Copyrights for Artists

Intellectual property rights are not sexy. But for most artists this is the only thing that protects our creations from being stolen and used without our permission.

It’s why I put my copyright on the face of everything I post online. The law is very black and white, but the way most people apply it is full of grey areas. One of the ways I’m trying to improve the situation is simply understanding the law and talking to others about it.

Several months ago I ran into an acquaintance who makes a significant part of her income hosting big events – not incidentally, she’s also an artist. I complimented her on some recent promotion she had done, and asked about the photograph she used. (I thought it might have been by a local photographer whom I know). She looked a little embarrassed and admitted to having appropriated it off the Internet.

We had a good conversation about it, and I told her what copyright laws meant to me as an artist. I suggested that next time she could try to ask a photographer for the rights to use their photo. Some need the exposure, and might do it just for a photo credit. I also suggested if she could afford to pay even a small amount, she could approach local photographers – or even photography students — to get the image she wanted. She listened, and seemed to appreciate and understand. I felt good for standing up for the rights of all my fellow image makers.

Flash forward to last week. I saw this person’s latest promotion for another of her events. Again, she had used a very striking image on the poster (above).  I noticed there was no photo credit, so on a hunch, I did a quick web search and found this photograph, and others from the same photo shoot, were being used all over the place.  This makes upsets me, but it also just makes me sad for the photographer. It doesn’t surprise me that the general public doesn’t think about artists, our concerns, or our ability to make money from our creations — but I do expect other artists to respect this.

I tried to track down the photographer who created this image, and make sure they knew what was going on. But for all the instances of image use, I could find no copyright or photo credit anywhere. I gave up on tracking the photographer down…I’ve already invested too much time in something that when you take it down to the personal level is none of my business. Instead, I want to learn from this incident in a general way, to serve as a reminder that artists need to protect their images!

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