Online Copyright infringement is a big topic of concern for visual artists. The fact is, anytime you put your art online, it is at risk of a copyright artist or other theft.

Even though my copyright has been infringed upon many times, I still believe the benefits outweigh the risks. There are ways to minimize the exposure.  Here is my interesting story of how I stopped a copycat artist on Facebook. Be sure and read the comments – they are as informative as the post!

How I Stopped a Copycat Artist on Facebook (Or so I thought!)

On Facebook I was reading some flattering comments that were made about one of my paintings by a Facebook ‘friend’ who called himself, “Beni Mellal” from Mexico. Out of curiosity, I decided to check out Beni’s paintings…much to my surprise, shock and horror, I realized Beni was a copycat artist and stealing my art!

copyright infringement, copyright law, art law, facebook art

Beni’s painting album proudly displayed exact copies of my original oil paintings complete with his signature in the lower left-hand corner. AND to make matters worse, there were glowing comments on Beni’s page complimenting him on his great art! He was a copycat artist of MY original artwork!

Below is my original painting, and above is the finished copycat version by, “Beni Mellal”…

“On Edge,” ©2007 Lori McNee

and here’s another…

Hummingbird & White Orchids ©2010 LMcNee

“Hummingbird & White Orchids,” ©2009 Lori McNee

…and another copy by Beni.flying hummingbird and orchids with vase still life

Once the initial ‘shock and awe’ wore off, here’s what I did to stop the copycat:

I  am not a lawyer, nor am I well versed in art law so I contacted a few well respected fine artists and a couple of popular art bloggers, for some extra advice.

My Facebook artist friend, Marc Hanson, was the first to respond, “You know he’s doing those for sale. That set up is caked with paint. I bet he turns these out frames ’em up and they go out for sale immediately. He’s a worker, a factory from the way it looks…I’d go public and post this stuff on Facebook and your blog too. Then you should write an article about it, ask other artists who may have had this happen also to contribute, and take a bite out of these folks.”

How I stopped the ‘copycat artist’:

  • I downloaded the incriminating images from Beni’s Facebook photo album.
  • As Marc suggested, I went ‘public’ on Facebook with a link titled, “Beware of Copycat Artist!” This title along with the images really grabbed the attention of the art community and sparked a lot of interesting comments! (Be sure to click on the highlighted link to see the many helpful responses.)
  • Here are a few interesting comments:
    • James Baldwin: Just thinking about this for a moment…..Isn’t Beni Mellal a city in Morroco??? So is this guy working under a pseudonym? This could be awkward re the copyright infringement.
    • Steve Farrow: Your right James. He is from Morocco. He signs his work by the name of Boukhani.
    • Ted W Bishop: There is some html code that can be put into a page to prevent right click copying, does not solve the problem all together, though it helps.
    • Chantal Desharnais Visual Artist: A watermark is useless as it can easily be removed in photoshop…
  • I reported the copycat artist to the Facebook  ‘Help Center’ and filled out this copyright form.

After which, Clint Watson from Fine Art Views contacted me. I told him about the above events and mentioned,”This is one reason why there are still artists who do not want a website or a Facebook page for fear of  this exact thing happening to them...” This statement inspired an interesting article by Clint entitled, “Don’t Fear the Copycat”.

Then Clint suggested that I give art law expert, Bill Frazer a call…and I did. This is what I learned about ‘copyright law’ from Bill:

  • Once an original piece of art is completed, it IS protected under current ‘copyright treaty law’.
  • The artist should sign the art with Name, copyright symbol © and the date of completion for added protection.
    • Bill’s example: ©2010 Lori McNee
  • It is advisable to add your copyright information on or below any published image of your art for added protection.
  • Upload only smaller, low resolution images (72 dpi) on the internet.
  • Your copyright information should also appear on each page of your website and/or blog.
  • The artist DOES NOT need to formally register a painting to be protected.
  • However, the artist will not be able to seek legal action without the formal registration.
  • The artist can add a ‘watermark’ directly to your image for added protection.
    • Bill personally finds watermarks annoying and not effective.
  • I could  file an ‘infringement lawsuit’, however this would be expensive and could take years!
  • The US Customs Office helps to stop plagiarizers who have operations out of the country ie. China, N. Korea, S. America, Africa, Thailand, Mexico and even Switzerland!
  • Artworks can be registered AFTER your copyrights have been infringed upon.

For more information Bill suggests to contact the US Copyright Office or email Bill Frazer at artlaw@mtintouch.net

BTW, the next day ‘Beni Mellal’ vanished from Facebook. I would like to thank all my Facebook artists and friends who helped to ‘stop the copycat artist’ and shut him down –  at least for now…

“Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism.” ~George A. Moore. Or maybe I should coin a new phrase,Plagiarism is the sincerest of flattery.

Has this happened to you? Share your story with us… Thanks, Lori

PS. Be sure and read the many helpful, impressive & professional comments on this article for more information on copyright…

Let’s connect on Twitter and Facebook and you can see more of my art here > Lori McNee Fine Artist.