04 May, 2021

What are your thoughts on intellectual property protection online?

A comment about watermarking prompted me to bring this up in a general discussion. I see very little mention of intellectual property here. It seems to be a topic that brings on plenty of debate which I find interesting because, as artists, we are only protecting what comes from our minds. I'll start with sharing my experience. Infringement of my work happened in a major way back in early 2016. My work was shared all over Pinterest without my knowledge. How did I find out? People were posting copycat works in Facebook groups that I belonged to and taking full credit and compliments for my designs. When confronted, these folks informed me about Pinterest. I went to see exactly what that site was about and when I saw how much of my art was posted there, I came close to complete heart failure! I personally felt the exact opposite of flattered. I felt violated! I pulled all of my work off of the internet, sent over 15k takedowns to various site hosts, received legal advice on cease and desists as there were a couple of people selling MY art online and then I completely disappeared for 2 years. I no longer shared anything online, lost my Facebook following and certain parts of my mind. But my internet hiatus was not a loss. I spent that time learning a great deal about the legal aspects of art, copyright law, DMCA reporting, cease and desists, IP lawyers, watermarking and the illegality of removing someone else’s watermark, copyright registration, metadata, etc. I am still hesitant in sharing online and do monthly image searches to report any infringements I find. This is why I now register, add metadata and heavily watermark everything. So my questions - Has this happened to you? How did it make you feel? What do you do about it? How do you personally “attempt to protect” your online work? Have you had to contact lawyers? If you are in the US, how do you feel about the new upcoming small claims case act? Do you think currently protected site hosts should be held accountable for the infringing material that their users upload? I'm really interested in your thoughts on this.

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4 Comments

Barb Schindel Yesterday

Cheryl, I am new here, but my story is similar, in a different way, infringement is a word that leaves me feel robbed, empty. Trust is another word that I keep in my heart, hoping no one takes what I just accomplished with IP. In the past I lost a lot, years of emptiness. Getting involved with a marketing company, and seeing what I thought was protected, being sold. Very long story, and my name was in the Boston Globe, 1984-1986. Invention Companies , pertaining to the american dream.

My heart goes out to you. As the internet is so loose and free that anyone can step into and rob anyone, leaving people in disbelief. I am also truly sorry for the losses you have suffered with hopes of getting recovery.

I really don't know about IP protection online, but some of the sights it is seen as a secure sight, but where is the fine line for secure? I am sure I am not saying anything new to you, but you are not alone.

The small claims case is something not to sure of or know about, but I do hope it helps with protecting all the artwork that some one put their heart and talents into.

I do hope things work out and more information can be found.

USPTO , ( UNITED STATES PATENT and TRADE OFFICE) you can google, may or may not have some information pertaining to copyrights, I find this is a sight with information, it was always helpful to me.

Cheryl Garman-Andrade Yesterday

Thank you for responding. I'm sorry to hear about your situation as well. This is something they fail to teach in high school art class. Since going MIA, I have learned a LOT and am slowly getting myself back out there. I add metadata to all art images which now shows up on Google search (from Artwanted anyway) and I watermark everything. I know that stripping data and watermarks is fairly common but watermarking seems to be helping. I never watermarked anything prior to the 2016 Pinterest garbage. Artists in groups like WetCanvas used to have the utmost respect for one another and IP infringement was always a huge no-no. Facebook art groups (especially rock painting groups and art auction groups) are horrible. If you call someone out for copying/claiming/selling your art designs, you the original artist, are the one who is ostracized and attacked. I have never encountered anything quite like it before. It's a sad and sickening fad. I'm glad to see our government is making a few small steps in the right direction. I appreciate your feedback.

Lucia Stewart 22 hours ago

So sorry to hear about your stories, Cheryl and Barb, and yes, this has happened to me too. I did lawyer up, and we sent cease and desist letters to FB and one repeat infringer. I have dealt with a lot of sites like Amazon, Pinterest and even other POD sites I am on, filed report after report. So yes, I do watermark my work now. I wish it were easier to deal with the international infringers, the people who make fake websites, selling artwork (without permission) on t-shirts and creating adverts on FB, leading to these fraudulent sites. I blame FB and PayPal for not policing this enough on this issue. And I do think that sites should be held responsible for the content posted.

To artists who feel they don't want to complain or feel that it is somehow okay for others to copy your work, or if you feel flattered by it, let me say this, it is your right and your responsibility to protect your IP.

Cheryl Garman-Andrade 19 hours ago

Thanks Lucia. I agree wholeheartedly.

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