Copyright infringement has been something on my mind and a big work task lately. I’ve been having more and more confrontations with people around the world who have stolen my artwork, to sell it, promote their brand, or simply reposted a painting of mine as “inspiration” without my permission or without mentioning me.
Last month I had to send two formal Cease and Desist letters to two different people who were ripping off my work, one in Denmark and one in Australia. Last week I reported 2 accounts on Instagram for copyright infringement of my work. Accounts who reposted my paintings in their Instagram feeds with the captions “good vibes” and “color inspo” while selling their cheap products in the surrounding posts. Instagram is fortunately pretty quick with copyright infringement claims and gets the posts removed quickly. But it still doesn’t address the problem to begin with. That people steal other people’s work and don’t even realize or care that it is theft.
I want to believe that most cases of copyright infringement are ignorance, that people simply don’t understand what is theft and what isn’t in the whirly twirly world of social media. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case much of the time.
When I reach out to someone who has infringed on my copyright I’m usually met with one of two responses. Either they ignore me and I have to take further legal action to get their attention. Or, I’m met with vehement anger and the spewing of hatred at me. Many times the people who rip me off are other creators. Other small businesses, even other “artists” who’ve reposted my paintings in their feeds or on their blogs pretending my work is theirs. Usually these people are the ones that get angry and say things like “I’m shocked that an artist like you wouldn’t support other artists!” or “I can’t believe you’re trying to crush my small business by saying I’m infringing on your copyright I can’t believe you don’t support small business!!!!”
These responses make me laugh, because if they truly valued the supporting of artists and small businesses, you would support me, a small business and artist by giving credit where credit is due. If you reposted one of my works without permission and without giving me credit, it is my right to protect what is mine. Ask artists, tag them, show their work off if it truly gives you “good vibes.” Don’t steal it then get mad at the artist when they ask for credit or payment.
Here is a little secret for people who infringe on the copyrights of artists: IF YOU ASK THE ARTIST TO REPOST WITH CREDIT, USUALLY THE ARTIST WILL ALLOW IT AND CONSIDER YOU A FRIEND, THEY MIGHT EVEN RESHARE YOUR CONTENT IN RETURN, CONSIDERING YOU A MEMBER OF THE TRIBE. THAT MEANS NOT ONLY DO YOU GET TO USE THEIR WORK FOR FREE BY GIVING THEM CREDIT, BUT YOU ALSO CAN MAKE A FRIEND.
Not all artists will say yes. THAT IS OKAY TOO. Move on. Find someone else’s content you can repost with permission, better yet, create your own content.
If you are someone who posts other people’s content in your feeds or blog here is a guide for you to figure out if you should post the photo that you found. Let’s say you find an image that you love and want to post it on your own Instagram or in your blog or wherever. No matter the source you found the content from be it Instagram, Pinterest, Google, Facebook etc.… Ask yourself these questions before you post someone else’s content:
1. Do you know who made the image?
2. Are you sure you have found the original creator, and not someone infringing on someone else’s copyright? Make sure you’re not stealing from a thief, compounding the problem.
3. Oh no! You can’t find who created the image? that’s ok, move on, and leave that image behind. Find other sources of inspiration.
4. Great, you found the original content creator of the image! Have you asked them permission to use their photo with credit or payment?
5. You asked, but they told you NOT to post their image for neither credit nor payment.
YOUR RESPONSE SHOULD BE: “Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my request. I totally understand and will not reshare your content.” DO NOT POST THE IMAGE
6. You asked, and they told you that you ARE ALLOWED to post their image for credit or payment.
YOUR RESPONSE SHOULD BE: “Thank you so much for letting me share you work to my channels! How would you like me to credit you?” OR “Thank you so much for letting me share you work to my channels! What payment methods do you accept?”
Laziness in doing the research, or asking these questions or reaching to original creators, will get you flagged as a thief, someone untrustworthy, and can even embed you with legal battles and fines.
As someone who wants to support other artists, makers, and content creators I think it’s vital we have these discussions. It is essential we educate those who might not know better, and important to not let thieves go unpunished. The reason I take legal action on these cases is because when people steal content from me, it usually means they are stealing from others too. If you’ve been the victim of copyright infringement speak up, take action, you will be protecting other artists in your communities if you do.