Why I’m (Sniff!) Deleting My Pinterest Inspiration Boards

Well, that didn’t last long.

Yesterday I gleefully announced that I was jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon and had begun pinning all kinds of amazing artwork onto my shiny new inspiration boards. I was also making a few connections with other pinners and enjoying the giddy goodness of seeing so much amazing artwork being shared.

Then I read this blog post by Kristen Kowalski: “Why I Tearfully Deleted My Pinterest Inspiration Boards”.

Kowalski is both a professional photographer and a practicing lawyer (I’m guessing there aren’t too many people out there who can put that on their resume), so it seems she would be doubly-qualified to write about issues related to copyright and the sharing of another artist’s work. I don’t have the time to get into it here (you’ll have to read the article yourself) but after hearing her out I had to grudgingly agree that Kowalski raises some very valid concerns. I hate to admit it but she’s right, on several counts. And frankly as an experienced illustrator I should have known better.

So I’ve made the gut-wrenching decision of (*deep sigh*) deleting all the inspiration boards I had so much fun building and sharing.

I’ll still keep my Pinterest page open, though how much I’ll actually use it remains to be seen. As a commercial illustrator I’m in a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, Pinterest’s rules state I shouldn’t really pin anything unless I made the image myself. On the other hand, their rules also discourage using a Pinterest page for marketing or self-promotion purposes. So that really limits its usefulness for me. (EDIT: I’ve decided to pin a few personal projects on a board called “Sketchbook”, which seems like a good compromise.)

By the way, I have no problem with you pinning and re-pinning my artwork from my website, as long as it’s not one of the few images on my site to which a client owns the copyright (which should be clearly marked). Soon I hope to have a “Pin This” type of button next to my blog posts to help make that easier.

In the mean time, if anyone ever finds an easy way to share other people’s artwork while still respecting their copyright please let me know.

Google’s New “Reverse Image Search” Helps You See Who’s Stealing Your Artwork

Google recently launched a new service called Reverse Image Search which should be of tremendous value to artists. Among other things it allows you to quickly and easily find unauthorized uses of your artwork from all over the web. Simply go to the Google Image Search page, drag an image into the search box, and Google will show you just about everywhere on the internet where that image appears. This is an amazing new tool for fighting copyright infringement.

Last night I started poking around with Reverse Image Search and to my surprise I found well over 100 instances of my artwork being used without my permission. Most were rather benign, such as a personal blog or a Facebook profile pic, but there were a few sites that were offering them as “free clip art” or as wallpapers. I also found a couple of small businesses who were using my art on their websites. Fortunately I haven’t yet found anyone directly profiting from my work by claiming it as their own (although that has happened in the past), building a brand around one of my characters, or selling the art outright. But I do know of at least one graphic designer who has found over a dozen infringements on a logo he designed. And I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The internet has made copyright infringement easier than ever. Most of it is fairly innocent — the average person doesn’t realize that when they post an image on their blog or website without permission, in most instances they are breaking the law. They are well-meaning and simply ignorant of how copyright works. They assume (incorrectly) that if an image is available online it must be free to use.

Then there are the many people who aren’t so ignorant and are blatantly stealing the creative work of others to make a few extra bucks. (You may have heard about the recent firestorm that erupted around a company called LogoGarden who was selling dozens of logos that turned out to be blatant rip-offs).

Of course nothing will stop copyright infringement entirely — it’s far too widespread. But Reverse Image Search will give artists a powerful new tool in the fight to protect their work.

Chinese Publisher Steals American Artwork

United States copyright law currently goes a long way towards helping protect artists from those who would steal and publish their artwork for profit. (Unless Congress passes the Orphan Works Act, in which case American artists will be doing a lot of nail biting and hand wringing. But I digress.)

Unfortunately once you leave American shores its another matter. Copyright laws vary from country to country, and if someone halfway around the world wants to steal your artwork and publish it for profit, there’s not much you can do about it.

Just ask Luc Latulippe and the artists over at the Little Chimp Society. A Chinese publisher (the “Great Creativity Organization”) recently stole hundreds of their art samples off of the internet, plus a few artist interviews, and published them in a 350-page book being sold online for over $100. The book translates the interviews word-for-word and even includes a CD containing all the artwork. The book even has a fake ISBN number. You can read all about it here.

Since filing a lawsuit against the Chinese would be expensive and likely fruitless, the only alternative the artists have is to spread the word about the thieving publisher, Great Creativity Organization, and the book’s distributor (the Azur Corporation), in hopes that the bad press will rise to the top of Google searches and assassinate their reputation. I want to help out, so I’m writing this blog post to spread the word and linking back to the original story (it’s called a trackback, and search engine’s love ’em).

If nothing else it’s also a good reminder that any artwork you or I publish on the internet is fair game for thieves and crooks all over the world. I’m not advocating that artists stop posting artwork. Just remember that once you put it out there, you can very easily lose control over what happens to it.