Sep 4, 2009

Is This Your Art?

My fish art stolen and sold on

Like millions of other people the first thing I do most days is check my email. I sit down with a cup of coffee and read through my inbox early in the morning, respond to anything waiting my attention and put out any necessary fires.

My least favorite email subjects to read in the morning are ones that say:

"Is this your artwork?"

I dread opening them (But I do appreciate people point them out too), because I often find an attachment showcasing another infringement or a link to a web page that has my art displayed on it, or worse selling it.

These emails are always a double-edged sword for me. One one hand I appreciate people watching out for me, but each time always ends up taking at least an hour of my time to respond and there is no way to recoup that loss. On the other hand I've spent about a hundred hours this year alone getting to know the copyright laws in and out.

Well I got one of these emails today and it informed me that a nebulous user going by the screen name of "TuNiSaNo003" had posted my art as his own on (It's now been removed)

A Growing Problem
As I write this post I have had over "50" separate cases of copyright infringement so far in 2009. I just settled a matter that happened four months ago which I had to get my copyright lawyer involved in, but thankfully most I can handle using my DMCA formatted infringement letter.

Such was the case with this most recent example of stolen art.

I really wish Google would buyout a company like and make it really useful with their infinite database. They could offer it much like Google Analytics and I'd even be willing to pay an annual fee to track my art.

Come on Google Spiders sniff out this post and put it in front of you acquisition board.

My original doodle wall art.

I created this art as part of a creative experiment I did a few years ago. I'm not sure if the weasel pulled the image from this post or if he got it from my corresponding tutorial? tutorial "Doodle Book Worm."

I'm guessing the culprit pulled this image from my tutorial on since it has a larger jpeg in it of the same artwork?.

Either way responded to my infringement letter and removed my artwork and shut down the users account in a very reasonable time I may add.

Copyright Infringement Letter
As a creative our work will exist online for the duration of our career in one way or another. So at some point you'll have to deal with those who have no scruples taking your work without permission and using it. I hope this pre-formatted letter will help you deal with the situation a lot easier.

View/Download Copyright Infringement Letter.


Charley Deppner said...

Excellent post and very useful.

Matt said...

Not exactly like TinEye, but it might help:

kerrie said...

Just wanted to express my thanks for posting the letter—there is so much copyright information out there, it's difficult to decipher.

On top of all my other job responsibilities (illustrator, designer, project manager and trash taker-outer) it seems copyright lawyer needs to be added to the pile. This really helps streamline some of the challenges.

Heather T. said...

This is a wonderful resource, even if it did arise from your misfortune. Thanks so much for sharing!

Louise Smythe said...

I read about this on Drawn and I am glad I visited your blog. I am so sorry this happened but I am glad you were able to take care of it. It's scary how we can only seem to find out these things through others informing us, though. Thanks for the letter! I have saved it. :)

Tom Smalling said...

Sorry hear it Von. You do such great work, and there are just some really crappy people in this world. Do you think the stock companies actually contact the users who bought the image? Do they ever have any proof to show you they have?

Vonster said...


That is a good point. Under the DMCA all a site like has to do when notified of a violation is remove it. No obligation to reimburse the artist whose work was sold and only one has ever agreed to refund those who downloaded my art and notify them of the situation.

A few years back was selling something and the person who was doing it had sold it "74" times so I sent them an invoice for my normal usage fee x 74 and they refused to pay or notify and refund the people who downloaded it. Mainly because of the DMCA they don't have too.

So yeah companies hide behind the DMCA and the biggest flaw is someone can do it as long as they can and when caught if they pull it there is nothing the artist can do. Now I could go after the person who uploaded it but most often the company won't share that with me and all I get is a nebulous screen name.

With Congress trying to jam through the Orphan Works Bill things will only get worse because content providers like Google want that because it makes using art without permission a breeze.


girl*in*gear studio said...

I find it very ironic that people would rip off artwork from your IllustrationClass website, when the purpose of that website is to LEARN HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN ART. It's really not that difficult, with practice and dedication, to draw your own stuff to sell online. Wow.

Thanks for freely sharing your art and creative process. Although I'm sure it opens you up more to online art theft, it sure is helpful to other legit artists working on creating their own stuff. So again, thanks for all you do. I've learned a lot from you!


mj said...

I can't believe how much you've been ripped off this year Von. You know I even saw your Billy Mays on Facebook but it didn't click in my head until much later and I haven't seen it since.

Glad that hack's account got shut down.

mptorr said...

Von, I'd like to congratulate you on your art and website. Just RSS-subscribed to Art Backwash.

Regarding copyright, how do you do with your work? Do you copyright stuff that will be commercially used? I made a few illustrations that will be used for t-shirts and don't know if registering at is worth the hassle. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Thx, Martin