Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Help! How Can I Stop People Breaching my Artist Copyright. (Part one)

It’s every artist’s nightmare, isn’t it? You take the brave step of publishing your work online and then discover down the line that someone has taken the liberty of lifting it and passing it off as their own. It can be very disheartening and put you off sharing any more of your work, but is it a reason to completely give up? Basically, no. And I’m going to discuss some simple layman procedures here with you which will help you to minimise the chances of someone breaching your artist copyright without you having to dig deep into your pockets in the process.

Firstly and most importantly keep in mind that you need to assert ownership of your artwork whenever you publish it anywhere. So when working online, be sure to make clear statements on your website or whatever page your work is appearing on that the artwork is yours. The more you do this, the better it will be if it comes to any dispute.

So in my case, I show my mandalas paintings and state that they are under my copyright and are not intended for public use in any way without my express permission. I also write that the images in question do not belong to the public domain. Whenever I sell prints or greeting cards of my artwork, there is a copyright symbol together with my name on the reverse, again showing my ownership and copyright to the work.

Copyright symbol on back of greeting card

Another good tip is to take a quality photograph of the completed artwork, ideally with you standing beside it and to sign and date it and send it to yourself in an envelope. You will then keep this envelope unopened in a safe place in case any dispute arises. Opening the envelope in the presence of a lawyer proves ownership of the artwork.

When you are uploading art files to a website, make sure that you only do this with low resolution images, no larger than 700 x 700 pixels because this will mean that anyone trying to reproduce them will only get grainy images which are substandard for any commercial use. You could also put a watermark on them as this will help to deter any illegal downloads.

This question was recently asked by Franziska San Pedro and Judy Stone-Goldman in a discussion we had on how to protect work when dealing with the public. So thanks a lot for your inspiration for this post.

Have you had any bother with people trying to copy your work in any way without your permission? If you have any hints or tips on this subject, I’d love you to share them here with us.


January 16, 2011 - Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , ,


  1. Thanks for putting this together, Fiona. I need to go to my site and start posting this information. I also learned that when writing a manuscript, it’s important to write the statement of copyright on the manuscript from the beginning.

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

    Comment by Judy Stone-Goldman | January 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Great Judy. Just start putting your statement of copyright on your work. There will always be cowboys out there but I think you also have to trust the process and not get all neurotic about it either. I find that I can’t be awake 24/7 nor can I be everywhere at once. Good luck with it all.

      Comment by Fiona Stolze | January 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. Fiona,
    I am not sure about putting the watermarks on my originals and prints of originals.
    that is part of why I have not entered into etsy … I am so puzzled about what to do.
    I know people download images.
    Photos are so easy to download… All of this has been addressed in classes that I have had… If you don’t have money to sue, we don’t have any recourse at all.
    I am so sorry to hear about your images being lifted.
    Everyone says that is the upmost compliment when someone copies your work but I don’t like copying compliments…
    I have been stalling putting prints on the etsy for that reason. Big companies are guilty of stealing music, art and all kinds of things…
    So I guess I need to find out how to watermark my work.. going to class Mon am and will see if we can figure out how to do this…
    Good luck… Ruth Conner

    Comment by Ruth Conner | January 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Ruth,
      regarding watermarks, you would put these on the online images so that people will have a difficult time downloading clean images of your artwork. They don’t go on the originals. Some of the sites where you can sell you work offer this option, RedBubble being one example. There are different softwares that offer this option too. We use Fireworks but I think you can do it with Word too. I will ask around and see what
      I come up with.
      These are meant as simple precautions for the layman. There will always be cowboys who lift things but my view is not to be paralysed by fear of your work being stolen. There will be just as many people wanting to buy your work as there will be those who try to steal it.

      Comment by Fiona Stolze | January 17, 2011 | Reply

  3. […] have come to some conclusions. I spoke about some basic steps the layman can take  to protect his artist copyright and realised that I had already come on quite a long journey in this respect. And so I decided I […]

    Pingback by Help! How Can I Stop People Breaching my Artist Copyright (Part two) « Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze | January 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. […] copyrighted images from illegal use is a huge issue on web, read this artist’s perspective. A topic for a future post. Share and […]

    Pingback by Using Images in Blogs, Free Images for Blog | Making Sense of the Web | January 18, 2011 | Reply

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