

Stealing Art from Social Media and Websites

4th October 2017 IN Blog

One question that I’m being asked more and more as of late is how to stop the ‘copycat’ a common problem that all us artists face in the modern world.

If you produce respectable art, there will always be someone who is only too happy to pilfer the ideas from the very paper in which you created it on in the first place. It’s been happening since we were decorating the walls of caves, but never has it been more common of an occurrence than with the advent of the internet. Love it or loath it, if you create art and share it online then there will inevitably be someone who plagiarises elements of it or more blatantly copies it completely – often claiming it as their own, with no shame at all!

What Constitutes a Copycat Artist?

It’s all too easy to spot copies of artwork that you originally create yourself – even if the colours vary or the central piece differs from the original. A true artist works hard with their creations and spends many hours playing around with each element making sure that it looks as it should, and so when someone uses elements of your own work in theirs it stands out like a sore thumb!

For example, without naming names or providing photographic evidence, I am only too well aware of several artists who very often ‘steal’ my work and pass it off as their own. I am also aware of others who although don’t copy my designs to the letter, pinch many elements (even small ones) from several images and combine them into their own work as if it were original – I’ve even had friends do this and I think they are completely ignorant to the fact that they do it, but to the conceptual artist this is very evident, and soon a trend begins to appear – especially when adding new work to social media. Generally the ‘copycat’ is between one and two days away from building their work with elements from your own.

So, is it ‘inspiration’ or blatant plagiarism? Well, I suppose this depends on your own view, but for me being inspired by artists is very different from pinching the occasional element from here and there to add to your own works. Conveying emotion and atmosphere in your own work is to be ‘inspired’ but to steal this and that is tantamount to copyright infringement in my personal option.

How to Protect your Online Artwork

Of course, we all know that a digital watermark can be added, but this is pretty much pointless in as much that it only protects the source image, and even then, it’s not difficult to remove a watermark if someone is semi-competent with a software application such as Photoshop.

One way to protect the source image from reproduction is to only upload low-resolution images of 72.DPI max – this makes it hard to reproduce the work in print form at least.

However, the main point in hand for this article is to protect your work from the ‘copycat’ and this is much harder to achieve – in fact it’s just about impossible! Short of suing someone over copyright breach there is no real answer here other than to avoid adding anything online if you want to ensure that nobody copies it.

I’ve rarely had to take any actions towards others in the hope that they realise what they do and stop – especially when it comes from other ‘artists’ who speak with you frequently. In fact, the only time I sued someone was when this person completely replicated an entire website that I owned, including ALL imagery and simply re-named it and was making a living off of my back for quite some time.

I suppose, on closing, I’d like to include these words:

There is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from the artwork of others – but if you wish to be successful as an artist (of any type) you need to come up with your own ideas. Ideas are even more important than the actual skill of drawing or painting itself. Without your own ideas and designs; can you truly call yourself an artist? And if you do pinch ideas or paintings from others, at least show them the decency of crediting their original works whether that be intellectual property or otherwise.

As always, I hope that you have enjoyed my blog post and if you have any comments, or maybe experienced someone stealing your work, feel free to comment below.


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