Art theft and how to handle it
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There is no easier way around this topic. When it comes to art theft it will always leave a sour taste in your mouth. When you realize that your hard work has been taken without your permission all the hours you’ve spent working on it turn into dust. Especially when you find out that that stolen piece is selling better than the original.
In a community that likes to share their art to promote and hopefully sell online, oftentimes there’s a darker side to the process. High-resolution previews that allow the viewers to appreciate the nuances of the art piece are often big targets for stealing.
It is as simple as saving, dragging, and dropping any image you can find online and using it as you please. Repurpose it for stickers, canvas panels, logos, shirts, and more.
So, what can you do to prevent this from happening?
When you notice that your art has been stolen and resold without your permission, document it. This becomes one of your best defenses when you’re not on the know of art theft. This includes screenshots, writing down the date and time of the posting, recording the URL of the website and the specific page your work has been posted to. If possible, go to their About pages and note down names of owners/admins, their contact information.
If the information on the website is scattered, find out who owns the URL by visiting whois.domaintools.com and enter the address of the website. This may help you get the information on the owner of the site and their contact info. If you can’t find information this way, the owner possibly made all this information private.
When you’ve gathered all the information and documented everything contact the seller and tell them to stop selling your art. Show them proof of ownership and who is selling your art. If your art is sold on an eCommerce site (Redbubble, Zazzle, etc) contacting their legal team and reporting the stolen design is enough. Redbubble and Zazzle are very strict when it comes to art theft, they don’t check it but if the owner of the original reports it, they do take action.
If you have a following on SM, you can ask your followers for help in taking down the stolen art. Now, in this case, you shouldn’t abuse this power and go after that person in all hale glory. Because let’s face it the fans can be overly protective and downright bullies when it comes to standing up for their idols. And not all that friendly. This way of getting your stolen art back is the fastest and easiest, but it’s also extremely harmful. So, think very hard before you utilize this tactic. I would suggest keeping it as a last resort.
One of the options is also filing a complaint with their hosting company. Make it a bit more official. Send an email that includes all steps taken and all the evidence of the theft. If the company is in the USA, they have to abide by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and take action. But if the company is not in the USA, the DMCA has little power, and you need to find laws of that country that oversees this matter.
Etsy for instance has an in-depth policy and steps for reporting a copyright or intellectual infringements. In addition, image-hosting sites like Flickr and Photobucket also have strict policies that help protect their users.
When everything else failed and you are really going down this road and the art piece is worth it, there is no other option but to lawyer up. Hire a lawyer to fight your battle. When it comes to lawyers getting involved you need to make sure first that it is worth your time and money because lawsuits take lots of time to be resolved. Make sure it is worth it.
One thing is for sure, to prevent from coming to this in the first place there are some measurements you can take beforehand to prevent art theft. One of them is applying watermarks, make your art as distinct and recognizable as possible, and build a fan base who cares about your success.
The internet is a necessity to promote and sell your art but there isn’t a sound proven way of preventing art theft. It can still happen to you, to me, to anyone. And when it does don’t freak out and be all vigilante about it.
First, report it and then think about it if it is even worth your time to take things further or not. In most cases, it’s not because you lose more than you gain so why even bother.
“Some battles are worth fighting for and some are better left behind.”