Stolen artwork


Has anyone ever stolen your artwork?

This past weekend I received a very nice email from someone wanting to use my artwork for their conference. It included the link to the artwork – Pink Birds on a Wire, one of my watercolor paintings. It was a nice letter detailing the upcoming conference, the intended use of the image and links to their organization. So far, I like organization and the initiative and will probably move forward with them.

But the really disturbing part was the link to the artwork they wanted to use… it wasn’t linking to MY website! It was linking my art that was on someone else’s website.

A website I never heard of, never approved of, nor received any credit attribution for. That’s stealing.


copyright infringement of artists work - goodlifefamilymag stealing artwork
Pink Birds on a Wire – used without permission.


Don’t get me wrong, you gotta love when your artwork is shared on a blog with a credit (as long as they ask me first AND I like the context of how it will be used) because it’s good exposure. Even better when it’s a print magazine, then not only do you get credit, you get monetary compensation too! Creating takes time, it takes money, materials, and CREATIVITY to make art work! To some it may seem as though artists just play around, but I can assure you for all the artwork you do see, there are many, many more that you don’t see. What I’m trying to say, is that it takes a lot of energy, envisioning, time and money spent on canvas, archival papers, professional artist paints and mediums. So, please don’t steal my work, it’s illegal to do so and I will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law. All images are digitally embedded with my copyright information, contact. phone, etc. So they could have easily contacted me, just like the gentleman who sent the email did.


Anyway, after reading the email I was somewhat agitated, no, downright pissed! So I posted this incident on my ‘personal’ Facebook page and yes, others were as outraged as me! In fact, a friend took to twitter and tweeted a message at them about stealing artwork.



Thanks to my brilliant friend!

I had no idea she’d done that until Monday, when I received an email from goodlifefamilymag stating that they saw a twitter reference and removed the image and that it was an honest mistake. I try to think the best about people, so I thanked them for removing my artwork and left it at that. Shout out to my friend Della whose tweet saved me the ‘cease and desist’ headache! Thank you Della!

How do you protect your artwork?

So, my artist and photography friends, how do you protect your images from theft? Do you use Digimarc or a similar program that embeds code into your images so that you can track their usage online? Do you watermark? Do you embed copyright and contact? How has it worked for you? I’m leaning towards Digimarc or something similar, but am open to other options. Am holding off uploading any more work until I can get a handle on this.

I have always been reluctant to watermark my images with the copyright info because I feel it detracts from the art. Besides, if someone really wants it, they can take it easy enough. And even though it may not print well (low res images), they can still be used on internet blogs, desktop, etc.. But after this latest incidence, I may be tempted to watermark them, what do you think?

Oh, and I also use TinEye to track the use of my images on the internet. When I ran TinEye on ‘birds on a wire’ – it never came up there. Now I’m wondering if there are any others it is not finding???

Rant over…..


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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. The truth is it’s difficult to really track use of images. All of those tracking tools can be bypassed if one knows how to do so and the real thieves will unfortunately know these techniques.

    Mostly it is genuine mistakes, someone sees it on google or Pinterest and doesn’t realise it’s copyrighted.

    I always add a watermark with my blog url on my photos and even had some totally randomly people contact me to ask if they could use some of my photos in exchange of a link. And once I even got a magazine print. :). All thanks to making the shots available on Flickr, 500px and Pinterest so people can find and use them BUT with a watermark!

    It won’t protect against those that will steal regardless but it will help those that just genuinely like your work and want to reward you. 😉

    1. Hi Marc-André, I appreciate your response here. There really is not much that can be done for the theft online, like you said if they want it they’ll get it. Will start watermarking my images even though I’m not fond of doing it.

      I’m thinking about signing on with DMCA PRO in addition to the WM. Have you any experience with them?

      BTW, that is great idea to include your website in the WM, thanks. Who knows it might drive more people here.

      Thanks again – have a great weekend!

      1. Ah I’ve not used DMCA PRO, let me know how you get on with it and I may try it.

        And yes I know watermarks are not the greatest but having a website url on them really helps.

  2. I agree with Marc-André. It’s a challenge. I have a copyright page on my blog and, so far, people have been kind enough to contact me before using my work. I’ve had two incidents where people did not, but contacting them resolved issues. I put my name on everything, but if someone wants to steal your work, they’ll find a way around any signature or watermark. You do your best and hope for the best!

    1. Karen, you are so right – if they want it they’ll get it. Going to start watermarking everything going forward. Have a great weekend!

  3. Deb, that is one of my favorites of all of your paintings. I don’t like to watermark either, for the same reason. I do have an image that gets stolen quite a lot, I’ve had referrals to my blog from a file sharing site. That is the only one that I added a footnote to stating “PLease do NOT steal my artwork.” Yesterday, for the first time, someone requested they use the image and told me the purpose. I said fine, because they ASKED me. But do I know how to protect my images? No. I didn’t even know about the ones you mentioned. Boy, I hope I still will get to see your work. It juices me! I need my OJ, baybay! 😀 Have a great weekend, Deb.

    1. Laura, you crack me up girl! Yes, it’s a pain. The easiest way to protect our work is to watermark them, it looks tacky, but what are we to do? I’ve disabled the right click on the site, but it will do no good if it’s googled (which is what the editor of the magazine said she did). And I will still put my work up, just splashed with a WATERMARK! Have a great weekend too 🙂

  4. hi Deb, there’s not enough room here to contain all I’d like to say on this Disgraceful subject. I feel very strongly about internet Piracy and copying and…. profiting from other’s hard work.
    I’ve now been ruining my images – with signatures and copyright info; all because of this huge Problem!! I may reblog your post, if its ok?

    1. Debi, I feel your pain! It really is sad that we have to ‘ruin’ our images – because some people don’t respect or recognize the hard work that goes into creating the work. Feel free to reblog away.

      1. thanks! I don’t know if these people are ignorant, don’t know better, or are just lazy. or afraid to show the world their Own creative efforts. but… I’m fed up.

  5. I’ve had this a number of times. Each time I complain to google, saying that this site has appropriated my work. They never reply, but the site soon vanishes and my image comes back on google directing back to my site again. So it seems that they do something.

    1. Graham, I’m sorry to hear that. It’s good to know that they are doing ‘something’, but sadly it’s not enough…

  6. Deb, what I’d like to say about this is definitely unprintable! Though it doesn’t necessarily keep people from stealing, do you have your work registered with the U.S. Copyright Office?

    1. Yes some of them are registered electronically. There’s a 500mb limit per submission. Technically it should say ‘unpublished then the copyright info’ but since a lot of my work is prints, I would have to go in and change it constantly. I’m not sure what others do. I’m looking into a couple different apps that embed a tracking code, about $100a year or so. So it could pay for itself if they don’t respond to a cease & desist. Bottom line, once it’s online it’s easy to take. I don’t mind sharing, in fact if you ask me first I’m happy to share my work, but don’t just take things, it’s not cool.

  7. Sadly, this sort of intellectual theft goes on all the time and with impunity. I was recently made aware of one of my drawings appearing on a stock site. Yes – they were SELLING my work. (That resulted in a nasty “cease and desist” letter.) I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident, but it’s not. Earlier in my career I was the principal of a very successful design firm. As such, I frequently had budding designers drop by to show off their portfolios in hopes of a job. I vividly recall looking through a portfolio of some very nice, but strangely familiar looking logo designs. Turning the page to one that looked incredibly familiar, I asked the young artist to tell me about her design. As she elaborated upon her idea and how she sweated to bring it to fruition I reached up beside my desk and pulled down a copy of Print Magazine. As luck would have it, I opened it up to the exact page where the exact duplicate of that logo design was reproduced. She was mollified. I asked her to read the credit line of the designer… MY name. I never saw her again.

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