Well for the past week we have all been sick at our house dealing with our first round of the preschool yucks, but hopefully I will have some progress shots to share of a new painting later on in the week. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share some thoughts on the matter of copyright. It's been brought to my attention that someone has been trying to sell homemade prints of one of my original paintings on eBay. Obviously I did not find that OK. Just because artwork is on the Internet does not mean it is a free-for-all. Even a very ignorant person would have to take pause, I'd think, and know on some level that what they were doing was wrong.
I have been criticized in the past for posting a watermark on each complete painting I put up on the web. Some say it obscures their viewing pleasure when looking at the piece. I do understand this, but what with Google Images, Pinterest, eBay, Flickr, and many many personal blogs, an artwork can quickly end up far away home.
I post my watermark so that should the image show up on another site without my knowledge or permission, I would at least have my copyright symbol visible and there would be no question about ownership. That watermark is what prompted another very thoughtful artist to tip me off about the bogus auction.
The starting bid was very low, and there were no bids when the fraudulent posting was taken down. In light of that, some might say that this incursion seems just a minor offense, so why all the huff about it? Well, first of all, it's just plain wrong. Apparently I am not the only artist this person is stealing from either. Secondly, this is far from my first time having to deal with this kind of thing as an artist, and it all gets kind of wearying after a while.
Thankfully, eBay's legal department (VeRO) did take the listing down, but the person is still in operation, even though I understand that other artists have had their work similarly counterfeitted (and I'm pretty sure they reported it). That is really disappointing.
It's not ok to use other people's intellectual property and make copies of it without the property owner's permission, whether for profit or not. It is not ok to take credit in any way for another's work. ( Duh!?) Really, unless a work is in the public domain or under a creative commons license, it's not ok to use a copyrighted image to even decorate your blog without permission or in the very least, a name credit and reciprocal link, though people do it all the time.
Imitation is one thing. We all as artists have studied other work, and even "tried on" other people's styles, techniques, palettes, and methods. That is all classified under the category of learning and is a legitimate way to grow and develop our own work. There is a certain beauty in the dialogue that occurs as one artist's work is influenced by another's. That's why I myself have a huge collection of art books, and why I like to post demos and other goodies about materials and techniques. After all, we don't create in a vacuum.
Certainly there are a lot of gray areas, and I don't claim to be an expert on copyright laws. But as a working artist, I guess my main point is, when in doubt, ask permission. Many artists love to have their work featured on other websites and other venues, Internet or otherwise. I count myself among them. But I still want to be asked, and I still want the option to decline if I don't feel it's the right fit for me or my work. It's just the right thing to do.