It’s Not the Brochure Rack at the Tourist Info Stand
Intellectual Property, it’s a concept moving out from software development groups and bio-tech research facilities into the lives of artists, starving and otherwise. It used to be, to steal art, one had to lay hands on a physical object and scupper off with it, out of someone else’s space or from under a watchful eye. Now, the interwebs are ripe with .jpg fruit to be plucked & gathered, clicked & dragged, printed & hung, claimed & sold and . . .
And artists are getting exposure which was unfathomable in any past era. Art is sold to buyers on the other side of the globe, without agents and other middle-persons. Digital artists can be as reclusive as they like, build a strong internet presence, and succeed without ever luring people to a particular gallery in any one city.
So with the increase of opportunity comes increasing vulnerability. Technology has not kept up with itself. The visual water-mark is ugly and distracting from the work. It is difficult / expensive to add the invisible equivalent of a retail ink-bomb No-Go to digital media.
Honest people, when they share something they like, either on a blog or social media site such as Pinterest or Tumblr, give credit. It is important at this first degree of separation from the artist to set the example, the precedent, so that attribution isn’t lost.
But what of dishonest people? This has been a topic of discussion recently on a blog I follow. It is stunning how many artists have found their own work, without attribution or even worse, claimed by another, for sale. There were suggestions in the Comment stream, a few links for help, but how far are we willing to go to protect our interests? Stolen .jpgs are lost revenue, but unlike a stolen canvas, they do not need to be painted all over again in order to be sold legitimately. If the dishonest person still refuses to do the right thing, even when caught red-handed, in the end it will go to the best lawyers. I, for one, don’t want to spend my precious time fighting with what money and energy I do have. But I have the luxury of not needing to make my living through art. As some suggested, I have the freedom to hold on to it lightly, mind my own spirit, and have faith that justice will prevail in the end.
Maybe it’s a matter of finding and accepting an available balance, protecting where we can, letting go where we must, and hoping for the best. In fact, I find it motivating to keep working. If I must hold my projects in an open hand, accepting that someone else could put their name on it, I’d better have something new in the oven, getting ready to go out into the world.