This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

July 3, 2014

What do if you see your copyrighted photography or artwork on the web

What you should do if you see your copyrighted artwork, photography, or anything that you created on the web, without your permission, depends on what you are selling. If you are in the business of selling copies, you definitely need to protect your copyrights (the right to copy). If you do custom work, like I do, or you are in a business that is not selling copies, then your approach should be entirely different.

My brother, wildlife artist +Roger Hall of sells copies of his drawings. He also sells licenses so that they can be used in books, etc. His living depends on his defending his right to control copies of his artwork. Many photographers also have photos that they sell, either with the copyrights attached, or as a license (which just means that someone is paying to use the image, by permission, in a particular way). The best example of this is the licensing that Disney does for Mickey Mouse. It allows companies to use the image on T-shirts, etc., but Disney retains the copyright to Mickey Mouse. Use it without their permission, and you will get sued!

If however, you are like me, and do custom work (I do cartoon illustrations) or you do work that is related to the artwork you created (I teach Adobe Illustrator), you do not need to be concerned with limiting copyright. In fact, it's just the opposite - you want exposure. I retain the copyrights to my cartoons, but I don't sell copies. So I am happy to see my cartoons everywhere, it's free advertising for me. Please feel free to repost, share, reuse, anything you see on this blog, and on my website. No, I won't sue you, I will thank you!

If you're an amateur photographer, which is what most people who post on the web are (including me), and you see that great photo of the Grand Canyon you took on a blog, this is an opportunity to present yourself. Sure, they didn't ask your permission, but they are paying you a big compliment. If you post a *cranky old guy get off my lawn* comment on their blog, you are just advertising that you are an idiot. People don't need to know that. Instead, take the opportunity for exposure. Stand up and take credit for the photo, saying something like *I took this during my vacation in Arizona where I was teaching a class in Adobe Illustrator.* This lets you sneak in some free advertising, and besides it makes you look good. Reputation on the web, as in real life (as if the web isn't real life!) is everything.

By the way, pros already know all about copyright. In the image at right, which I art directed many years ago, there was a copyright release from the photographer, whom I hired, a release from the location (which is the San Carlos Hotel in Phoenix), and model releases, which I had to pay $1 to each model and have them sign a release form. Yeah, even me - that's me on the left. It was done for a bank, so they had no interest in limiting copies of the image, in fact, they paid to distribute millions of them, in brochures promoting their debit card.

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