Check your artwork for thieves, they're out there.

Check your artwork for thieves, they’re out there.

Unless you have a red hot, finely niched, on-trend design, it’s often not enough to merely upload your artwork and hope that the search algorithms will recognise it as the must have item that everybody must own.

As a commercial artist selling your wares on the web, you need to self promote and build relationships on the social media platforms, you need to optimise your tags, making sure that your keywords, titles and descriptions contain searchable terms that are as diverse as the potential customers who are actually doing the searching.

Of course all of the above only happens once you have your masterpiece of a design ready to upload. To get to that stage you are going to be spending countless hours researching trends and niches, figuring out what’s selling and who’s buying. If you’re anything like me you’ll then be doing a few pages of sketched thumbnails figuring out the concepts that work and those that don’t. Once you have decided on that unicorn design you’ll finally be ready to start converting your design into a format suitable for use.

Only after you have completed those steps can you upload to wherever platform you are doing your selling from. Cool, that simple text based design idea that should have taken 30 minutes has mutated into a full colour illustration with hand lettering which has taken the best part of the weekend to finalise. No worries, it was worth the struggle, you’ll upload the design and everyone will be in awe of it and want to stand in line to throw their money at you.

A week or two later you go back to your marketplace to check how your design is ranking with the search algorithms, so you jump onto the homepage and type in a couple of your keywords, and then you see it. Some little toerag has not only ripped off your design, pixel for pixel but also has the sheer audacity to list that artwork in their own store  with exactly the same title and description, word for word!

I spotted two of these guys last week on RedBubble. A seller with the store name ‘FlexiKun’ stole my ‘Wanna see my umeboshi?’ cute panda design. The second was a seller with the store name ‘clairemagnolia’ who stole my ‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of houseplants’ grim reaper design. I seriously could not believe it, the listings were identical to my own. Yes, you can expect it to happen with text only designs, but these guys stole the whole design including illustrations with no changes made to them.

Luckily Redbubble have an easy method for ‘Notice and Takedown Procedure – Reports and Complaints’, and within a couple of days of filing their ‘Notice and Takedown Report form’ (which can be found on their  IP/Publicity Rights Policy page) the copycat artwork had been removed.

Artwork thieves on Redbubble

I’m currently looking into options to automate the process of checking for copyright infringements of my designs. I’ll write more about this as soon as I refine it, at the moment I’m testing out a combination of Google Alerts and Google image reverse lookup is also handy, however it becomes a massive chore to search each individual image when you have quite a large portfolio and I would like to automate the process as much as possible and spend more time designing rather than hunting out art thieves.

In the meantime, do some auditing on the seller platforms, even if it’s just searching for your own titles, you may get lucky and stop these parasites before they steal sales and commission that should rightfully be yours.

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