Saturday, July 27, 2013

Art Theft and Why it Sucks

Okay I woke up way too early for a Saturday, so I'm going to write a post on something that's been on my mind lately: art theft.

I don't know how many of you heard about the whole Miss Indie scandal. I'm not going to comment on that particular situation right now, but I'm linking to it so you can read about it if you're interested. But it got me thinking, or rather, obsessing. As an artist, art theft as a concept is serious business to me. It seems like art (all kinds), as an intangible good, is really treated differently than physical stuff. I know plenty of people who would never steal from a store, but illegally download music or stream movies C'mon, who among us hasn't? It's so easy and anonymous. This same thing happens with visual art, in a way, which is what I'm going to talk about because that's the stuff I do.

 Recently, my sister has been stumbling across this piece of art of mine on tumblr. It was not linked to me, no source anywhere, and I'm pretty sure I only posted it to tumblr, and maybe deviantart. When I posted it on my tumblr, it got 23 notes. The version Emma found of it had over 1,000. "But Rachel, people are seeing your art! Isn't that a good thing?" Here's why it's not:

Messy hair girl got over 2,000 notes when I posted it on my tumblr, and as a result I got 21 new followers. That's 21 more people who will see the new paintings I post, see that I'm selling them on my shop, and potentially become customers. Basically what the owner of  that other tumblr did this: Saw my art on my site, and liked it. Why thankyou! Then instead of clicking reblog like everybody else and therefore letting it link back to my site, he/she (let's be real, only chicks like my art) copied and pasted it into their own post so it would link back to them.

This isn't even actual art theft. She never outright claimed it was hers (though you can argue that not sourcing and going out of your way to make it look like it came from your site is claiming it). What it is is selfish and mean. People do this all the fucking time, I've had it done to a few of my pieces (that I know about) and it's bullshit! I know why they do it. To use my pretty art to get attention and followers for their shitty tumblrs. I can't even believe this, since their tumblr is just a hodge podge of others' work. I don't know why they think they're entitled to (my) followers and (my) recognition when their blogs involve no creative work of their own.

Too mean? Maybe.

I do want to say that I have nothing against tumblrs or blogs that just highlight others' work. I run one myself. It's when people take others work without credit that I get mad. I also did some research on this girlie in particular, and some of her stuff is sourced. She is probably not a d-bag in real life. She is just another person who didn't think about this stuff.

And I haven't even gotten to real theft. Once it's real, and you're making money off of someone's work, then you're not just stealing recognition. I'm going to try making a living at this crap, guys. If you steal my work and make money from it, you're like, stealing my groceries and electricity. And, duh, it's disrespectful. If you like my work, tell me! I love a good ego boost! Don't use it behind my back, ya meanie! I of course think this applies to certain fanart that gets sold, like I discussed in this post.

I've heard before that some people would consider their art being stolen and put up for sale flattering. But would you really be flattered if someone took your work and called it theirs? Would you be flattered if someone took money out of your pocket? Would you be flattered if someone stole your shoes? Would you be flattered if someone stole that essay you worked so hard on? No way!

I do want to make a couple of points before I close out this lecture. I think you can argue that people who steal art and put it on other things to sell are still creating. They're making something new that this artist never would have. But, I mean, it's still wrong. The company or individual could have asked permission, or agreed to pay the artist a percentage of every sale. NBD, right?

I also don't assume that art thieves are necessarily bad people. Not only in the case of the tumblrers that don't source you, but the more serious offenders that steal knowingly and make money off your work. (Some of them probably are buttheads but) I'm sure plenty of them know-not-what-they-do. That's why bitchy rants like this need to happen, so that people can be made aware of it. So people can know that it's wrong and that it hurts feelings.

I really need to make a damn watermark for my stuff.

Okay guys, thanks for reading this. You didn't have to, and it's really great that you did.


  1. It makes me so angry when people don't link art work back to the original source, I think sometimes people don't understand that it's a bit like walking into a shop, picking up a piece of art and then just walking out without buying it. You just don't do that.
    When I was a t college they got someone in to talk to my photography/art classes about how to combat this. One of the pieces of advice they gave us, was when saving your art work include your name (or blog name) in the title so then it makes it easier for other people to link it back to you. I hope this helps?

  2. with tumblr you should definitely watermark your work. urls/names and put it over where it CANT be cropped at a lower opacity. if you only plan to share on tumblr then do that username.

    stealing art and selling it is their own OR new art is never flattering. :/

  3. ugh ugh ugh - I absolutely HATE art theft. When I used to use tumblr I always made sure I added credit where credit was due, because I want to showcase a particular artist I loved and showed the world their work! Once I posted a photo of mine on tumblr and someone reblogged it and changed the source to HER tumblr. It's reallllly lame. I hope this doesn't happen anymore to you, Rachel! I love your work, it's incredible! And, yeah girl, make a watermark!

  4. oh man that sucks! i love that piece! THtas the one i have :) AND MY dad has subsequently LOST so thats fun...(he was making me a frame and lost it! doh! I will be getting a new one) so lame. SOrry you have to deal with this.

  5. It's always sad to see people who are so unsure of themselves that they feel the need to be someone else. :(

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