Plagiarism is the action of exactly copying another person’s work without their express permission. It happens most often to the creative work of artists. If you’re an artist yourself, you’re probably well aware of how useful the internet is for marketing your art. Unfortunately, you’re also familiar with how easy it is for your work to be plagiarized. The following information will help you protect your creative work from theft on the internet.
What to do when someone has plagiarized your work
If the theft has already happened, the best course of action to take is to determine whether you’re actually dealing with copyright infringement or not.
Under “fair use,” another person can use your copyrighted work for comedic purposes or for commentary. If the plagiarized work doesn’t fall under those categories and if it exists in a user-generated content site (e.g. a video on Youtube, a song on Soundcloud, or handcrafted home accessories on Etsy, etc.), then you should immediately send them a DMCA takedown notice.
In the case of a large-scale company infringing upon your work, you need to send them a cease and desist letter. In your letter, detail your proof of ownership and copyright over the work, a link to or screenshot of the aforementioned infringement, and a request to remove it from their website.
How to protect your work from plagiarism
License your work: By licensing your work, you’re essentially allowing people to use it under a set of terms and conditions outlined by you. This gives you control over the method and frequency of its distribution.
Document your process: To prove that you yourself created the work and own its copyright, you must thoroughly document the process of how the work came to be. This includes drafts, sketches, work-in-progress photographs, and photos of the finished work.
Watermark your work: If you’re not too concerned about defacing your work, the best way to protect it is to place a large watermark over it.
Register in the U.S. Copyright Office: Registering a copyright for your work in the U.S. Copyright Office requires you to pay a small fee. This protects it by making you eligible to receive statutory damages of up to $30,000 if the court finds that the offending party is guilty of plagiarism.
Disable right-click on your website or blog: If you routinely post your art on a personal website or blog, you should use a script that will prevent visitors from saving a copy of it. Even if more skilled plagiarists can work around this method, this can still effectively deter a majority of people from theft.
Upload small, low-resolution copies of your art: High-quality versions of your art will entice thieves to steal it. Dissuade would-be plagiarists by uploading small, low-resolution copies that they won’t be able to do much with.
Affix a copyright notice: Copyright notices won’t completely stop people from stealing your work, but it will still discourage plagiarists from theft if they aren’t familiar with the law. Tack one on to a visible area of your website or on the artwork itself.
Protect your art from theft with these practical strategies that prevent plagiarism.