The life of an illustrator and small business owner isn't quite as glamorous as it seems. For every hour I spend making art, I probably spend 40 hours on inventory, quality checks, packaging, customer service, packing and shipping orders, restocking supplies, updating the website, keeping up three social media accounts, and the million other task that keep this one-woman business going. It's all part of the job, and I'm happy to do it.
The one chore I absolutely hate, though, is finding and reporting copyright infringement. It sucks. Rampant infringement makes me feel disillusioned, frustrated, and hopeless about my art. I even find myself wondering, "Why do I bother creating new work if it's just going to get stolen?"
So here's how I deal with it:
- Try to educate the public on what constitutes copyright infringement and how it hurts artists, whether they're household names or small operations like me. Try to empower other artists to fiercely protect their work.
- Offer incentives to my customers and social media followers. If they spot unauthorized copies of my work online or in stores, I encourage them to report it to me directly, and I even offer a shop discount as a reward.
- Schedule time each week to check for new cases of infringement. I search the usual places to see if anything new has popped up, and I put each violation (including links) in a big spreadsheet. Document everything.
- Report those jerks! Every major online retailer has a system for reporting infringement. Some have more complicated processes than others, but it's always worth the time.
Trust me on this one. There's nothing more empowering than reporting people who steal your art. There used to be hundreds of Oh Plesiosaur counterfeits on AliExpress, Etsy, and Wish. Now there are zero. ((Reporting infringement on AliExpress requires a separate, slightly more intense process. I've written a tutorial specifically for AliExpress.)) Game over, jerks.
I strongly believe that when more artists actively defend their copyright, infringement will decrease over time. There need to be real consequences for committing art theft. That's why I've assembled this handy list of reporting links for major online retailers. Some are easy web forms and some require sending an email with details, links, and a good faith statement. (("I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above on the infringing web pages is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in this notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner.")) Happy reporting!
Thank you for this great post!
I’m an artist also and had artwork stolen and used on T-shirts in the past and other things, (such as an animated cartoon shown on Television) and a collage classmate’s portfolio!
It is a great disappointment that people are such terrible thieves and take the easy way out and steal designs and artwork as opposed to making their own.
It stopped me from doing art and posting it for many years.
Now I’m thinking of doing it again and but will be sure to copyright everything and and be fierce about going after it, but the Net was young back then and I just didn’t know better.