Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Earlier this week, I had the (un)fortunate experience of dealing with copyright infringement mumbo jumbo. (Fortunate & unfortunate because while it did happen [booo!!], I definitely learned a great deal [yaaay!]).
One of my wonderful customers brought it to my attention: "Someone shared your clink pic on Facebook and wrote their fb link on the pic... It was a blog by someone called ___. I couldn't comment on it but heaps and heaps of people shared it!! Just thought I'd let you know."

 At first I didn't really get it. I just read the "heaps of people shared it" part and thought it was great! Noooo... not good. She later added, "If I did not know you were the artist I would've thought she drew it!! There was no mention of the artist at all. The people that I saw share it said it was so beautiful etc etc and I just thought it was wrong!!" OK. Whoa. Not cool.

I didn't have the url at the time, but she did give me a first name and the clue that it was on Facebook. I got my sister to help me with the detective work. She had the brilliant idea of google-image-searching the Etsy jpg url of Clink. OH. MY. GOODNESS. Literally hundreds of results came up, and after going through 60+ websites, I realized to my dismay that a small fraction actually attributed the art to me. Tumblr was actually the woooorst because it was such a crazy web of sharing and very difficult to find the original post. Also, I suppose once it's shared, the deed is done.

I felt rather conflicted--I wanted to smile from flattery and frown from feeling cheated. I messaged one blog to credit me. They replied within a couple hours with the change and apologized. They apparently found it on Google without mention of the artist (dang it!).

Back to Facebook!! My customer gave me the url and whoa! The person had pasted their blog url on nearly every photo posted, from personal self-portraits to a scene from My Neighbor Totoro. Perhaps she didn't realize her error but I was mortified to see that there were over 600+ shares, 400+ likes, and I forget how many comments. Anyway! It was a lot!

What I did to fix this:
I clicked the gear button next to the post and flagged it. At the bottom of the pop up window was an option to report it as my intellectual property. It took me to this form:

With the help, moral support, and empathetic scoffs of frustration from Polly (of Pollyannacowgirl), I filled out the form. I immediately received a copy of the report via email, and within a day, Facebook had taken it down: Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We have removed or disabled access to the third-party or user-generated content you have reported to us for violating our Statement of Rights & Responsibilities.  VICTORY!!

Lessons learned:
I haven't always been consistent with crediting links, photos, etc. but I definitely will from now on. Now that I know how infuriating it is. It's also a little depressing because you work so hard to make something, and you share it trusting that your viewers will see & share with respect. I, like other artists, photographers, bloggers, and designers, make a living from our intellectual property so when someone doesn't acknowledge or give us proper credit, it's quite negatively impacting.

Anyway! Artist, protect & watermark you images. Folks, share with love & respect for the creator! Especially on Tumblr & Pinterest! :)
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