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