I recently had my art used by someone on Gaiaonline who was trying to sell it to other Gaia users. They did not and do not have my permission to do so.
I am so so grateful to the watchful people who found out, reported it, and informed me. I haven't frequented Gaia in forever, and chances are, I never would have known this was going on. And, of course, it makes me all paranoid and now I'm wondering if I should be doing weekly searches for my images to see if they are cropping up in unsavory fashions.
It shouldn't be like that.
We have all heard art theft stories, or know artists who have had to deal with it, but holy shit did I never imagine it would happen to me. THANKFULLY it wasn't on a massive scale like talented had to deal with...AND, thankfully, some smart person (who also had THEIR art stolen) caught wise and reported the user.
I still find it odd that -my- art was taken; I always assumed I would never have enough exposure to worry about it. This is my first encounter with art theft, and while it is on a very small scale, yes I am calling it THEFT.
The person who found my image and claimed it as their own, succeeded in at least one transaction. I don't care how much or what it was traded for. What I care about is the principle behind art theft, and that someone was duped into buying what is essentially, stolen goods.
I am a person who uses the internet. I do a LOT of image searches.
I also work at a print shop. I know how easy it is to find an image you like, and to do whatever you want with it.
As artists, it is important to know the vulnerabilities of sharing what you create with the internet.
One instance at my work stands out to me: A lawyer, and long-time customer of the shop, wanted us to take an image he had 'found online' and make it into a birthday card for his young relative. The link he provided us was to a Deviantart gallery, and my boss wanted to know if I thought this project infringed on the artist's copyright. Here's the hard part: the image wasn't being used for profit. The lawyer didn't want to sell it in his own etsy store, he wanted to make one birthday card, one time. The artist had no email or other website listed on their gallery--essentially no way for someone casually surfing the net to contact them and ask their permission. Really, they would never know--how could they? Unless fate intervened and they were at that birthday party, how would they ever know?
This is why I started putting this message in my image descriptions "--If you are stumbling across this in an image search and want a print or to discuss permission of use, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org--"
I want everyone who reads this rant to know that even though this message appears, if I created an image for you (commission, trade, or gift) or of you/your character I will never give permission for that image to be used by someone else. That image is yours and mine, and no one else is invited.
We artists need to protect ourselves from the people who know nothing of copyright, who have no concept of intellectual property, who don't think they are STEALING. I want to give someone who would otherwise take my art, the chance to realize it's not free just because it's on the internet.
It's hard enough to create art. It's harder still to get anyone to look at it. Don't make it easy for someone to steal it.