Whether you went to art school or spent many years honing your skills with practice, you have invested substantially into your skills as an artist, creator or designer. Maybe you created some unique designs for shirts, posters or kitchenware. You could also have some beautiful photographs or unique works of original art.
You may sell them locally or on your own website with enough success to make you happy. Then, someone sends you a link. It turns out that some unscrupulous business has copied your design and now there are many items almost identical to your own listed for sale on eBay or Etsy.
Too many creators immediately assume that they don't have any authority to take action over this kind of intellectual property theft. However, someone using your idea or original art could be a violation of your intellectual property rights or the copyright that exists on original art you published online.
How do you know what has protections and what doesn't?
There is a lot of misinformation floating around in the world about intellectual property. One of the most pervasive is the idea that only those who file for copyright protections on individual works of art have legal protections. However, that is not how copyright law works.
Yes, it is possible for those who create art to register a copyright. That registration process creates a federal record of your original creation. However, anything from publishing an image on your social media account to uploading new products to your website with a design on them also creates an informal copyright.
From the minute you publish an original work, you have basic copyright protections as a citizen of the United States. When other people attempt to steal your original art for their own profit, that violates your copyright, even if you never filed for a formal copyright.
An attorney can help you push back against digital theft
Sometimes, you get lucky when you open a case with eBay or Etsy and receive excellent support and service. They may take down the offending products or even ban the person who violated your copyright. More often than not, there will be a delay and difficulty as you attempt to assert yourself as the original holder of the copyright.
Instead of relying on these marketplace websites to protect you, you might want to consider sitting down with an attorney. A lawyer who understands intellectual property and copyright law can help you protect your work.
From filing a copyright request on your behalf to sending a cease-and-desist letter to the individual or company stealing your work, a lawyer can help you navigate the complex process of resolving issues related to intellectual property and copyrights.