A recent article I was reading got me thinking about some of the experiences I have had with misuse of my art and what is acceptable. I want to discuss it here, but if you are interested in the original article on the subject it can be found here.
So, sometime back I decided to make the leap from only showing artwork online (which has also proven to be a nightmare with regard to thieves, copycats, counterfeiters, and the likes, but that’s another story), to doing my first exhibition. The exhibition went well, I even had some of the media there doing some pre-opening night coverage, but then came the general public. Let me say from the start that I have nothing against the general public coming and viewing mine or anyone else’s work, but it trying to get them to understand what is acceptable in the digital age regarding capturing this artwork. In the same year, the same artwork was shown in a private school. I was there placing the artwork up in the open spaces, and having school children walking by admiring, commenting, etc on the work, but then I saw a set of kids using their mobile devises and taking well formatted photos of the artwork. By that I mean they stood in front making sure they were level and also were taking the whole image in.
Now what you are saying is, they re just some kids liking the work and wanting to remember it. Again, fair enough, but there are two additional arguments to that way of thinking. None of which help any individual artist attain any accreditation, remuneration or future commissions from said activities. The children maybe innocent in their activity, as maybe are also adult gallery attendees. But, let us say they have a very high quality smart phone with good image capabilities, and then take that image and upload it to a number of social media places, it is not too hard to fathom that it could be shared rapidly and easily. Artists rely on the public to purchase their works. If the simplistic approach to appreciating the work is snapping it on an iPhone and sharing on Facebook then it’s not too hard to figure the artists sees no livelihood from this approach.
The second and more disturbing action, is that they feel they have the right to do this, automatically. Even if snapping with smart phones was tolerated by the artist of his work, getting permission to take a photo of a copyrighted artwork is an essential process of the law. It can all boil down to that feeling that the Internet is a free domain and anything is possible if you simply willing to be cheeky enough to take it. And this now becomes extended to devises that pass the data on to social media. I ask a teacher to advise the children that they shouldn’t take photos as its against the law, without permission. I saw her do this, and moments later children repeating the same activity.
Not much can be done to curb this. It’s not as though the images are like DVD players on a computer and a blank screen appears if you snap a screenshot. To further the insult, these people think they are doing you a favour. Like spreading my image around the web is good for me. Well, it’s only good if a) it’s accredited to the artist (so viewers know who did the artwork), b) there is some link back to a place that people could find the artwork or artist in order to buy or commission them to do something new. A fellow artist said that even the counterfeiters work is good publicity, but I have to disagree. It lowers the value of your hard work, there is no sign of credit and you receive no income from it. I have had people being very rude to me about DMCAs I have submitted asking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc to take down my art being used in profile images, etc. I wouldn’t mind so much, as I said before if they asked in advance. I could prepare a watermarked version, I could give them a credit line description and links to find my work. No, instead they feel it’s acceptable to take the art without any thought to the person who makes the living from it, and use it as they will. Social media use may seem the more innocent version of this misuse, but it can spiral out of control.
I found out, after some research, that it was images on my own website that were being stolen and used in counterfeit products in China. They have robot scripts searching the net for decent sized images and they simply harvest them for use. Now, there is no way that is acceptable, and after extensive research for the Artistic License website, I found that the law is simply letting it happen. Why? Mainly as there is so much red tape, bureaucracy and location based issues that for any small time artist to do anything about it, is near impossible.
So, to round up, and maybe shout at deaf ears, remember that artists have to make a living from the work that you take, share, steal, copy, etc. Actually putting some thought into researching the artist, asking permission and giving the best credit on the image is the least you could do. The best, if you like the art that much, is to buy a copy! Most of my shared work now is WIP, details of sketches or screenshots from the computer. This is to one of two things 1) stop the grabbers taking a completed artwork, and 2) give some interest of me as an artist doing the work. I’m not sure if it helps. I do know that my cases of counterfeiting have decreased, and social media usage has too.
If you do have any issues regarding use of your work, then you can contact Artistic License for a full list of takedown processes, DMCA forms, and more knowledge and experience. The first real step is knowing yourself, as an artist, what is acceptable and what is not.