art theft onlineIt is often upsetting when artists discover their creations are stolen, and used by someone else online. Sometimes the artworks are simply displayed on another website, without any credit to the artist. Other times the art theft may be more blatant, such as selling the image on postcards, posters, etc .

One of the best copy protection measures is to have a low resolution images, but even this isn’t failsafe.

At lower resolutions, the artwork is still large enough to be sold on keychains, ipod cases, greeting cards, and similar items. Also, watermarking may easily be cropped out with a photo editing program.


This is one of the easiest ways for artists to find stolen art displayed on other websites:
How to Check if your Art is Copied or Stolen With Google Image Search

What should artists do next, after they find out their art is used by someone else without permission or credit?


What to do About Online Art Theft


There are steps artists can go through without even hiring a lawyer.

  1. Document the stolen art

    Create a new folder, and name it Stolen Art or something similar.  On each page where  artworks appear, right-click and choose “Save as”. Make sure “web-page complete” shows in the box. The full page now appears in the folder, and can be printed if needed. This is proof, in case the perpetrator later decides to remove or block access to the page.

  2. Find the names and emails of the art thief

    First of all, check for “About” pages and any contact information which may be found. If the offending page is in another language, go to Google Translate for a translation. Search for names, post authors, even sharing buttons. Some sharing buttons lead to social networks, such a Linkedin, Google+, and Facebook, including more complete information about a person. Artists may even have to go as far as temporarily adding them as friends, in order to gain access to contact information, or to send the message detailed in the second step.

    whois stolen artWhois is a great source for finding the email address and other contact information of the offending party.

    Go to Networksolutions. Simply enter the domain name of the website, in the format we have shown.  Contact information should appear. Save this in the same folder where the full webpage was downloaded.

  3. Send an email to the artwork thief

    email keyboardAvoid commenting publicly on their site or anywhere else. Before doing anything, the best practice is to directly contact the art thief.   Most times the matter is resolved by sending a warning email directly to the inbox of the person who is stealing your art. To ensure the perpetrator receives the letter, it should be sent to every single email account retrieved associated with the art thief.

    If the artwork thief can be found on social networks like Facebook, consider sending them a private message. 
    This is what to include in the warning email:

    • Let the art thief know that YOU are the creator of the artwork
    • Include the url’s of the page(s) where the stolen art appears
    • State a webpage you own where your art is displayed. I would advise including a site here with good copy protection, and also watermarked images, in case the perpetrator may retaliate by stealing more.
    • Inform them that the artwork is copyrighted, and stealing copyrighted material is illegal.
    • The artist may either ask for a credit link to their artist website, financial compensation (if it appears the person made money from the artwork), or complete removal.
    • Set a deadline for a response between 5-7 days.

  4. Wait for a return email

    Sometimes the response is in the form of an apology, credit link, or removal.

    Remember that:
    • There are many who are unaware of copyright laws.
    • The image may have even retrieved from another site where no credit was given.
    • The person may be sincerely interested in your art. If this is the case, there is always the option of letting the person know they are welcome to post your art, as long as the source link is given.

    If no response is received, then it is time to take further action.

  5. Stronger Art Thievery Warning

    The next letter should be more stern. Mention the exact consequences of failure to comply.

    • Contacting their host
    • Making a complaint to their advertising companies
    • Filing legal action, but only if you are serious about doing so.

    Give them about 5-7 days to reply to this email also.

  6. Filing Complaints to DMCA

    dmca stolen artDepending on where the website resides, action can be taken by sending a letter to the host, and advertising providers.


  • The web hosting company
    They may be found by the use of the Whois service, as described earlier. Email them and include all evidence of the image theft, also including evidence of ownership.
  • Blogger or Wordpress
    Touch People with your Art - Click Here!If the site is hosted on Google Blogger or free Wordpress, even if it is in a foreign country, the page can be removed by filing a complaint at Blogger DMCA or Wordpress DMCA. Other free websites may offer similar services. Just perform a search on Google for the site name followed by DMCA complaint form.
  • Advertisers 
    If ads are shown on the website, then the art thief may be making unauthorized advertising revenue from your artworks. Find out the name of the company, go to Google search, and enter the company name followed by DMCA complaint form. When filling out forms, try to keep it short and include source url’s for evidence.

Hopefully, all these steps will stop the art thief from posting art without credit.

The best way to avoid all this is to start using methods to protect art. We have some of these listed here:

How to Protect Art From Online Theft

Post a Comment Blogger

  1. The painting in the picture above was added in Photoshop... so it looks small!

    The actual painting measures 4X5'!!

  2. Art theft is really hard to overcome without the help of others, especially since it's become less likely websites will directly help with taking down copyright infringements.

    What if I don't want to file a DMCA report (and subsequently provide sensitive information about my person) in order to have a repost of my art taken down?

    What if the thief simply refuses to even acknowledge the fact that they stole and blocks me from contacting them, or reports me for spam because I emailed them out of the blue because they never disclosed their email publicly?

    What if the barriers websites put in place to protect their users only serve to lock out the aspiring artists while thieves get off scot free?


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