A friend recently asked me about a common situation her clients face. They are artists who, before the internet, could only show their work to a large audience at art festivals. She said these artists hesitate to market their work online because they’re afraid that it could be stolen.
Could their work be illegally copied if they show it on the internet? Yes. I worked with an artist last year who had their entire catalog illegally copied.
Should they us the internet to market their work despite this risk? Probably. If you’re an artist you have to weigh the risk of having your work illegally copied against the benefit of reaching a larger audience.
My unsolicited advice to artists is to decide how you want to respond if your work is stolen before you put your work out there and plan accordingly.
- If you want to sue the people who illegally copy your work, you have to register your copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office.
- If you want to license your work, meaning people can pay you for the right to reproduce your work on their sites, you need to have licensing terms and fees. This way people can legally purchase the rights to use your work and you can send a bill to the people who illegally copy your work. This recently happened to a friend of mine.
- If all you want to do is force them to remove the image when you detect someone’s stolen your work, you need to understand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or know an attorney who does who can send the proper takedown notice on your behalf.
When you put your work out there, you should be diligent about watching the internet for potential infringement. Often times people think they can use your work if they provide an attribution and a link to the original. What they’ve really done is made it easy for you to determine who is using your work without your permission.
My two cents on this issue is you shouldn’t let your fears about copyright infringement prevent you from using the internet to market your work if you’re an artist, but you should have a strategy in place in advance for dealing with it when it occurs.
For more information on this and related topics, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed, available on Amazon.