One of the topics that comes up often among POD (Print on Demand) designers is how to avoid having our copyrights and intellectual property rights infringed against.
Another topic that comes up almost as often is what to do when we’re sent a notice that something we’ve created has infringed on someone else’s trademark, copyright, or intellectual property.
In either case, emotions run high, feelings are exercised, and it can sometimes be difficult to look past all the drama to the facts to determine what needs to be done to address what happened, and to discover if there’s any recourse.
Protecting Your Artwork
Are you worried, as a designer or artist, about your artwork being stolen? It’s happening more and more! Here are two free ways to discover if your artwork has been stolen:
Using Google Image Search is easy, but time consuming.
- upload a copy of your artwork image in the search bar, then search!
- keep track–maybe in a spreadsheet?–of every match that turns up that is not a proper use.
- Contact the websites that are misusing your images, file a takedown notice
- If a website is particularly egregious at misusing your images, it is also possible to contact major search engines (like Google) and request that they blacklist that website.
- Google also has a special form just for reporting scraper websites.
Pixsy says it’s by invitation only. What this means is that you have to give them your email address and when they’re ready to handle your searches, they’ll email you with login information so you can sign up for their services.
- allows you to load and track your first 5000 images for free
- allows you to determine how sensitive or broad the matching algorithm is
- allows you to ignore false matches and websites that are properly using your artwork
- will contact infringers on your behalf (but only if you haven’t first contacted them another way)
- once your images are loaded, they’re automatically tracked
- matching algorithm turns up a lot of false positives
- can’t do anything legally about infringements by overseas companies
- has limited ability to stop infringements by American companies*
- you may need to wait 24 hours for your search results to populate
- large images slow down the site and take forever to load
To get the best use out of Pixsy, I have discovered that it speeds loading (and search?) times to upload small/lower dpi images.
Do takedown notices work? Yes, most of the time. Do infringers become embarrassed and stop infringing? Not usually. They just find something else to rip off…
This is sad and disgusting because it would be so much better if they’d put in the effort and creativity to create their own artwork and content instead!
Why does Pixsy (and for that matter, why do we) have limited ability to stop infringements of our intellectual property and copyright?
This is because the last time intellectual property rights were addressed by a law was back before the turn of the century. Twenty years may not seem like a long time, but the internet has changed so drastically and dramatically that the laws are no longer adequate to protect our artwork and designs from theft, and there aren’t any penalties written into the law for those who steal them! The way the laws are written, it can even be argued that companies like Amazon are being incentivized to allow the theft of our designs, because they can profit twice: once when they make money from hosting the sale, and again when they’re notified that the artwork is stolen, and they claim the remaining income from the sale.
What can we do about this? Artists and designers are fighting back! We’re calling and writing our Senators and Congressmen, and educating them about how these thefts are hurting our income, and how it’s hurting the American economy. We’re asking them to write new laws to protect our intellectual property rights and give us legal recourse to collect damages for stolen artwork.
You can help us!
Click here to connect with your senators and congressmen and tell them to help us stop these thefts! While you’re talking to them, insist that they vote against TPP (a trade deal with China) that doesn’t do anything to protect us, and gives China even more opportunities to destroy our economy!
Only shop custom, print on demand products from recognized names in the industry.
Want more tips? Join Who Stole My Images? on Facebook.
Notifications of Copyright Infringement
The flip side of this copyright infringement issue always seems to catch designers by surprise.
You’re minding your own business, creating a great design, and you add some words to the design that sound amazing and go really well with the artwork, then you include them in the title, description and keywords, and–next thing you know, Zazzle’s sending you a notice that you’ve infringed on someone else’s trademark or copyright, and they’re deleting your product!
I don’t know about you, but–the first time it happened to me, I freaked out! What did I do wrong? How embarrassing! That artwork was original, how could they, etc… but there wasn’t any recourse, that product was GONE.
Then I found out that searching for trademark and copyright infringements has been automated at Zazzle. They’ve got this algorithm!
It’s nothing personal, no use whatsoever in getting offended or embarrassed or upset, just garbage in and garbage out–
And I discovered that usually these notifications pop up because of words used in the title, description or keywords, or a symbol used in the artwork. It doesn’t even have to be something that is under formal copyright.
Some designers have argued themselves blue in the face, for instance, over the utter lack of trademark or any rights at all to that red white and blue circle symbol that the RAF (Royal Air Force) wants to keep exclusively for its own use. The RAF has lost repeatedly in court in the UK on their home turf, but–Zazzle insists it still belongs to the RAF, and won’t let us use it!
Veteran designers advice:
It’s no use arguing over a possible infringement with Zazzle!
What is worth doing instead is contacting Zazzle about the disputed design to determine what caused the algorithm to take offense, so that it can be removed and replaced with text or artwork that doesn’t offend in future designs.
I also recommend searching possible word choices in the Trademarks database.