10 Ways to Protect Your Art Online

You deserve to share your art with the world. Unfortunately, when you start sharing your work online, you can easily become prey to those looking to steal your art and profit from it. 

If you’ve been asking yourself how to protect your art online, take a look at these 10 ways you can do just that.

1. Establish a Copyright

One of the biggest ways to protect your art online is to establish copyright for it. This copyright means that you are the sole owner of your published works. Others won’t be able to take credit for your work, and you will be able to seek monetary compensation if they try to. 

Placing copyright notices on your artwork where they can be seen easily can help deter theft of your art. For more information on how to establish a copyright, click here

Copyrighting and licensing your work go hand in hand. Copyrighting your work will further protect any artwork once it begins being displayed on merchandise. If you’re curious about licensing your artwork, check out our article “A License to Sell.”

2. Disable the Right Click Option

This is a proactive measure that can be done by those who manage their websites. Platforms such as WordPress or Wix allow you the option to disable right-clicking on your images. Although they can still screenshot your art, this makes it harder for them to download your original work.

3. Publish Low-Resolution Images

If they aren’t deterred by a missing right-click option, they may still try to screenshot your art. This is why you should publish low-resolution images. Although you may want to upload high-resolution photos that show your work in all its glory, this will make it easy for someone to steal. 

Try to size your photos in a way that printed use of them is nearly impossible. You can do this by using fewer pixels. If someone attempts to enlarge these photos, they’ll become pixelated and grainy, rendering them useless.

4. Avoid Showing the Entire Image

You can also avoid showing the entire image online. Depending on the specific piece of artwork, this may or may not work for you. Several website platforms will allow you to crop artwork right in the website builder.

5. Develop a Watermark

Develop a personal watermark and add it to all your art pieces before uploading them. Your watermark can be anything you want, but most artists will use a copyright notice or a logo. This is great because not only can it help to prevent unwanted use of your photos, but your logo is seen by more people too. 

Your watermark can be transparent and placed over the artwork to make it less useful to a thief. Some artists may opt for a watermark that goes diagonal or across the middle to prevent it from being cropped out. 

You can take your watermark to the next level by tiling it. This is when your watermark is tiled multiple times across the entire photo, making it much more difficult to remove. 

Watermarks have become especially important after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. The DMCA makes it illegal to remove any identifying marks on another person’s art, which would include a watermark. If this watermark is removed, it becomes a violation. The artist may even be able to collect damages from the infringer in question.

If you’re unsure of how to create your watermark, you can find a step by step tutorial here.

6. Sign All Your Artwork

Every artist should make a habit of signing their artwork. It’s an easy way to determine who the pieces belong to, and your signature can double as a watermark. It helps in claiming ownership of your art, and fans will be able to spot your work as soon as they see it.

7. Make Your Contact Information Available

This may seem counterintuitive to some. “You’re saying that you want me to just give my personal information to people trying to steal my art!?” No, of course not! 

It may come as a surprise, but putting your contact information next to your art may encourage well-meaning people who want to use your art with permission to reach out. 

Instead of just taking your art, having easy access to contact you may move them to do so before making snap decisions. Include your email, and maybe even a small note about answering them as soon as possible. You may even get new fans this way.

8. Connect With Fans and Followers

If your fans are as loyal as Tuesday Bassen’s, you’ll have nothing to fear. Bassen is an independent artist based out of Los Angeles who was clued into fashion brand Zara copying her designs by her devoted fans. 

If Bassen didn’t have a good relationship with her fans and followers, it might have taken her a lot longer to find out that her art was being stolen. 

The moral of the story? Connect with your fans and try to have a relationship with them. They’ll reciprocate by alerting you to when your work is being ripped off, and they’ll be able to vouch for you too.

9. Become Aware of the Fine Print

If you tend to promote your work on social media on platforms like Instagram or Twitter, be sure to do your research before you click share. Check out the terms and conditions to see what kind of protection these websites will offer your artwork. 

In 2019, artist Richard Prince repurposed and profited from selling other people’s photos that he took from Instagram. While this seemed illegal at first glance, it turned out that this sort of thing wasn’t covered by their terms and conditions. To make sure that your art will be protected, don’t skip over the fine print.

10. Keep Records of Your Work

Make it a point to keep good records of your work. Write down when you started a piece, or take a photo that will give you a timestamp. This will come in handy if you need to prove that you started creating your piece long before the person who stole it from you did. 

What have you done to protect your art? Let us know down below.

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