Is that online art stolen?

The internet makes it possible to sell art in a way that never existed before. An artist who gains traction on social media can quickly create a following for their work and, even if that work is not famous in the modern art scene, they can sell prints quickly online. For many types of folk art, people don’t care about having originals, so the same piece can be sold over and over again.

That’s the upside. The downside, though, is that selling things using digital files also means that people will steal them and sell fake copies on their own. This is a violation of the artist’s intellectual property rights, but it can be difficult to track down.

Sometimes, the sellers try to brand the art as their own. They run the same type of storefront, claim they made the paintings or drawings, and basically try to build up the same following as the original artist, though with stolen work.

In other cases, though, they change the format. An artist may make print copies that are intended to be framed, for example, but the digital files could be stolen and printed on greeting cards, coffee mugs, blankets, and much more. One woman who is well-known for her work drawing simple scenes with pets said that a company stole her art and started making t-shirts out of it.

So, while the internet does make sales easier, it also makes theft easier. Those who find that their work has been taken, used or sold without their permission need to make sure they are well aware of all of the legal steps they can take. If your business interests have been hurt by online art theft or another form of intellectual property theft, find out what steps to take next.

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