Fighting Online Art Theft

I have had my art stolen in many ways:

  • by galleries who “lost” my work
  • by gallery customers who pocketed my work in their handbags
  • by one particular gallery who recently went out of business without returning my paintings or sending me a check for sold work
  • Finally, by online art thieves

Heartbreak of Online Art Theft

"Beach Thistle" - This is the first painting I ever had stolen from a gallery.
“Beach Thistle” – This is the first painting I ever had stolen from a gallery.

One day, I happened upon a lot of my work on Amazon.com. I had not placed it there. My online art stores did not place it there. The new thieving “owners” of my art were companies based in China. They had found low-resolution, bad copies of my art on the internet, copied it, and were now reselling it on Amazon. Some of those copies were even watermarked.

So, I researched. I joined a couple of online groups of artists who were facing the same thing. Amazing what we have to put up with – all we want to do is create, only to have others steal steal steal.

Through my online groups, I found out how to send takedown notices to Amazon, and they removed the products from their website. For a while. Two weeks later, the works were back up under the name of new companies from China. I kept sending takedown notices, but they reappeared. Since then, I’ve found lots of my things on other websites. These Chinese thieves simply wear you down. For a while, I was all-consumed chasing thieves rather than painting.

While I’m painting again, I still send occasional takedown notices, although it does little good. I’m also watermarking photos where I can and post low-resolution images, but it doesn’t always protect my work.

So what can you do to help? If you purchase art or printed art on the internet, I urge you to be wary of things that just don’t look “right.” Better yet, purchase directly from the artist.

Also, you can read more – Here’s a wonderful recent article about another artist who went much further than me:

When E-commerce Sites Steal Your Art (and Your Profits): An interview with Michel Keck

And – here are photos of recently stolen paintings that a gallery “lost”:  Please let me know if you find them!

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