What can you do when someone sells your original art online?

The internet makes it infinitely easier for creative professionals to reach people interested in what they produce. Social media, specialized marketing sites and even personal blogs can all help artists and other creators connect with their intended audiences. You can quickly build a small business with your art or creative concept by targeted marketing and social media use.

Unfortunately, while the internet makes it easier for creators to get their ideas out there, it also makes it easier for other people to steal ideas or images. Works of art and other visual forms of intellectual property shared online all too often become a means for someone else to make money off of your concept and work.

For example, some fly-by-night t-shirt company could steal a work of your original art and sell it printed on t-shirts, mugs or even framed canvases. Ebay, Etsy and Amazon are home to countless products that infringe on the intellectual property rights of others.

You have rights to the things you create

The law in the United States recognizes the value that creative professionals contribute to society. By safeguarding the intellectual property of writers, musicians, visual artists and other creative professionals, trademarks, copyrights and similar legal protections motivate people to keep creating by protecting their right to capitalize on their work.

In order to officially have copyright or trademark protection for a piece of intellectual property, you have to submit documentation to the federal government, along with money to cover the costs of filing. However, you have copyright protection under the law the minute you produce something and publish it for other people. You don't have to register your copyright for it to protect you, although registration certainly helps.

Just because you share an image online does not mean that you give up all the creative rights that come with producing art. Instead, the act of sharing actually provides a digital record of when you published your intellectual property.

You can take legal action when someone uses your intellectual property

Depending on the circumstances, you have a number of different legal rights when someone intentionally misappropriates your intellectual property. Working with an attorney who understands the complexities involved in protecting intellectual property can help you make the right decisions.

From serving a cease-and-desist notice to collecting documentation of the profits and sales related to the use of your creation, an attorney can help you build a case to connect with compensation. Anyone who profits off of your creation can be held accountable in court. You may be able to request both the profits they made from your creations, as well as damages for the impact the theft had on your company's sales or potential sales.

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