How To Deal With Online Art Theft

Here we are at the final post and this is where the most important and useful part of this campaign will be. TLDR? Don’t worry, this post will tell you all that you need!

First of all, once you or a follower finds out about the theft, take a screenshot! You’re going to need that evidence. Be sure to keep the URL and page information like when it was uploaded safe!

Going off Nela Dunato’s article on how to deal with art theft, the next step would be to send the offender a polite but firm notification. This notification can be a message to their blog or an email to them, but the key step in this is to request a take down of your art within a specific time frame. Usually most artists give 72 hours (3 days) to the offender but that’s up to you. This step tends to work with more professional companies stealing art from you, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

The main thing is to contact the hosting site if negotiations fall through. This can be Tumblr, Pixiv, DeviantArt, or even LiveJournal, though they all have different policies in place for reporting art. You can use the screenshot you took before to make your case to the web host here! Most of the time, you’ll have to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) report against the user that’s claiming your art as your own. Yes, you’ll need your personal information, but if you’re young, just ask a parent or guardian for help.

Here‘s an example DMCA report you can reference if you need to file one.

The most important part of how to deal with online art theft is to keep producing! Sure, people might steal your work and pretend it’s their own, but they are the kinds of people with incredibly low self-esteem and really should be pitied more than anything else. They need a crutch to get through life and you? You’re standing right there! You’re making beautiful works of art that people love!

Clear the way above you so that you may stand on top, and everyone is bound to see you. You are a force of creativity and people will try to bring you down out of jealousy, but you. You are incredible. You are an artist.

Don’t let art theft kill your imagination.

#deathtoarttheft

–VZ

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image source from MorgueFile

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The 3 Golden Rules Of Talking To Artists

This is the penultimate blog post to this campaign and it was a pleasure writing for you all. This time, we talk about how to talk to artists. Wanna borrow an artwork to put in your video? Ask the artist and see if they’ll give you permission! Like someone’s art? Here’s what to say without making them feel super uncomfortable! This is the go-to post for interacting with great artists online.

  1. The number one rule is always be polite!

    Artists put their works online to selflessly share their love of something , whether it be for an existing show or game, or their own characters. Nothing could be worse for an artist to see any form of disrespect toward them or their work! Consider how you would feel if you made content and put it out there only to receive messages like ‘if you do (insert something bad) to your characters, I swear I’ll hunt you down and burn your house’. Sound extreme? Well, Alex Hirsch – writer and creator of Disney’s Gravity Falls cartoon – had something to say about it in this series of tweets. Be mindful of how your words can be interpreted by the artist. Creators are only public out of the goodness of their heart (as well as a little ego, can’t deny that) and sending badly-worded messages whether as a joke or otherwise can hurt them enough to withdraw from social media as a whole.

  2. Try not to compare the originality of an artist to something that already exists.

    Some artists may find it flattering, but it normally isn’t. Saying ‘oh, your character looks like X character from TV show’ is the same as saying ‘you didn’t put enough effort into your character’s design and you’re just copying from an already existing source’. Sure, most ideas are recycled and it’s very likely your designs will look a little like something else, but there are a great many pioneering designers that have and will create unique designs in the future! Just look at the spectrum of children’s cartoons: when was the last time you heard of a story about polymorphic rocks with strong character and unique design? Or the daily life of three bears trying to get by in the human world? Artists’ lives revolve around creativity and claims of unoriginality will only serve to demotivate them.
  3. Respect their decisions!!!

    Did you work up the courage to ask an artist whether you could use their work for something of your own? That’s great! Did they say yes or no? Now, here’s the part that might hurt your pride:

    Artists are entitled to say no to you.

    Artists create content and by right, they should be able to control where it goes on the internet and beyond. If for whatever reason an artist refuses your request to take their art, even if it’s as small as ‘I just don’t want anyone taking my art’, respect that decision and move on. Yes, rejection will hurt a little, but it is better than a potential future where artists simply close shop and disappear because their art escaped their control because of a few people who disrespect their wishes. Create an environment where artists feel safe posting their art without the threat of theft pr loss and artists will repay in spades of lovely artwork.

Remember:

  1. Be polite
  2. Don’t compare artists
  3. Respect artists’ decisions

–VZ

image source from jppi on MorgueFile

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A Case In Point

Online art theft can affect every artist at any age, level of skill, or style. Just because you think you’re an average artist at best, art theft still happens.

I had an interview with Huey, a queer digital artist, who discovered their art (along with many others) had been stolen from their site and posted on a stranger’s personal blog.

According to them, it’s very common for other people, usually friends or followers, to notify artists that their art had been stolen and used without permission. For Huey, their friend found a reposting blog and noticed their art on it. Can you believe that there are blogs actually dedicated to this?

“I didn’t believe it at first. Like, who would want to steal my art? I’m not very popular or anything.” It just goes to show that art thieves will take anything that they want from anyone without any consideration for their art.

What if someone drew R-18 art but didn’t want to show the general public because they knew it may ruin their reputation as a professional artist? Many twitter artists have private twitters in order to prevent sensitive images from leaking into the general online space, and yet their explicit art is still posted to other sites like Zerochan, Instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest without their knowledge.

Confrontation is always unpleasant but wouldn’t be necessary if people knew not to steal art from online sources. A mistake Huey made with their case was not dealing with it in a public space. “I sent them a private message and I tried to be serious but not mean. I mean, it could have been a kid who didn’t understand what was going on. Unfortunately, they didn’t wanna settle it peacefully. After some back and forths of ‘you stole my (and others) art’ and ‘no i didn’t!’ they just blocked me.” Ideally, artists should be able to resolve conflicts in a private way, but many art thieves refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing and shut out artists without ever fixing anything.

Most image-based websites have made reporting stolen artworks even harder, by removing a general ‘report’ button and forcing artists to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) report, which requires full names and addresses artists may not be comfortable with disclosing. Essentially, websites take the responsibility of monitoring their users out of their hands and dump it on the artist. This is completely unfair toward online artists and a plain ‘fuck you, deal with it yourself’ to them.

“It took a while for the staff to respond to my art theft complaints. If it was easier and faster to have the staff come in and stop the art theft, then it would discourage thieves much more.” Huey told me in closing when I asked what they thought would help prevent art theft. But it seems the staff are all doing the opposite.

Time will tell if the online environment for artists becomes more hospitable for them.

–VZ

You can see more of Huey’s art here: DeviantArt

Image sourced from MorgueFile

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Thanks For Nothing, DeviantArt

It’s time to talk about DeviantArt.

DeviantArt’s Art Theft Journal replaced the ‘report’ button in July 2015 and it was met with waves of criticism by artists using the site. In the journal, it outlined that ‘art theft’ was not art theft at all. It was, in fact, “stealing a painting off a wall”. It continued to explain that what happened over and over and over on their own site was copyright infringement.

While the writers aren’t wrong per se, it still garnered a lot of justified confusion and anger because replacing the option to report an offense with a convoluted explanation of copyright law simply made the artist environment on the site less safe. Especially since the site’s demographic is largely made of young teenagers from 13 upwards, it was not a very clever planning decision to write a journal that would give these users the wrong idea on what they should do when their art is stolen.

With the severe backlash from DeviantArt’s Art Theft Journal, it’s becoming more obvious that not even the admins of the popular website take their users seriously anymore. With a website that makes their revenue off aspiring artists, they really shouldn’t have tried to pull a stunt like the journal.

Read the Art Theft Journal here and comment your thoughts.

–VZ

Theft Doesn’t Just Happen To Digital Artists

Art isn’t just grueling hours with a drawing tablet, it’s also grueling hours with a keyboard and a blank Word document. Writers are even more underrated artists of the online world and theft happens to them too.

I had a interview with a charming online writer named Bridget, and she told me about her run-in with a plagiariser whose identity will be kept anonymous.

While browsing through Fanfiction.Net, an archive for written works from around the world, Bridget came across a story that was uncannily similar to their own work. Bridget quickly realised that the other writer had copied and pasted her own writing and made minimal edits. These ‘edits’ being a shoddy switcheroo of some characters in order to fit a particular romantic situation.

Naturally, Bridget was angry. “…Seeing such a lazy move just really rubbed me the wrong way… Most of [it was] really out of character, another pet peeve that I simply cannot stand.” And it’s understandable! Bridget put hours of her time into writing and some lazy person copies her work without even asking and pretends it’s their own.

While Fanfiction.Net has taken a few steps toward protecting the work of writers, it’s simply not enough if plagiarism keeps happening. Bridget confronted the thief and she told me that it devolved into them denying that they’d done anything wrong.

“I wanted to scream…” There was absolutely nothing that could have helped in Bridget’s situation so there obviously needs to be more protection from fan fiction websites.

Eventually, Bridget was forced to drop the copyright infringement when it was clear no one would help her.

Should we rally and email the staff of Fanfiction.Net about their lax writer protection policy? I think it’s a good idea as any. Writers should not be forgotten on the road to a world where every artist is protected and has full control over their content.

— VZ

You can see Bridget’s Tumblr blog over here.

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image source from morgueFile user jppi

Tracing: Flattery or Theft?

They say that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ but a lot artists see it as lazy work riding on the coattails of better artists.

There are unfortunately a lot of people out there who copy other peoples’ art and alter it just a little, then sell it for a lot of money and gain lots of recognition while the original artist usually has no idea. This is still art theft. All that hard work gone into someone else’s easy profit. It’s heartbreaking for artists who find themselves the victims of art thieves who get away with stealing. Even worse, sometimes people ignorant of the situation blame the original artist for copying a more ‘famous’ work!

Tracing is terribly easy, especially with the image editing technology we have at our fingertips, and it’s only led to more people claiming other peoples’ work as their own.

Tracing doesn’t count as interpretation.

Tracing just makes you look like a cheap amateur who can’t tell the difference between Paint and Photoshop.

But tracing isn’t all bad. How do you expect artists to improve? Copying. That’s how. Copy, refine, then adapt. The short of it is that every artist will copy, sometimes trace, to improve their own art and that’s alright.

Just don’t put your traces onto the internet where people can see. Or portfolios, because that really will make you look cheap and unprofessional.

–VZ

image source: Hailey1806696

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Understanding Life From The Artist’s Lane

A lot of artists are freelance (meaning they get approached by people and are paid to draw art for certain projects) or simple hobbyists (they make art and put it online but they don’t get paid at all). The work is hard, meeting client standards and most times, they don’t understand how graphics design works.

Here’s some nice graphics of dumb stuff clients have said to their designers!

Very, very few people can live being a graphic designer. Usually, they’re supported by other people, like a spouse or family, or work more than one job to cover the costs of their basic needs. Art as a profession is a practice of balancing rent, food, bills, a social life and work with art. Quite often, people have to put their passion aside for themselves.

Vivian Ng, comic artist and illustrator, mentions in her tweet that getting into paid comics work and zines is “99% luck and 1% never stop drawing+posting”.

So most artists will tell you not to get into art as a career. Not because it’s competition, but because it’s not for the majority of artists and that it’s a tougher job than any other career. Please, save yourself.

And just because these are really funny, here’s some more dumb things clients say to their designers!

–VZ

Digital art doll THEFT

Source: Digital art doll THEFT

Art moves from the physical to the digital — this artist has been tracing photos of dolls that other artists have worked on and then sold the works as prints for thousands of dollars! Mijn Schatje has been admired around the world for her stolen art and that’s just unfair to the people whom she copied from.

We need to call her out on her theft!

–VZ

5 Things NOT To Do With Online Art

So you know what to do with art that you like. What shouldn’t you do, then?

Here’s a quick list of what you probably shouldn’t do with art you find online and why.

  1. Take art without permission

The number one peeve of all artists. Nothing annoys us more than seeing our art under someone else’s name. Sometimes, it adds insult to injury when someone’s re-post is more popular than our own. Taking art without permission just tells the artist that people don’t care about an artist’s rights as a person and that the thief didn’t care much about a simple common courtesy like asking politely.

2. Criticise the art

It sounds a little counter-productive, but there’s a reason why the ‘sensitive artist’ stereotype exists. It doesn’t matter if you call it an effort to help the artist improve, uncalled criticism can still hurt the self-esteem that nurtures great art. Sometimes artists will ask what their audience enjoys about their art and where they may need improvement, but like all criticism, no one wants to hear it when they don’t want it.

3. Ridicule the art

You’ve heard of the blogs that make fun of art that people have found online. It’s straight up bullying and degradation of an artist. Not fun at all.

4. Attack the artist for the content

Art is an expression of the self. It’s also an exploration of aspects of the mind, so naturally there will be disturbing forms of art that exist. Creating explicit art can be seen as a healthier expression of the mind rather than an actual performance, though it stands to reason for there to be sufficient barriers and warnings in place. Telling an artist directly about how their art is problematic or why the content is wrong is likely preaching to a choir. An unimpressed choir at that too. However, a polite discussion of the content of the work can lead to an understanding on possibly overseen aspects of art that could be potentially hurtful. Always treat an artist with respect.

5. False accusations of plagiarism

No one likes this, and it only serves to cause drama that is easily spread around and misinterpreted. It may also hurt the artist’s future prospects of work, so false accusations of anything are a really low blow.

The less respect an artist receives from their audience, the less likely they will continue creating art. Protecting artists is a reflection of society and culture.

–VZ