When Your Work is Used by Someone Else: Copyright and the Internet

It would be an understatement to say that the internet has changed the way we do things. While it’s made our lives better, it has also helped blur the lines and art hasn’t been exempt from this shift. There was a time when people didn’t know any better when it came to grabbing screenshots and images and using them for their own purposes. While that still exists (and is okay in some instances), it’s never okay to use or profit from another artist’s paintings or drawings. Ever.

A shocking case that I saw recently came from an artist who had lovely drawings on his website. Shockingly, he found another artist online who was copying his work (possibly by tracing) and then–are you ready–selling it. We all know that it’s one thing to learn how to draw by copying existing artwork, but by the time that one is ready to take art to a professional level and start making a profit, one should know better than this. But perhaps not everyone does, hence the reason for this blog post.

art humor

Simply put, once you create a piece of artwork, you own the copyright to that artwork. Since the size of the internet is beyond our comprehension, here’s an easy way to see if someone else has used your art: click here and then drag your image onto the screen. Once you do, Google will provide you with a list of websites that has that same image. If you find yours and it’s being used without your permission, you have a couple of options on how to handle it. You can contact the website owner and ask that they include your credit (name, website, etc); or you can ask them to remove it from their website. I think you’ll find that many people don’t realize the err of their ways, and will be happy to accommodate.

Being a social (media) butterfly, I also see a lot of images used without credit that have pretty much become public domain. For example, I had created a “SomeECard” many moons ago, which said, “Yes, I’m an artist. No, I don’t want to draw you.” (will include this) I shared it from the ArtistsNetwork’s Facebook and Pinterest pages, and then much later, discovered it floating around, with no reference to ArtistsNetwork at all. But that’s okay—copying is flattery to a certain extent. That said, keep in mind that I’m not trying to compare a computer-generated meme with a piece of fine art. The point is that this type of online sharing has caused confusion. Memes are meant to spread like wildfire. While fine art should, too, it should be done with proper credit, links, and permission.

Have you experienced or seen anything like this? Let’s talk about it. Share your experience (but let’s play nice and not name names) in the comments section.

All best,
Cherie
@CherieTweetsArt

Cherie Haas, online editor**Free download! Claim Your Art Business Tip Guide to Learn How to Sell Your Art
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