Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

It’s NOT a Compliment When Someone Steals Your Work

So stop saying that

I hate reading artists’ posts about art theft. They’re upset. They’re asking for guidance on what to do. They’re feeling violated.

And, without fail, some well meaning person posts about how it’s a compliment to have your art stolen because it was good enough to steal.

Uh what?

Oh hey, my bike was stolen. Wow, I feel great because someone loved it enough to take it! Phew. No problem.

Look, when you say that it’s a compliment you should just stop talking. That you know nothing about how it feels to have something you made and love just taken by a faceless corporation and used.

It’s a violation.

It feels personal.

It feels like they are stealing actual money from you (and they are through their sales).

I had the misfortune to interact with an artist a few months back who proudly stole art from other artists and re-painted their work. Proudly! She insisted that she was giving them the highest of compliments by selling her versions of their paintings. My feedback did nothing.

If you make art, you know how precious your creations are. How you dug deep into your soul to interpret and make the pieces. How you want to protect them because they are so very much a part of you.

But you can’t.

I know the fear of theft keeps a lot of artists off social media or has them put giant fucking watermarks on every image. But here’s the thing: if you share on social media, your work will be stolen.

Here’s another thing: if you watermark your work, it won’t make a difference. Give me ten minutes with Photoshop (or less) and it’s gone.

There are three ways to protect yourself:

  1. make sure you only post low resolution photos online
  2. make sure your art is uniquely yours
  3. assume your work is going to be stolen and stop worrying about it

Low res photos means that your art can’t be put on t-shirts or other garbage to be sold. It makes you less appealing.

Making your art yours means pushing your style so when people see it, they know it’s yours. Develop a defined style. Push colour, shape or whatever you do farther and harder.

Instead of obsessing about potential theft, make more work. Make it better. Make it yours. Tell your followers and fans that you are the only authorized outlet of your work (or tell them who is authorized) and just keep going.

You can also report the company that’s doing the stealing, but honestly that quickly becomes a full time job because they pop up and copy each other like mad.

But don’t take it as a compliment. Don’t take it as a sign your work is great and deserving of theft. And certainly don’t tell that to other people.

It’s rude, stupid and thoughtless. And hopefully you’re none of those things.

Paula Mould

Paula Mould

Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula.

She also swears, mostly on purpose.

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