10 Ways to Protect Your Art Online

Thank you for the wonderful feedback on my article "Calvin & Hobbes and Copyright Infringement" - you guys truly are the reason I still post my images at Coloring Page Tuesdays. It warms my heart to know they bring so much joy to so many of you!
     Along with all your solidarity and support, I received an offline email from Cindy P. asking HOW to protect your art online. It's a good question and one I felt I should answer publicly.
     The short answer is, you can't protect your work from thievery. Obviously, people have no problem erasing copyrights or photoshopping out watermarks, and then using your art as their own. It's rampant, it happens all the time.
     However, there are some things you can do to make sure you have as much protection around you as possible so that you have a case when you go after offenders. Here are some tips:

     1) Put your copyright line on everything. I put © Elizabeth O. Dulemba, www.dulemba.com - my name and website. I don't ever want to hear "I couldn't find you!"

     2) Ask that people keep your copyright information on everything so that the images don't float away into the ether unattributed.

     3) You can put a watermark on images, although that can stop an Art Director from hiring you if the watermark is too obnoxious to really see the artwork.

     4) On my mac, I'm able to open an info field about each file. I can type in information into that field. Granted, if an infringer edits the file and saves it under a new name, that information is gone.

     5) Don't put high res images on the web (300 ppi). 72 ppi (pixels per inch) is fine for online viewing resolution. I also keep my files a manageable size - none of my images are larger than 1,000 to 1,500 pixels. That's the biggest I get. Granted, people are often stealing images for web use rather than print use, so that only protects you so far.

     6) Make your copyright guidelines clear and easy to find. CLICK HERE to see mine. I have the link at the very top of my Coloring Page Tuesdays page, and I put a badge link with every blog post/image.

     7) I use Statcounter to follow my stats, and I often check "Recently Came From." Become familiar with the URLs that are normal so that odd, new or strange URLs stand out. I check them almost daily and often find infringers that way.

     8) Google Images. You can drag and drop your image in the search field, or type in a descriptor. I find I have more luck typing in an actual name. I'll usually only scan the first page of images that comes up, but often will find two or three offenders each time I do that. (For instance, I caught another violator this week when I typed in "Reading Witch" and found my art being used on a t-shirt through Zazzle.) I do this as often as I can stand - which honestly, isn't very often because it's so depressing.

     9) Prosecute violators. If word gets out that you could get sued for using errant images from the web, I bet some infringement would slow down! Power in numbers! Take a screen capture of the abuse (on my Mac I hit "command>shift>4" and drag my mouse. To report abuse on a Blogger Blog, CLICK HERE. Here is some advice form ArtChain on how to prosecute violators (or at least get your artwork off their sites).

     10) Finally, artists are required to have online portfolios these days to advertise for new business. That means we have to take that risk of people stealing our art. It's quite the Catch-22, but tell your friends - JUST BECAUSE IT'S ONLINE DOESN'T MEAN IT'S FREE OR OKAY TO USE!!!

     It's a shame, truly, but the only way to truly protect your work from copyright thievery, is to keep it offline. And even then, people sometimes scan art they like and use it online anyway. Our best defense as artists is education.

Here are links for more information. (Please share more in the comments!)
Lorelle on Wordpress: What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content


Cindy Paul said...

Wow, thanks for the thorough reply. I use a mac as well and did not know about that particular feature. Also, I will be careful not to post my higher resolution images any more publicly.

I never thought to include a link with the copyright, great advice.

I have much to learn and appreciate your words of wisdom and warning. This helps us all.


Linda said...

Hi.. long time without leaving a comment, or using your coloring pages. I am in process of making a couple coloring books.. home printed and stapled together.. to send to several of the freq. hospitalized children I send things to. I assume this is an ok use as I am printing just as they are and leave your marks on them? At this time, 2 or 3, but maybe up to 6 over the next month or so.
Thanks ,

Unknown said...

Good that you take time and write this down, too many do not understand the amount of work it is behind each pic and how sad it is to see people use the images in a bad way. Glad that you share your wonderful art and hope that you will find it worth the while.

Unknown said...

Thanks for putting all this together - it is depressing that so many people think they can use your stuff as their own, but as you said, the only way to really stop it is education!

McDonnellDoodles said...

Thanks, e. Great info here. I've tweeted the word.

Stacy A. Gray said...

Thanks for this! I really need to pay more attention. I am too trusting- I need reminders!

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Denise mentioned another good point. Use your name in your file names! I don't always do this, but she's right. I need to go back in and add "Dulemba" to all my file names. Yes, they can be resaved under another name, but it's yet another little thing we can do. e

Liesl van der Hoven said...

Thank you SO much for this information! Especially the tip about dragging and dropping images in Google - very useful in finding "stolen" images!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great info, Elizabeth! I'm going to post a link in the next FL SCBWI listserv.

Holly Young said...

I'd like to second leaving your name in the file name,,,,,,,,ESPECIALLY if your name and copyrite is not CLEAR on the image.

This makes it SO MUCH easier for card makers etc to REMEMBER who created the image so that we can give proper credit when posting a finished card or project!

I now have about 50 digital stamps/images saved. Some of them, I bought,,,,,and some are freebies.

I must be getting old, because on some of them it's very difficult to remember WHO created the artwork.

A couple of times, I simply could NOT remember,and therefore, did not post the card online,,,,which is really too bad, because wouldn't the artist like someone else to say "Gee, I want that, let me go buy it." Or "Ohhh Elizabeth Dulemba, the illustrator, did that image, let me go find her books, they must be adorable!" (which, I am assuming is one of the whole reasons Elizabeth allows card makers to use her darling images for FREE!)

Just to be clear LOL, no, never had a problem remembering Elizabeth's work, because her NAME and copyright are ON the artwork.

It was just an example!