Feb 21, 2019

How to protect your art on the web

Today’s reality is digital, so if you’re a modern artist it’s highly probable that your artworks are not hanging on a gallery wall and will never be. The day is not so far when most people will consider «offline» art exposure and visiting galleries as something old-fashioned.

However even if you are sentimentally attached to museums and galleries, you still have to expose your art online as it’s critical for your future fame, celebrity and success. The good news is that you can easily upload your artworks and share them with billions of people around the world, the bad news is that the task of protecting your art from copyright infringement gets much harder online.

A couple of times a month you hear stories on how someone’s photos or pictures got stolen. Sometimes these stories can even stir up real scandals, like the case of Swedish photographer Tuana Aziz who has found one of his photos printed on a T-shirt sold by the fashion label Mango.

How to prevent people from using your work for free, and without your permission? Here we have some tips on how to protect your artwork online:

  1. Disable right click on your website (this can help a little, but the effect would be limited as people can still save pics using a screenshot).
  2. Publish small, low-resolution images which aren’t unsuitable for printing. The best resolution settings are from 72 to 96 dots per inch. Tell users that a high quality version is available to buy. Make it easy to contact you – via email or messengers.
  3. Сrop your images and use portions of pics.
  4. Use digital watermarks. Usually, a semi-transparent watermark covers much of the image so it will have no sense to download it
  5. Put the © notice with your name on your web page
  6. Use plagiarism tools like Copyscape  to search for places that have used your content
  7. Act when you notice theft. Send an email to a person who took your artwork without permission and ask them to take the work down. Most of the people will do what you want. If not ask a lawyer to help you with writing an official letter. In most cases this works and is sufficient.


And, beware of the social media!

 Your own website makes it possible for you to track the number of people visiting your page and viewing your works. It also gives you a number of tools to protect them from being copied. Once you upload your pics to social media it’s absolutely uncertain where they end up.

The most prominent cases of stealing artworks and copyright infringements were registered at the beginning of the social media era. A photographer won $1.2 million from companies that took his pictures from Twitter.

If you are using such platforms as Facebook or Instagram, your content is far from safe. Back in 2015 a photographer called Richard Prince made it all the way to New York’s Frieze Art Fair with what was literally screenshots of other people’s Instagram posts, and even sold a few of them. How? According to Instagram’s own Terms of Use, you own your photos and videos. But buried in Instagram’s privacy policy is an otherwise unnoticeable line: “Once you have shared User Content or made it public, that User Content may be re-shared by others”. Instagram basically says that it can sell your photos and grant permission on your behalf. Richard Prince didn’t think that far ahead, but there was a way for him to legally license the photos from the social network, if he wanted to.

A social media network does not own the work that has been posted on their site; the copyright is still retained by the owner. But by agreeing to post works on the site, you sign an agreement that gives the site a license to use the work for self-promotion, for example. Without any compensation to the author and without his permission.

We aren’t telling you to drop all your social media accounts and run. Using it is mandatory if you want to be cool and progressive, but you have to remember that social media is like a market place for your art, while a website is your stronghold, which is under your full control at all times.

.ART is ready to be a stronghold for you.

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