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Protecting your artwork from online theft

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — but theft may be even more “sincere.” After all, someone has to really like your work to steal it, right?

Artists encounter a lot of problems showing their work online. On one hand, they want to harness the power of the internet to give them exposure. On the other, all it takes is a few clicks for someone to copy their work for themselves without paying a dime.

If you’re an artist who works with a visual medium like paint or photography, here are some tips on protecting your work from digital thieves:

  1. Use low-quality images. Annotate the descriptions of your work to show that the images you display have a low pixel count to protect them from piracy.
  2. Use a visible watermark. Maybe you don’t want to put a low-quality image out there. If so, a visible watermark makes it clear that the art is protected.
  3. Make use of partial images and thumbnails. You can upload a high-resolution photo of part of your image so that people can see the quality and show only a thumbnail-sized photo of the whole. That makes it harder to steal your work.
  4. Add copyright notices. Some people assume that the images they see online are free to use. A copyright notice may not stop a dedicated thief, but it will stop people who might not realize what they’re doing is theft.
  5. Disable the right-click function. Images are a lot harder to “clean” and copy if you have the right-click function disabled.

Finally, if you find someone using your artwork without permission or purchase, take aggressive action to protect your interests. An experienced attorney who understands intellectual property laws can help.