Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Image Theft and the Crediting of Artists

I started this post the other day, but then deleted it, because I was sounding a little too high-on-my-soap-box. Not to mention, the topic of image theft and the lack of crediting artist on Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, ect, is one that leaves me so angry and emotional that I end up with a migraine and need to sniff some lavender essential oil and coerce my kids into giving me a neck massage in order to survive.

But after reading my pal Dianne Salerni's blog post today, which mentioned the cautionary tale by writer/blogger Roni Loren - Roni was sued, an extraordinary sum, for using someone else's picture on her blog (an excellent, informative post - you really should read it) - I thought I might share a few stories.

The other day, a pal of mine discovered one of my Elegant Snobs on one of her favorite blogs - and the image wasn't credited to me. Or linked to me, or the Etsy shop where I sell my work, in any way.

Now, I knew the woman who used my image was just another blogger, not trying to make a profit off my design. When I got in touch with her, she said she found it on Google Images, and couldn't find the original source.

I KNOW my work is all over Google Images. According to Google Analytics, I get THOUSANDS of blog hits a month because of my Elegant Snobbery artwork. And those are the images that actually LINK to my blog! Who knows how many of my images lead nowhere? I don't even want to begin counting.

The woman in the above story was kind, and genuinely apologetic, and gave me credit immediately after I asked her to either credit me as the artist or take the picture down. I wasn't bothered by the event - I understand that the original artists behind many, many, many, many, many, ect, works are getting lost to the World Wide Web (those who follow me on Twitter and Pinterest might have seen recently how preachy I've been getting about crediting original artists - I seriously spend HOURS trying to find the original artists for uncredited images when I pin them on Pinterest, and it sickens me when that info is deleted when the pictures are repinned)

When images are used, without crediting the creator of the images (or asking permission if you plan on making a profit from those images!!!), it is, in a way, stealing.

See this cupcake necklace? Isn't it adorable?*

I cried when I saw it being sold on-line - No, not because I thought the necklace was delicious-looking, and I couldn't afford it because my PayPal account was empty at the time. 

I cried because I DREW THAT CUPCAKE, and my image was stolen off Google Images and used to profit someone else (I was also probably highly hormonal at the time, and if there's one thing to know about me, it's that at least once a month, EVERYTHING MAKES ME CRY) 

My artwork pays for my kids' trips to the roller rink, you guys. I use my profits to buy presents for their birthday, most often from other indie artists on Etsy. Or books by my favorite authors on Barnes& When people steal my images, I lose out on a lot. My adorable kids lose out on a lot. 

I didn't sue, or make a huge stink, because I shy away from drama unless I have tickets to see Les Miz or Shakespeare. I kindly sent the jeweller a message saying, "Hi. This is my art. You have stolen it. You need to remove all jewellery made from my pictures from your site and pay me back for all the necklaces you have sold using my artwork."

The person immediately removed all jewellery featuring my art from his/her shop, compensated me, and has since had his/her shop removed from the web, as every other necklace in his/her shop was made from stolen art, I later discovered, and the person was reported for theft by many other artists.

*is it considered image theft to use said person's image on my blog, if the image within the image was stolen from me? Things to ponder...

I'm one of the lucky people, who was able to resolve the art theft issues quickly and painlessly. I have many artist friends who have not been so lucky.


(Okay, so that's not actually Kathy in the picture there, that's the one, the only Flowerina, of which the original is IN MY HOUSE and I love her so) 

You might know Kathy on Etsy, as The Dreamy Giraffe. You might also know her motivational words and images from Tumblr and Pinterest though they often don't link to her website, where she makes her living as an independent artist. You might even find her images altered - other people's watermarks over them, different backgrounds behind her words, though her words and layouts haven't been changed.

You might even recognize her work from other indie artists and/or stamp makers who have stolen her original words and images in order to make a profit of their own.

I know Kathy as the artist who inspired me to take a chance on my own silly little pictures, and open an Etsy shop to sell my art back in '07. Hundreds upon hundreds of people have my artwork hanging on their walls - which is pretty much one of the raddest things ever - and I never would have sucked up my courage and sold my work on-line if not for the awesome Dreamy Giraffe.

It kills me to know that awesome people like Kathy are stuck dealing with art theft. That they are trying to make an honest living as a creative individual, and have to deal with people taking their images and claiming them for themselves.


*needs lavender essential oils and a neck massage, stat!*

Okay, I'm going to calm down and end this post. There's a moral to this story, and that is: if you post a photo on your blog, and you didn't take it yourself, and you don't know who did, and you don't credit anyone, you might get slapped with a lawsuit, and rightfully so. It's unfortunate, if you didn't know better (and I know a lot of people see Google Images and think they're free for the taking). But it happens. And it really does pain the artist behind the art. IT REALLY DOES.

Also, I'll leave you with a note about the Flickr account my awesome pal Dianne Salerni (author of We Hear The Dead  -Sourcebooks, 2010- , and The Caged Graves -Clarion, 2013) started, which is filling with images that bloggers are welcome to help themselves to - really, use them in your blog posts! She won't sue you, she promises!

You can find Dianne's free-to-share Flickr account  HERE.

Also, if any of you want to use MY art on YOUR blogs, I'm totally cool with that, as long as you credit me as the artist. I love when people love my work enough to share it with their friends! That is one of the best things ever!


Now, I was shocked to see that Roni Loren had to close her blog comments on her cautionary post, because people started name-calling and being all around disrespectful.

I know my blog readers are kind and won't resort to being jerks in my comments, so I'll keep my comments open. 



DancingMooney said...

I remember finding that cupcake necklace on etsy but didn't realize you had ever reached resolution with that seller, so glad to hear that! :)

Sometimes I don't think people realize what they are doing when they 'borrow' images from the web for their own use. Good for you for spreading the word that it's wrong, and unthoughtful. More people should be aware that this is no candy dish, free for the taking.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Janell!!

Yes, it's so unfortunate when people don't realize - especially when they get hit by angry artists w/lawsuits. I wish Google Images, ect. had a huge sign saying HEY ALL THESE PICTURES ARE FROM SOME PLACE, AND BELONG TO SOMEONE!

And then I wish that the sketchy dudes who steal on purpose would just stop it.


I just don't get it.

Unknown said...

I'm sure I'm guilty of posting a random picture on my blog and not stating where I got it from. Like Dancing Mooney said, most people don't realize what they're doing is wrong. I do know enough not to try to profit from anyone else's work, and I pay for the music and images I use to create my book trailers (which isn't inexpensive!). I'll definitely be more aware now.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wonderful post, Marisa! Thanks for sharing your stories. I'm going to revise my post to link to yours.

And are you telling me that people actually disagreed with Roni -- suggested that it's NOT necessary to credit the work of artists?!?

Unknown said...

No, I didn't mean to imply that, Dianne - just that people resorted to name-calling, and her comments closed. I fixed it.

Melanie @ Whimsical Creations said...

Very well written!! I am sharing this on my fan page. :)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have been cautious to not use anything that looks like someone's original graphics or photographs if I can't find who made them. All of this definitely has made me want to pay even closer attention though.

Cathy said...

I always try to show sources for pics but not sure whether I've always done this! I have 5 yrs of blog posts to trawl through. Love the idea of the Flickr account - was thinking myself how great it would be to have an actual site that bloggers could add pics to and use without fear (but have no idea how to go about setting one up - anyone have an idea?).

Anonymous said...

I also had my own childs photo stolen and my logo that someone was using for their business page. She said she didn't realize that google images wasn't free for the taking.

A friend of mine was awesome in helping me with a really useful tip - I wanted to post a really cool craft from pinterest on my facebook page to share with fans but the link on Pinterest went nowhere and I had tried to find the source to no avail.

Anyway, she showed me how to go to, click on images, and there you can upload a photo and it will show you all the links to where that photo comes from. Bingo! Found the blogger who had created the photo and the free printable she used and made sure to include that in the caption in my post.

Now, you can't get immediately "slapped with a lawsuit" for posting without citing - but you can if you steal an image and are contacted by the artist asking you to remove it or add credit and remain to use it anyway.

Thanks for the post - boldly and truthfully said. :)

Laura Pauling said...

For a while now, I've only used pictures where I could credit the artist. It's unfortunate what happened to Roni but I think it helped everyone. And your post is wonderful!

Kelly Polark said...

I think this awareness will help a lot. I use celebrity photos for one of my blogs, and credited the site I got it from, not thinking that was not enough. So I am now gradually changing all my celeb photos to only promotional ones that are public domain.
I think bloggers in general will be more cognizant of this issue. Thank you for sharing your story! We want artists of all kinds to be compensated fairly.

Alyssa S. said...

This so explains our whole Twitter convo yesterday! Guess I'm behind the times!!! I won't lie, in the beginning (like 2 minutes after I started my old blog) I unknowingly used what I thought to be public domain images. Now, I stick to my own photos or artwork and I credit and link all over my blog posts to ANY reference I make to ANYTHING exterior to me. I like to give credit and maybe show a little love :) I really like Flickr. Believe it or not, I can't even link up to my OWN Flickr images in my OWN blog posts using a direct URL link. I have to log in as myself, download the pics locally and re-upload them. At least as far as I know, I've yet to be pirated.

Unknown said...

Anonymous -THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting that - I am so happy to know how to find the original source photos - and you have saved me so much time and effort, now that I can do that to find the original artist for my fave Pinterest images that lead to Google images. :)

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