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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Art Theft and your opinions

    Have you ever had your art stolen? How do you prevent this from happening??

    Maybe from sites,companies, etc..

    Share your experiences and how to deal with it.

    Last edited by carriejo; August 16th, 2010 at 07:37 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by carriejo View Post
    Have you ever had your art stolen? How do you prevent this from happening??

    Maybe from sites,companies, etc..

    Share your experiences and how to deal with it.
    Not sure what you mean by art being stolen. Do you mean the physical paintings etc., or do you mean copies of my work taken from my website or whatever?

    To prevent physical art from being stolen is the same thing as with any other property: lock the door. ;-)

    As for someone downloading copies of my work from my blog or wherever, it does not bother me in the least, and I would in fact encourage it.

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    I only consider it "stealing" if it's done for profit, and then I normally takes steps to stop it. Having said that, after the last experience I may not bother any more. I've contacted amazon.co.uk before and the process of getting stuff taken down was easy, but I had the misfortune to have to contact amazon.com recently. In the end I gave up, incompetent doesn't begin to describe it. The classic moment was when I asked, in a fit of rhetorical anger, if I could assume that amazon.com actively promoted and benefitted from fraud. The reply was, "I'm sorry, I'm not qualified to answer that, you would need to contact our legal department". When I replied I received an email from them in Mandarin Chinese. At that point I called it a day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Impossible View Post
    I only consider it "stealing" if it's done for profit, and then I normally takes steps to stop it.
    Heck, I don't consider it stealing even then. If someone else can turn something from my blog into money, he's welcome to it. ;-)

    But then, I am an amateur. If I made my living through selling prints of my work and someone started competing with me by selling MY OWN damn prints, I might not be amused. Still, I would probably deal with that by some other means than the legal one, which is expensive and frustrating and frequently simply not worth the effort.

    Having said that, after the last experience I may not bother any more. I've contacted amazon.co.uk before and the process of getting stuff taken down was easy, but I had the misfortune to have to contact amazon.com recently. In the end I gave up, incompetent doesn't begin to describe it. The classic moment was when I asked, in a fit of rhetorical anger, if I could assume that amazon.com actively promoted and benefitted from fraud. The reply was, "I'm sorry, I'm not qualified to answer that, you would need to contact our legal department". When I replied I received an email from them in Mandarin Chinese. At that point I called it a day.
    The funny thing is that if you tried to sell something THEY invented, there would be hell to pay. If memory serves they even wanted at one point to patent the very idea of selling books on the web, so that they would have a perpetual monopoly on it.

    Anyway, what with modern technology like the web and file sharing and so on, it has become all but impossible to enforce copyright law, and it is probably inevitable that the law will substantially change. Either way, it has become irrelevant, whether we like it or not. Artists, writers, composers etc. will have no choice but to adapt to this, or they will go under. It is as simple as that. As you found out through hard experience, even if the law is on your side it is still an uphill battle to get it to work for you. This is partly because copyright law today exists largely to protect the profits of large corporations rather than to protect individual artists. Either way, one will have to find more creative ways to deal with the issue than trying to bludgeon people with the law.

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    watermark everything. if someone takes it it'll have your name/site/whatever on it and lead people back to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post
    Heck, I don't consider it stealing even then. If someone else can turn something from my blog into money, he's welcome to it. ;-)

    But then, I am an amateur. If I made my living through selling prints of my work and someone started competing with me by selling MY OWN damn prints, I might not be amused. Still, I would probably deal with that by some other means than the legal one, which is expensive and frustrating and frequently simply not worth the effort.

    If you let people use your work for free now as an amateur, it can actually cause problems for you later when you do decide to make a living off of your art.

    I am an amateur too but I at the very least have respect for the amount of work and effort I put into something. I would gladly donate an image or do work for charity or something, but anyone else needs to pay me for my time. I do not want anyone making money off of something I worked hours on and worked years on even getting competent enough to draw the damned thing.

    EDIT - forgot to answer the OP. The only thing you can really do is sign your work and only upload low resolution files onto the internet. Unfortunately there is always a chance someone will use whatever art you have posted on the net.

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    Quote Originally Posted by balgus82 View Post
    watermark everything. if someone takes it it'll have your name/site/whatever on it and lead people back to you.
    Careful about watermarking. I've seen a lot of images ruined because someone put a big, ugly watermark through the middle of it, which usually puts me off the image completely even if it is well painted. I also heard that it's pretty easy for someone to remove the watermark anyway if they want.

    Something you could do instead is to sign it but hide your signature somewhere in the painting (where it can't be cropped off). For example, in perspective along a pipe or as part of a poster or sign if its a painting of a street.

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    I have had a nice color pencil drawing of Blondie that was drawn on a 14x 16 poster broad. Estimated value over $200, making it grand larsony. I have had art used on other websites for promotions, and used to make ads look better. Things could be better if people know where they come from, like the color pencil drawing was found in an abandoned house. I even helped people used my digital art to get something better suited for their website, and as an artist I grew in popularity just being the friendly nice person that I am. Stolen art don't always need to be a bad thing, because anyone that does it is a fan of your work, and some think you must be making a lot of money doing what you do. They can't imagine you can't sell any of your work until they try. The best thing you can do is not use a symbol but a real signature or name typed so everyone can read it, and it should be a name you go by that is not a average John Doe, so they can find you on the internet, even if it is traditional art. So there is some way someone can contact you to make something for them no matter where they see your art. I have a unique name, and I keep the domain name for it so people will find me if they see my art anywhere. You can do a search on any search engine and find me on top of the list. That is my protection, and it would be a good idea for any digital artist to do the same. You can see what I mean by typing or copy and paste "Archie Chipps" for a search. If you want to protect your art that is the best way, then your art can advertise for you. Let people use it as wallpaper and they will remember you, and you will be one step towards being famous. People don't steal art they don't like, so you can use that to your advantage. For all I know they could think you are the best artist that ever lived, so don't make them regret ever knowing you, because they can turn against you. If their website gets more attention that could be a mistake not an advantage.

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    I work traditionally. I am also the world's worst photographer. Somehow my pics are always slightly off; a little squint; a little unfocused. I don't have a website, but I do only post my work where I have proof of dates of posting. I also work a little private individual signature into each finished piece. If I told you what, I'd have to kill you!

    I'm also a pussycat with the temperament of a rattlesnake

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    I have an army of faeries (they get paid in Tootsie Rolls) that report back to me when someone steals or in any way misappropriates my work. I then beat the offender to a pulp with a 2 x 4 studded with washers, ten-penny nails and stuff scraped off the bottoms of cheap diner tables. It's very effective...and satisfying...

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    It's one of the worst things that can happen... maybe you could record yourself making the artwork for the rest of your life *lol* that's a bit extreme. I can't imagine what I would do if something like that happened, don't think it ever would though

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zapp! View Post
    Careful about watermarking. I've seen a lot of images ruined because someone put a big, ugly watermark through the middle of it, which usually puts me off the image completely even if it is well painted. I also heard that it's pretty easy for someone to remove the watermark anyway if they want.
    Yup. I do not look twice at anything with an ugly watermark on it. Neither do I even comment on such images in a forum like this.

    Something you could do instead is to sign it but hide your signature somewhere in the painting (where it can't be cropped off). For example, in perspective along a pipe or as part of a poster or sign if its a painting of a street.
    That is indeed a good idea. And make your name part of the file name, and put a clear but unobtrusive signature on it anyway. Some people will try to remove it in order to go make money with your work. Many others will want to know who this great artist is so they can commission him to do something for them. A bit difficult to do if your image is called "HFDGET.jpg" and your name is nowhere on it. For digital images it might even be a good idea to sign your picture with your e-mail address.

    File sharing costs artists some money. But it can also often be a form of free advertising. One cannot prevent the file sharing. One CAN try to make the best of the potential free advertising.

    I'm pretty sure that the only artists who will make it in the long term will be ones that manage to make the best of this file sharing world we live in now. Because this is the way the world works now. It is not going to change, and no number of laws or draconian punishments will make any difference to that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJacks View Post
    If you let people use your work for free now as an amateur, it can actually cause problems for you later when you do decide to make a living off of your art.
    Maybe, maybe not. I have never actually seen much clear evidence either way.

    I am an amateur too but I at the very least have respect for the amount of work and effort I put into something. I would gladly donate an image or do work for charity or something, but anyone else needs to pay me for my time. I do not want anyone making money off of something I worked hours on and worked years on even getting competent enough to draw the damned thing.
    Me, I don't see how it is any skin off my back if someone else makes money from something I did. Your results may vary. Very often it is not a zero-sum game, i.e. someone else's gain is not necessarily your loss. It depends a lot on the circumstances.

    EDIT - forgot to answer the OP. The only thing you can really do is sign your work and only upload low resolution files onto the internet. Unfortunately there is always a chance someone will use whatever art you have posted on the net.
    Yup, the only way to make sure no one uses a piece is not to put it on the web. Even a low resolution image can be copied - e.g. they might get a artist to copy the entire composition, even if he will then still have to be competent enough to fill in the bits that the low resolution made unclear.

    At the same time you have to keep in mind that if you put low-res images online, potential clients can't see your work clearly either. In your zeal to prevent anyone from using your images, you might end up losing potential clients.

    One possible way around this is to put a few very high resolution, outstanding images online on your site, and clearly and unambiguously put them in the public domain. They then serve as examples of what you can do. Because you have already put them in the public domain, you need not worry about who will be using them for what. They're just advertising. This way you don't lose all that much (advertising costs time and money ANYWAY), and you can then keep stuff you don't want copied offline. Potential clients can then see how good you are, but the potential pirates get nothing to copy, except a few images everyone else can copy too, which therefore reduces their commercial value (but not their value as advertisement for your abilities).

    What do you do if someone takes one of those public domain images and manages to turn it into some famous poster, like that iconic poster of Obama that turned out to be a ripped-off version of some photographer's work? Well, then you milk the thing for maximum publicity.

    One must not underestimate the potential commercial value of internet piracy.
    There is now almost nothing you can do about the piracy. All you CAN do is try to make the most out of it.

    Incidentally, your work is very beautiful and I am surprised to hear you're an amateur. I am strongly tempted to steal it. ;-)

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    One summer I put up posters for art lessons and taped real art on top of it - oil pastel sketches. It was interesting to see which ones were stolen by tourists. I had to redo them every week. Simple answer there is don't be a fool.

    Digital art and photography can be tricky. It's easy for people to crop your work and remove most watermarks. Probably posting your work here first is a good way to show the date of it, as being the first work posted on the net. The main thing with digital illustrators is, any time you put art up on the net, assume it's a give away, that tons of people will download it, and it's just promotional - I mean if anyone asks to use it professionally, yes charge them for it. And, sure, hound any copyists, thieves you come across. But the main idea is, you're selling yourself when you promote online, with the promise of making something new for any clients. If there's any digital image you really want to make money off of, and have a plan for (say, you've got an interview lined up), don't show it online. Just like magicians, artists have to keep some things secret.

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    I've had two cases of online art theft.

    The first was someone who took two of the fanart pieces I did and then pasted them together in MS Paint to support their favorite pairing. This was on deviantart (both my piece and the stolen one) and someone alerted me to it. I asked the person to take it down, reported the theft... and then checked their page for the next few days. For everyone commenting on the stolen piece, I informed them that it was actually mine and linked them over to the original piece. After three or four days, the piece was taken down. But I got a number of people watching my account because of it.

    That one was more entertaining than anything, just because it was so poorly done.

    The second involved a steampunk wallpaper I had made-- this one is problematic because the wallpaper has been posted on several sites (with my permission) and is now all over the internet. Anyway, someone had taken the wallpaper and made it into a Firefox "Persona." Again, someone on deviantart notified me and asked if I had known about it.

    This one was problematic because the Persona page doesn't allow you to contact persona creators, and Mozilla, when I approached them about it, refused to do anything without me going and filing a lot of paperwork to prove that I had created the original file. I understood that they had to cover their bases, but it was still frustrating. Eventually I used some Google detective work and found what I hoped was the Myspace page of the person who'd made the persona. I sent a polite e-mail and it turned out to be the correct person; they took it down and apologized-- they had found the picture on a random website and didn't realize who it belonged to.


    Those are the only two cases I've run into. Generally, people have been very good about contacting me and asking permission when they want to use an image-- usually online, but once or twice I've licensed things for print as well.

    "The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the one doing it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post



    Me, I don't see how it is any skin off my back if someone else makes money from something I did. Your results may vary. Very often it is not a zero-sum game, i.e. someone else's gain is not necessarily your loss. It depends a lot on the circumstances.
    It's not about a loss in income in my case since I make little money from art anyways. It can be about a loss in income to someone else though. To me, it's just about respect. People should not expect free art that they can use however they want. Our acquired skills need to be respected. I'm not going to let someone piggy back on my years of hard work because they don't want to learn to draw or they just don't feel like paying for art.

    I may be an amateur now but I am trying to make a career out of this. But if this works for you then it works for you I guess.

    Thank you for the compliment btw.

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    Two times; a small Estonian clothing store used an old doodle of mine for their banners and logos, and another guy tried to rip off a story I had going (settings, characters and all with minor alterations) for his own comic, but got caught and promptly wiped off all traces of it.

    Theft is a risk you have to take, once you post your work online. Watermarks can easily be worked around. The best thing you can do is get your own name out as much as you can, and develop a strong and distinctive feel to your work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viridis View Post
    I've had two cases of online art theft.

    The first was someone who took two of the fanart pieces I did and then pasted them together in MS Paint to support their favorite pairing.
    Fan art huh? So it wasn't your original idea either, and now you complain that someone stole it? Very audacious! ;-)

    The second involved a steampunk wallpaper I had made-- this one is problematic because the wallpaper has been posted on several sites (with my permission) and is now all over the internet. Anyway, someone had taken the wallpaper and made it into a Firefox "Persona." Again, someone on deviantart notified me and asked if I had known about it.
    And if you had never heard about it, would it have hurt you at all? Why does it suddenly hurt then when you do know about it?

    Those are the only two cases I've run into. Generally, people have been very good about contacting me and asking permission when they want to use an image-- usually online, but once or twice I've licensed things for print as well.
    I think most people are like this. I surely wouldn't use a living artist's work without permission, at least not to make money. It's sort of polite not to just barge in there and use someone's work without acknowledging it. But I don't think it is a very big deal either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJacks View Post
    It's not about a loss in income in my case since I make little money from art anyways. It can be about a loss in income to someone else though. To me, it's just about respect. People should not expect free art that they can use however they want. Our acquired skills need to be respected. I'm not going to let someone piggy back on my years of hard work because they don't want to learn to draw or they just don't feel like paying for art.
    What if they piggyback on Michelangelo's work, without respecting his acquired skills?

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    There are some people's opinions on some issues I just have no interest in hearing.


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    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post
    What if they piggyback on Michelangelo's work, without respecting his acquired skills?
    He's been dead for centuries. You can't really compensate him for his work. :/ I'm not sure how he applies here?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJacks View Post
    He's been dead for centuries. You can't really compensate him for his work. :/ I'm not sure how he applies here?
    So it's okay to disrespect the dead?


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    I am not sure if you are being serious or trying to be funny. Whatever point you are trying to make, it doesn't change the fact that it is wrong and illegal to take the work of someone else and profit from it. If this were a completely ok thing to do then a lot of the people here wouldn't have jobs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJacks View Post
    I am not sure if you are being serious or trying to be funny.
    A bit of both. YOU are the one who said it isn't about money, but about respect. But if it is about respect, and I freely use something the divine Michelangelo painted to advertise my new slimming formula, then I am in effect disrespecting the dead. One needs to think this whole thing through very carefully - it is full of bizarre pitfalls.

    Whatever point you are trying to make, it doesn't change the fact that it is wrong and illegal to take the work of someone else and profit from it. If this were a completely ok thing to do then a lot of the people here wouldn't have jobs.
    Well, I fear they soon won't have any jobs whether it is legal or not. With the internet and file sharing and so on, it has become all but impossible to enforce copyright law. Artists will have to find ways to survive in this new environment.

    I don't know whether it is good or bad, or whether it should be legal or illegal, but it is what it is. Anything you put online can be used by someone else, and if it is as good as the stuff you put online, it probably WILL be used by someone else, with virtual impunity.

    This is going to be a big challenge for artists in the coming decades, and I fear simply complaining about how wrong it is, or trying to have new and more draconian laws made, will not do any good, anymore than draconian laws against drugs have made any difference to the problem of drug addiction.

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    Well when I am dead for centuries people can use my art for whatever they want. I'll be too dead to care. But while I am working towards a goal in my lifetime and people are taking advantage of my work then that is a problem. And for the record, I think it is tacky to use classical paintings to push unrelated products.

    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post

    This is going to be a big challenge for artists in the coming decades, and I fear simply complaining about how wrong it is, or trying to have new and more draconian laws made, will not do any good, anymore than draconian laws against drugs have made any difference to the problem of drug addiction.
    Because promoting the idea that people can use our art for their professional needs is a better solution?

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post
    What if they piggyback on Michelangelo's work, without respecting his acquired skills?
    It is called public domain, and Michelangelo is in it. I am not.


    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post
    I don't know whether it is good or bad, or whether it should be legal or illegal, but it is what it is. Anything you put online can be used by someone else, and if it is as good as the stuff you put online, it probably WILL be used by someone else, with virtual impunity.

    This is going to be a big challenge for artists in the coming decades, and I fear simply complaining about how wrong it is, or trying to have new and more draconian laws made, will not do any good, anymore than draconian laws against drugs have made any difference to the problem of drug addiction.


    Drugs and art theft are unrelated and do not share any similarities beyond both being illegal.


    Theft is outright wrong. A parasite cannot live without a host, and too many parasites will kill a host.

    Last edited by Matani; August 17th, 2010 at 10:57 PM.
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    I will answer your questions, though I don't think you'll listen.

    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post
    Fan art huh? So it wasn't your original idea either, and now you complain that someone stole it? Very audacious! ;-)
    The definition of plagiarism (art theft) is claiming credit for work that you did not do. This person took art that I created and claimed that they had created it. This was a lie, so I confronted them, yes. Because it was fanart, I was not too upset about it. I would have been more annoyed if it had been one of my characters.

    And if you had never heard about it, would it have hurt you at all? Why does it suddenly hurt then when you do know about it?
    It's about credit. I honestly don't care if someone wants to use the wallpaper-- but they need to ask me first, and they should credit me as the original creator of the work. Otherwise, how can people who like the artwork find me and the rest of my art?


    I think most people are like this. I surely wouldn't use a living artist's work without permission, at least not to make money. It's sort of polite not to just barge in there and use someone's work without acknowledging it. But I don't think it is a very big deal either.
    It's not even about whether or not you're making money. If you don't credit the artist as the original source of the work, it is just the same as pretending that YOU created the work. That's plagiarism. It's the same as writing papers. Remember how the teachers harass you that if you don't cite something properly, it's plagiarism, just the same as if you didn't cite them at all? It's about keeping track of who had which idea.

    This is even MORE important now, because we live in an age of ideas. Ideas, and the physical expression of them, literally equal money. Intellectual property is some of the most valuable you can have. Thus, it is important to take steps to protect that property and those ideas, and that means making sure people know when you create something.

    "The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the one doing it."

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    Viridis: We seem to be sort of on the same wavelength: I think getting the credit can be far more important than getting the money. I also think it would be far more annoying to see someone else get famous on something you did, than someone else merely getting rich out of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJacks View Post
    Well when I am dead for centuries people can use my art for whatever they want. I'll be too dead to care. But while I am working towards a goal in my lifetime and people are taking advantage of my work then that is a problem. And for the record, I think it is tacky to use classical paintings to push unrelated products.
    So do I, actually. Or at least, most of the time it is.

    Because promoting the idea that people can use our art for their professional needs is a better solution?
    Well, that's a good question. As I mentioned before, I have not seen any very good data or research on this issue. Apparently there are some artists that actively encourage people to freely copy and use anything they put online - they are of the opinion that the publicity value outweighs the lost revenue. Others think that it DOES cost them rather than earn them money, but feel that it is nevertheless a noble thing to do. Service to humanity etc. etc. And then there are others who are very zealous in protecting their copyright, and feel that if they tolerate any violations it does very great harm.

    I don't really know who is right. My intuition is that if one is over-zealous about it, one might be shooting oneself in the foot. But I can't be sure. What I am pretty sure of is that the law as it currently stands is becoming increasingly difficult to enforce, and thus artists that rely heavily on it are going to run into trouble.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matani View Post
    Drugs and art theft are unrelated and do not share any similarities beyond both being illegal.
    Theft is outright wrong. A parasite cannot live without a host, and too many parasites will kill a host.
    Actually I think there are many parallels, especially as far as enforcement is concerned. In both cases there seems to be a "genie-out-of-the-bottle" effect going on. This seems to be especially true in the case of recorded music, but I think it will increasingly become an issue with visual art as well.

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