Disturbing Trend – Electronic

art thief internet

Artists like Monet and Renoir lived in an age where the skills they possessed to create the masterpieces we know and love were valued, and the ability to duplicate and “steal” their work was limited to the skill set of the thief.  Today, sadly, in our electronic age it is quite easy to download a copy of the photo of the work and there you have it – a copy of the work.

Recently a painter friend of mine posted a conversation he had online with a woman who loves his work.  She commented on a particular painting, and how costly the original was.  Here is a bit of the conversation:

Artist -“Well, I have prints for a nominal fee – would you be interested in a print?”

Woman – “No, no need to buy a print – i went to your website and downloaded and printed a copy of that painting, and took it to a craft store and had them frame it up for me.  Cost me just the price of the frame… so thanks but no need.”    

Artist – “Well, Madam, when you printed out the copy of my painting didn’t you have a huge watermark in the middle of it?”  

Woman – “Oh, do you mean the original did not have that watermark on it?  I just thought that was part of the work itself.  I kind of like that look!”

Artist – “So you are telling me you printed a copy of my painting, watermark and all, and framed it.  Do you realize you stole from me?  You took my work, not paying with it, and then fully acknowledged the theft.  You are a thief!”

Woman – “OK so catch me.  Why do you post your work online like that unless you want people to take the images?”

Artist –  (long pause, deep sigh)  “Aargh, don;t do that again.  Good bye”

Woman – “I don’t like your tone, and maybe i don;t like your work so much either.”

Wow there are some lessons to learn here and now.

  1. As an artist, protect your work.  Be cautious about displaying images of your work, unless you emblazon each piece with a bold watermark.
  2. Discourage lookie-lou shoppers with camera.  Many artists i know who are painters or photographers hand a sign that indicates No Photographs to reduce the likelihood of someone stealing a copy of their work.
  3. If you have a web site, and display work, consider securing the image so that it cannot be downloaded.  Here is an excellent article offering some solutions.  Click here for the Article.
  4. One of the oldest and simplest rules of the internet is this- “If you don’t want to risk your intellectual and artistic property being stolen, don;t post it where it can be taken.”
  5. Remember there are several levels of audience for every artist:
    • Enthusiastic supporters who love and buy your work
    • Interested and friendly who admire your work
    • Opportunists seeking ways to take advantage of your work
    • Vicious thieves who will seek every vulnerability
  6. Focus on protecting your work, appreciating your supporters and friends, and defending against the thieves and credible threats.

Sad we live in an age where someone can sit at a computer somewhere in the world and take what they want, steal, take identity, art, live.  While i love our electronic connectivity, there is a down side, and as an artist it is critical to recognize the threats, planning adequately for correcting for them.

Be wise as serpents, harmless as doves!