Monday, March 19, 2012

Artists Beware

I am no legal eagle that’s for sure, but I would think that finding my work on a photo-sharing website which allows people to purchase prints and make cards DOES violate my rights somehow. One of those late evening “google yourself” moments turned up an image of mine from a national show. The juror from the show was the host of the gallery of images on the commercial site which included all the other work of the participating artists. Yes, we do sign a form stating that our images can be used in publicity or in materials related to the show (such as educational brochures etc…) but I don’t believe that should cover allowing the juror to post the show on a commercial site where print purchases can be made.

This all too easy electronic age of sharing has gone too far in my humble opinion. Others may be starting to agree. The case of the Rutgers student found guilty (and facing 12 years in prison) for videoing his roommate and sharing it to just a few others, leading to the suicide of the victim is just one example. Enough is enough.  In my studio space are signs saying “no photography” and yet at least once a week, people take out their cell phones and shoot a picture or two. Seems these people do not equate a phone camera with a “real” camera therefore they are exempt.  Or in the age of “I can do what I want” attitude, rules just don’t apply.

If I choose to post an image on my FB, then I am assuming the responsibility that it could be shared worldwide. That goes for all those “private” photos you all think are protected. Just because I am not your friend, does not mean that we don’t have one in common who has shared your images with me and I can then share them with others who may not like you so much.  This latest incident may put an end to the posting of my work on FB or any site other than a website under my own control.

I wonder how many other pieces of my work are out on photo sharing sights or other commercial venues.  Reading through the pages and pages of legal stuff which is typical of most sites and skipped over my most of us to just check the “I agree” box and move on, I did locate the law firm which could handle my complaint and a whole host of rights and repercussions that benefit me as the legal owner of the work and affect the person who has claimed copyright to my work by having checked “I agree” under false pretenses (aka ignorance of the law). Is it worth my time and effort? Probably not, but I did notify the site about having found my work and not authorizing it, to which they responded VERY quickly, and I notified the show chairman with a direct link suggesting that the other artists be notified as well. If we don’t have rights to our own work, what do we have?  If this was an authorized usage, I need to see that “I agree” part of my submission form. After two readings, I have yet to find it. The papers contain lots and lots of stuff about sizes, dates, original work, prices, shipping blah blah blah, but no place does it say my images will be posted on a commercial site and sold as prints or cards.

Maybe I am getting too old for this business. The frustrations which arise on a constant basis are beginning to take their toll. I am starting to understand why the quick and easy down and dirty method of making art via computers and with multiple levels of visual assistance is so appealing….too many hours need to be spent on the paperwork, the legal work, the searching for violations… much so that valuable studio time has to be spent tracking down the unethical and the illegal.

Long story short, perhaps we need to realize that no matter what we think is “ours” as far as our imagery is concerned, it is really not nor ever can belong to us. With this electronic age of easy access and distribution, somebody someplace can profit off of it whether we know it or not. Artists…..beware.


  1. Thanks for posting this. It's true - in an age where information can be transported in seconds, images saved and "edited" can be quite scare for an artist. Shepard Fairey found himself in quite a bad lawsuit when the Associated Press claimed he used their image for his own use. There's a lot more grey area and it is scary for artists. We need to learn a "new" culture for art.

  2. Sad to hear that someone connected with jurying a national show would do such a thing.You would think that at least someone connected with the arts community would never consider that.