Saturday, August 27, 2016


In light of my recent "ethics" events, I've been thinking about artists copyrights. I've talked about what is ethical but what about what is legal. Here are some facts and an example of how so many just don't get it.

This situation (part I and part II) is not the only time it has caused me pain and cost me a friendship, but first let me say this...

The artists signature on the art copyrights it.
I only have one painting out there that I know of that I forgot to sign and I know where it is and it is safe :)
The watermarks that you see on images (which are very annoying) hopefully help prevent people from copying and reproducing the piece. Some people put them all over the piece but I haven't been able to bring myself to do that....yet....

These two steps do not stop people who don't care....and with all the photoshop type programs out there...they can unfortunately be eliminated.
So far....I have not caught anyone doing this to my art although I am sure it happens...and yes, yes, I know "copying my work is the highest form of flattery"......whatever.....
I don't find it flattering and neither does any other artist I know!
I have a dear friend who is an AWESOME illustrator. It is what he has done for a living all his life as far as I know...he deals with it all the time but then he also has an agent that takes care of all of that for him. Still doesn't make him feel any better. 
We have had long conversations on the subject....

But then there is something like this situation.....

Earlier this year, I put out a coloring book
Inside the front page is this:
A little hard to read but the gist of it is...this work is created and copyrighted by me and no part may be reproduced, etc. without my permission.

Now I "had" a friend who bought the book, took one of the images, reproduced it and used it to make a needlework piece out of for her granddaughter I think.
She proudly sent it to me and it was really cute and I honestly didn't mind her doing it for her granddaughter...but then
she proceeded to tell me how she was going to send the pattern to another friend and if any of my students or anyone wants the pattern I can give it to them.


The conversation went downhill after that when I made an attempt to educate her about copyright and permission, etc.
She honestly had no idea she actually needed my permission to take my work, reproduce it, make a pattern and give it to others and it offended her.

After several heated emails from her, and me trying to educate her....we parted company....end of story....end of friendship.

I try to think what would I have done if the roles had been reversed.
I'd really like to think I would have said "Oh I am so sorry, thanks for the info and thanks for allowing me to do this and I won't do it again without asking"
I really think that is what I would have done....

Hmmmm...would I do it again? Yes. I didn't do anything wrong. I was educating a friend. If she had not been a friend, it would have been an entirely different story.

I say all this to educate you all.
I know her intentions were good....I know most of you have nothing but good intentions,
but stop and think before you take another artists work and make it your own.

"Here endeth the lesson" - Sean Connery, "The Untouchables"

Thanks for listening!


  1. So sad, as a friend you would expect profuse apologies for not knowing about such things. I have a friend who lives 200 miles from me, imagine my surprise to find an image of her work advertising a workshop local to me. So I notified friend and complained on her behalf. Puzzled why would you advertise a course by X showing Ys work. Anyway the response I got was "its on the web so I can do what I like with it". Jaw on floor. I put them straight, as did friend. Everything might be out there and run risks from the unscrupulous.... but equally the web can make it so someone finds out, and word gets back.

    1. OMGosh Beverly!! That is outrageous!! What is WRONG with people??? Glad you guys straightened her out. I'm like you..why on earth would you want to advertise your workshop with someone elses art??? That is Stoopid!!

  2. Hi All, I sent this to Suzi and she thought this was good information so here it is. I'm retired now but spent 22 years as a corporate librarian and was responsible for orienting new employees about copyrights.
    I am not an attorney and would recommend that you hire a Copyright Attorney for more specifics & Legal actions.
    First, Just because something is on the internet does not mean it can be copied & used without your permission! You have legal rights. This includes novels, musical scores, poetry, dance choreography. art work, recipes, photographs, etc. Using 'watermarks" can protect your work. I believe there are other ways to prevent your work from being copied from an Internet page. You would need to research that with IT professionals.
    Second: since the late 1970's EVERYTHING is automatically copyrighted however filing legal papers with the Copyright Office gives you the legal ammunition to successfully fight any copyright infringement. . It is possible to sue for copyright infringement. Your best defense is to file papers with the Copyright Office. will give you more information. On my original drawings I use the copyright symbol followed by my initials. I have not yet filed papers with the Copyright Office... do as I say,not as I do.
    Third If there is something you see on the Internet or in a book that you want to use personally, it is always a good idea to email the copyright holder and request permission; making sure that you specify that it is for your use and will not be sold. Example: there was an engineering book that was out of print & I could not find any used copies to purchase. I emailed the author ( who just happened to be mountain climbing in somewhere is Asia. He generously gave permission to copy the whole book for our library. I attached his letter / email to the inside of the front cover.
    Fourth there are materials that are copyright free. Examples: The Artist Photo Reference books. These are books that can be used as inspiration for your work. Read the copyright statement in the front of each book before copying them.
    And also the Dover publications of images. There are also 'stock' photographs, images etc. that are also free. You can search Google by typing in copyright free and select the type of material ex. music, photos, etc.
    You can also use the phrases "royalty free" or "public domain"
    Fifth copyright judgments can reach into the MILLIONS. One particular case involved a worldwide aerospace company & they paid a huge judgement ( in the 7 figures) and ever afterward, their new employees had to take a class on copyright infringement. If you want to learn more search Google using 'copyright infringement cases' as your search phrase. I learned this from a former employee. One of the copying businesses was also sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I would sometimes draw something for a friend to use on personal stationary and also gave them a letter that said I gave them permission to copy that particular work.
    I've also had personal experiences similar to you all. I drew a caricature of a 'former' friend & she was so delighted to tell me that she had enlarged my drawing & painted it onto a locker she had in her office.
    Best advice.... talk to a copyright attorney!

  3. Thank you for the information, Suzi & Carol.

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