Art Plagiarism a Primer
It’s just another day. You’re sitting in your room, scrolling mindlessly through Instagram when suddenly your inbox is being flooded with messages from your friends and followers. You open their chats, only to find the same link from all of them. You’re a little puzzled, but you click on the link anyway. Next thing you know, you’re directed to a site wherein you find yourself staring at the artwork you posted just a few days ago.
Only, the account you’re looking at on your screen is not yours, and the poster is not you. Confusion looms in your mind, and then it dawns upon you— your art has been plagiarized.
Unfortunately for a lot of artists, the above situation is something that they’ve found themselves in at some point or another.
You work day and night on a piece, knocking yourself out until it perfectly fits the image inside your head; only to have someone else copy it and pass it off as their own.
Needless to say, it can be very upsetting, and no one would blame you for wanting to punch a hole through the wall. However, as attractive as that option might seem, it’s clearly not the plausible one. So, what do you do then?
Before we get to that, allow me to define what art plagiarism means.
The word ‘plagiarism’ is derived from the Latin word ‘plagiare’, meaning “to kidnap or abduct”.
Art Plagiarism means copying/stealing an artwork without consent or credit to the creator, and passing it off as your own by claiming that it’s your original creation.
What Can you do About Art Plagiarism?
Let it out –
Know that you have been wronged, and you have every right to feel angry. Don’t feel guilty for standing up for yourself and calling out a plagiarist. But remember that for you to make sound decisions, you need to be patient and level-headed, so let it all out before you proceed to take action.
Gather evidence –
Before you decide to take the issue to social media or make an accusation, make sure you have the evidence to prove your claim. This is because the other person could easily deny your charges, and people on the internet won’t be as willing to help you out unless they fully believe you. So, take a deep breath and gather all the evidence you can obtain.
Anything that traces back to your final work can help, such as outlines of the ideation process or photographs of rough sketches with relevant details like ‘Date Taken’ on display.
Confront the offender –
Many a time, people make mistakes without realizing that they’re committing one. So firstly, contact the source that has copied your artwork and try to talk to the person behind it. Find out if they realize what they’ve done and let them know that it’s wrong. Explain to them politely that it is your work that you’ve spent a lot of time and effort creating and see how they respond.
You can ask them to credit you appropriately or take it down completely. Be civil, but firm. If they listen, then your ordeal ends here, but most of the time, it may not be as easy as this.
Report the source and spread the word –
Maybe you’ve tried to convince the offender, and it has been futile, or maybe you haven’t been able to reach the source at all. In this scenario, you can move on to a slightly harsher step: spreading the word on social media. Most social platforms have a ‘report’ option, so don’t be afraid to use it. Report the particular plagiarised post or the account it has been posted from.
Make a post about it on the platforms which you’re active in, spreading the word about it. Reach out to your friends, followers, and other fellow artists, requesting them to do the same. The bigger the reach, the better. Many times, this can result in the post being taken down or the account getting suspended. It may also happen the person realizes their mistake and takes it down themselves.
The Fifth Stage of Grief –
Sometimes, things happen, and they aren’t under your control. You have to know when something is not worth exploiting your energy over anymore, and simply decide to accept and let go. Mulling over something after you have exhausted all your efforts can be taxing and create stress, which will only affect you further.
That being said, it in no way means that you should stand down and let things happen without action. The best thing to do is be proactive and take cautionary measures, so you never have to find yourself descending down this rabbit hole, to begin with.
Steps to Prevent Art Plagiarism
Below are a few steps that you can take to prevent your artwork from being plagiarised:
Market yourself –
The more you market yourself, the more is your exposure. The more your exposure, the more prominent you are. The more famous you are, the better-accustomed people are with your individual style and design. The better-accustomed people are with your original designs, the harder it is for someone to pass off your work as their own. It all checks out.
Make tutorials –
Many a time, people admire a piece of artwork, and due to the lack of better judgment and creativity, plagiarise. Make short tutorials or post time-lapse videos of your work so people can be inspired and create their own art. However, ask to be attributed as the original inspiration if they end up recreating a piece based on your tutorials.
Keep proof of the work in progress –
Post snippets of your work as you go about it or keep photos of it with yourself. If the need arises, this would verify that you began working on the concerned piece before a plagiarist did. It may also discourage a person from copying your work when they see the amount of hard work you put into it.
Sign your work skilfully –
Watermarks are ugly, and many artists refrain from using them. Instead, use your creativity to skilfully sign your work while preserving the aesthetic. In lieu of putting your signature at the bottom corner, put it somewhere on the artwork itself. This will make it distinct and difficult to remove. If you feel that your signature is too lengthy, you can also create a logo.
Write warnings –
When you post your work, add a word of warning against the art plagiarism of your work. Even though this may not be enough to stop someone, it cannot hurt.
Attribute your own inspirations –
As the saying goes, “Practice what you preach”. Artists are people who always find inspiration and muses around them. If you ever create something that’s inspired by another artist or source, be sure to attribute them, letting others know of its importance.
Copyright your work –
This one may be a bit of a hassle, but one that might be worth taking. You can always copyright your work by registering for it on the official website copyright.gov.in. This would add an extra layer of protection to your piece and may even work better in warding off plagiarists.