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.



Barb Schindel 04 May 2021

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 04 May 2021

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 05 May 2021

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 05 May 2021

Thanks Lucia. I agree wholeheartedly.

Fred Rousseau 07 May 2021

Dear Cheryl.Trust you are well. This copyright matter is an absolute nightmare.There is a crowd of people...let us say.."out there" that simply do not have the talent or grey matter to do their own original work,whether it be fine art,sculpture,photography,design,writing and/or any other form of creative work.Have I said this too strongly? I wish I could do it in a more harsh way because that is exactlywhat these vultures deserve.The only consolation I have is that these vultures cannot see into my creative mind what I am going to produce next.They have to wait till I have created it so that their dull minds could see what I have done so that they could copy it. The problem is that there is no longer anything like ethics,norm,standards,parameters etc.in today's modern media assisted or invested world.The world has become sick.Invested with virusses that do not exist but are created by politicians.Laws and bylaws that gives the honest or innocent person any protection whatsoever. I am not only a fine artist but also designer,photographer,writer etc.I do fine art but due to more than twenty years in the academical/medical/corporate world I write,edit,do scripts,designs of furniture,buildings and various other objects.One particular experience I had is finding a birthday calendar I designed and had printed by a so-called reputable printer on the dealer shelves.Tracking it back I found that a vulture,of unknown source to me,simply instructed the same printer to print a new batch of my calendars.The worst is that the printers simply did this for filthy money.Where is the word "trust" in this world? They simply used my original printing plates that were still in their possession. I develop a high temperature discussing this as I work long and midnight hours to finish and complete my work,of diverse subjects, to a high standard and quality.Perhaps i should just stop here before I get insulting which is not my nature.

Cheryl Garman-Andrade 08 May 2021

Thank you and I hope you are well to Fred. Oh Lord! How I understand every word you just said/typed. I used to share my works so freely because people enjoyed them so much. When I first started stippling stones, I joined a couple of Facebook rock painting groups to share in. A couple of years later, a fad called the kindness rocks movement began. This is where the masses began painting rocks to hide in parks, towns, etc for other people to find. It all began to brighten the day for the recipients. A beautiful concept in theory right? The Facebook rock painting groups went crazy with this. There are different rock painting groups for practically every town on the planet now. The behavior in these groups is quite unlike any other art community I belong to, where copyrights are normally respected. Most of these so-called artists are mean, aggressive and lack any sort of moral fiber whatsoever. To make matters worse, these idiots started selling their knockoffs in auctions groups. If any legitimate artist complains about being copied and exploited, the admins of these groups simply banish the complainer. Sadly I found a rock painter right here on AW doing the same thing. Everything copied from Pinterest and for sale! Arrrrgggg! And this discussion doesn't even touch the issues with IP infringement from select countries. That's an entirely different beast. I'm still trying to get about 10 fraudulent sites removed from Google that have stolen my Etsy listings. On and on........ I hope things change in the future because the act of creating, which is what I live for, has turned into an online nightmare. I agree, these folks are brain-dead. Not one single solitary spark of creativity nor imagination. They are selfish, unethical, manipulative, liars, thieves, greedy..... I despise them!

Fred Rousseau 09 May 2021

Dear Cheryl Thank you for your reply.I appreciate it.My only consolation is that those type of people can copy what I have done,but they cannot visualise what I am going to do next.Many and kind regards.

Cheryl Garman-Andrade 09 May 2021

Very true! Staying ahead of them. I get that to. :)

Mark A. Lembo 11 May 2021

Timely and informative topic and discussion. I am getting close to having a couple hundred images on line in some form or fashion, and not all are watermarked.

On a lighter note, I did a Google image search (thanks for the tip) on one of my works. It came back with "Possible related search: Messy" !!!

Due diligence and preventive watermarking - where it does not detract from the image - seem to be the best course of action.

Thanks, again, for the topic and ensuing discussion. MAL

Cheryl Garman-Andrade 17 May 2021

Thank you for your input. :)

Brian Wolfgang Becker 22 May 2021

It's all a very big problem for people working in the visual arts!!! The evolution of the internet has been both a blessing and a curse! It's allowed people to connect from around the world for both good and bad creative purposes. Watermarking is about all one can do to protect their own work when placed online as well as checkng to see if your images are copy protected by the website you post upon. The whole need to do so has made me just want to stop creating anything and placing it online but in today's world, it is a neccessity to have an online presense in helping to market ones art work.

Trust in a hosting website platform is another major consideration. I paid for a sample calendar of my making long ago from ArtWanted.com and still have yet to recieve it. No replies on my queries! Anybody else having these problems?


Cheryl Garman-Andrade 27 May 2021

Right you are. A blessing and a curse. I haven't had any issues with AW. They have always gotten back to me.