Just because we’re not famous artists or writers (yet) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect our creations from being used without our permission. I was reminded of that fact just recently.
I ran a Facebook ad for the Creative Fire Cafe, getting the word out to other creatives about this safe space where we share our experiences, a few laughs and interesting conversations about the creative life.
The image I use on the group’s banner was created by a Cafe member and good friend of mine. My friend showed the original to me a few years back and I never forgot it because it’s such a wonderful image. It’s a piece I particularly love because of its ‘creative fire’. I asked for and (importantly) received permission to use the image for the Cafe.
So imagine my surprise when I got a nasty comment on the ad post from someone using the exact same image as her business logo. She claimed a friend created it just for her and she had paid for the image. She ordered me to remove it because it was hers.
I immediately got in touch with my artist friend, who attempted to contact the person who posted. As the artist, my friend has valid proof of ownership and wanted to share that, along with a request to desist using the pirated image.
My friend never got a response but I suspect that other woman’s friend has “some ‘splainin’ to do.”
This is every creative person’s worry and conundrum – how do we protect our original pieces?
We need to be out on social media but once your work is out there, you run the risk of a scenario like the one I described. It happens all to often. Someone passes off your work as theirs while profiting from it.
How to protect your work
So I did some research and here are a few things we can do to protect ourselves from having our work stolen:
1. Take a photo of your image as soon as you complete it and before you post it. Photos have metadata attached, including the date and time the picture was taken. If someone copies your work, that metadata proves your work predated their use of it. (Luckily, my friend has photos of her original piece.)
2. Before putting your work online, protect it with a visible watermark using editing software. Make it part of the image itself. If you simply add it to the edge or a blank space, it can be trimmed off or edited out.
If most of your images are on your phone you can use an app like Iwatermark. If you work from your desktop, almost any photo editing software can be used. Simply add your name, a copyright symbol and the year in an interesting part of your image and reduce the text opacity to about 40-60%.
3. Don’t post high resolution images to social media or your website. Take high resolution photos for reproductions of course but save a copy in low resolution (72 dpi).
A word of warning: When you save your lo-res copy, be sure to give it a unique name. If you save it over the top of your hi-res image there’s no going back.
1. Like images, your documents have metadata with creation dates as well as the last edit date. That metadata proves your work preexisted any unauthorized use of it and protects it from plagiarism.
2. For manuscripts, print a complete copy of the work and send it to yourself via registered mail. When you receive your mail, sign for it but don’t open the envelope. Tuck it away someplace safe. If you ever need to prove your work pre-existed another’s, you now have the postal service on your side. That envelope will be valid evidence in court.
For all creatives, be sure people know how to contact you so they can purchase your work or get permission to quote you.
What about you?
If you have other suggestions to add these lists, please share them in the comments. This is a problem all creatives face so let’s support each other!