If you're a thriving artist working on commissions and building portfolios online, you know how challenging it is to keep your art from being stolen. When you go online and post your work there, nothing can't protect you from some people copying your art and plagiarizing the whole piece. This is why placing a copyright on artwork is important.
Even though you've added noticeable watermarks on your images, people can always remove them with the latest photo editing software. That's why it's frustrating to get your work copied and have no way of stopping it.
The thing is that not many people understand the importance of copyright for artists. Still, a lot of them repost the work without giving enough credit to the creator and, even worse, use it for commercial purposes without asking the artist's permission.
What is Copyright, and Why is It Important?
Copyright is the legal protection that the creator of an original artwork enjoys. By placing a copyright on your work, you can prevent others from copying and using it for commercial purposes.
When you place a copyright on your work, you register it with the US Copyright Office and receive a copyright certificate valid for the author's life plus 70 years after the author’s death. The certificate entitles you to sue those who violated your rights in court.
When you put a copyright on your artworks, they become protected by federal law. This means that people can't use them unless they get your permission or if they fall under one of the exceptions to copyright law: fair use, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
By adding a watermark to your images, motion graphics, or videos, placing them inside password-protected galleries, or even selling prints at reasonable prices, you encourage people to buy them legally instead of copying them and using them without permission.
However, some people still tend to ignore all these signs and repost your art without giving credit or asking permission in advance. That's why it's important for artists to know how to protect their works from theft as much as possible before putting them online.
7 Tips to Protect and Place a Copyright on Artwork
There are some things you can do to protect your original work from being stolen. Here are some tips to help you keep your art safe online:
1. Keep your work on a private page
Make sure that only people who you want should see your work can access it. You need to consider if you want to show your art publicly on platforms or privately, behind a secure access. When you post something publicly, you have no control over what people do with your published art. Some will respect and understand the concept of copyright, but many will keep stealing your work without you knowing.
Although keeping your art on a private page sounds secure, there is a downside too. When you gatekeep your work, no one but you can access your creation. This is not a good move if you're trying to build an online portfolio, as it stops you from getting feedback from the online masses–especially if you're a small artist.
2. Protect the images with a password-protected page
When people see a password-protected page, they won't be able to access it until they know the password needed to get to the site or look at the content inside of it. If you're going to share your artwork online with others, make sure that you protect them with passwords before sharing them with anyone else. Otherwise, anyone will be able to access and use them for whatever purpose they want without consulting or asking for permission from the writer/artist first.
This is quite a good choice because you'll only allow selected people to see your artwork. Usually, this access is only given to those who genuinely adore your work and have no intention to repost it to the public. You can use platforms like Patreon to let serious fans have access to your work. They will subscribe to your weekly updates, and in return, you'll get a good sum of money.
3. Put on unremovable watermarks
Watermarks and other artist marks are critical elements in every artwork to show that it is yours. These marks will help you to identify your work from others by giving you a clear idea of what is yours and what isn't. However, if you're going to share your work with others on social media, you should choose the “removable” option so that your fans can still see the whole artwork without having to remove the watermark. If you use watermarks, make sure they are placed in a discreet area of your art so that people won't be distracted by them.
When people see a watermark on an image, they'll immediately assume that it's not safe for them to use it without permission or credit. Some artists don't mind sharing their artwork online as long as they get proper credit and recognition for their work. Other artists prefer to keep their works under wraps and only let a few select people have access to them. It all depends on what kind of artist you are and how much control you want over your artworks before releasing them into public view.
4. Post a low-resolution image
If you want to build an online portfolio yet are still wary of people stealing it, consider posting your images on low resolutions. That way, only people who are really interested in your work will download it to their computer to view it. If someone steals a low-resolution image of yours and posts it on their own website or makes money out of it, they can't get the best-printed result because of its low quality.
Your high-quality art shouldn't be freely posted online. You can save it for yourself and send it to buyers only. Make sure to always put your signature on your work to let people know the artist behind it. Having an artist mark can increase your chance of getting new customers when they are amazed by your artwork.
5. Use an image protection software
If you're super worried about your image being stolen, there is image protection software that can help you out. These programs let you set a password that only you know so that only you can access the images in your portfolio.
It's also possible for these programs to watermark or pixelate your images so that if someone tries to steal them, they'll be able to tell which images belong to you and which don't. The downside of this software is that it can sometimes slow down your computer because of all the extra processes it runs when opening up an image file.
6. Let go of perfectionism
It's easy for artists to be perfectionists when it comes to their artwork because they want everything they make to be perfect and beautiful, but what happens if someone else tries to imitate one of these perfect works?
Chances are that imitation won't be as good as the original work because the artist will put less effort into making an unoriginal copy than they would into making something original from scratch. Another thing is that some artists are too picky when it comes to sharing their artwork online because they're afraid that others will take advantage of their hard work.
7. Take legal action against stealers
Lastly, you can take legal action against those who steal your work. In the United States, some laws protect artists from theft, and if someone tries to sell your work or claim it as their own, you can sue them for copyright infringement. This can be a useful option if you feel the person won't stop stealing your work even after you've asked them to stop. Always seek legal advice before going down this avenue.
5 Online Platforms to Monetize and Protect Your Artwork
Several online platforms enable you to protect your images while also monetizing them at the same time. You'll have a private page where only paid members are allowed to access it. Having a protected artist account can minimize the chance of your work getting copied by irresponsible people.
Patreon is one of the most popular platforms for artists worldwide.
It helps you create a page where you can share your work and connect with your fans. With Patreon, you can set up a subscription-based membership where supporters can access your work for a monthly fee.
DeviantArt is one of the biggest platforms that help artists monetize their artwork. It's also a great place to network and connect with other artists who are into the same kind of art as you are. You'll have an artist profile where you can share your work and connect with other people who follow similar types of art as yours.
iStockPhoto is an online platform that lets photographers sell their photos to clients who need them for commercial purposes like advertising, education, or publishing. You'll get paid for every photo bought by clients who need it for their business or company website or any other purpose they have in mind.
Society6 is a platform that sells high-quality products like clothing, phone cases, mugs, posters, etc., all printed using high-quality printers and inks that make the product look professional and high quality. They also offer custom printing services, so if you're interested in printing some products using your designs instead of buying stock images from them, they can do it too!
Finally, there's Ko-fi for you to make money by selling your art. Ko-fi is an online platform that allows people to buy and sell digital goods, including art, music, and writing. You can make a donation or tip to an artist you like, or you can also buy an artist's work if you like it enough!
Many artists suffer from getting their artwork stolen on the internet. Whether someone reposts their images while removing watermarks or sells items based on images without the artist's permission, these copyright infringements should be addressed clearly.
If you want to protect your artwork, there are many ways to do it, including placing a copyright on artwork, posting a low-quality version instead of raw materials online, registering on a paid and password-protected website, as well as adding non-removable watermarks. When these actions are still not working, you can always sue the theft according to copyright law.
This post was kindly provided by Andre Oentoro, who is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video production company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order). Twitter: @breadnbeyond. Email/Gravatar: [email protected]