Artist Copycats And Theft. Why?

It’s inevitable if you are a creator, an artist, inventor, etc.. Someone will take your ideas, your style, and either make a crazy close copy or a down right exact replica of it. Why? It just seems so lazy and goes against the very nature of being creative. Being inspired by someone else’s work and copying it to learn technique from or for your own enjoyments is one thing, but to turn around and take that copy claim it as your original idea and sell it. That’s theft. As an artist, I have experienced this many times over the years. I don’t go looking for copycats, most times it’s my loyal customers and art collectors that have brought the copycats to my attention. Other times, I simply stumble upon them via social media. I have chosen to handle each theft in different ways. Sometimes I simply ignore, saying nothing at all. Other times, I will send a polite message, a cease and desist. I especially contact those that have the audacity to ask others not to copy their work. Oh the irony. Of the copycats that I have sent messages to, most simply didn’t realize that it’s theft, and many apologize and remove the copied art from their websites and social media accounts. Then there are others that know full well what they are doing is wrong, and instead of apologizing, they either ignore my message, and/or keep right on going stealing not just my art but others as well.

Copycat Examples

When I was on the site Etsy (under the shop name The Little Grey Rabbit), a kind member asked another Etsy seller, The Paper Girl Co, to make a custom logo for her. However she recognized the artwork. She knew that even though The Paper Girl Co had slightly altered the image, that it was based off of my original painting. This kind woman sent me screen shots from her phone of their conversation about the logo:

The Paper Girl Co Etsy Art Theft

Art Theft By The Paper Girl Co

I contacted the Paper Girl Co, she ignored me, never apologized. But at least the logo buyer told me that she didn’t want the logo if it was going to be using stolen art. Below is another example in which the art was so closely copied, that when it was shown to me, at first I thought it was my original that I had painted and sold years ago, lol:

The copied version was posted on Instagram with the hashtag ‘original art’, and offered for sale. Not only that, but it was painted in practically the same size, miniature. Mine was 3″x3″, her’s is 4″ x 4″. When confronted,  the copyist acknowledged that she used my art to make her version, but because she changed the shade and made some very subtle differences that it was okay for her to do. It’s not. Here is a great article explaining the ‘inspired by’ reality, that it’s still copyright infringement: Inspiration Versus Copying Artwork. And another on copied works being substantially similar to the original is still copyright infringement: Copying Artwork. I always wonder how they would feel if the roles were reversed? What if they labored over a painting, only to find someone else copied it, and was selling it as their ‘original’ artwork?

What To Do About Copycats and Art Thieves

I have always wondered what is the best way to handle art thieves. Am I doing it right? Should I just ignore them? Should I demonstrate that I value my work by speaking up? Should I simply ask them to knock it off, or should I try educating them a little bit as to why copying hurts both of our works of art? So I did a search of this subject online to see what my fellow artists do in such situations. I read this blog post on the site PaintingDemos.com, entitled ‘How To Deal With A Copycat‘. The article itself, as well as the comment section, was very insightful, and really resonated with my feelings on the subject. I know other artists struggle with this same situation so I wanted to share the link to the article. Have you experienced theft of your art? How do you handle it?