Those of you who follow @PetArtist4u or Meredith London Pet Portraiture on social media may have noticed that lately, that I’ve been adding a watermark to my finished pieces. I’ve watched others do this for years but until recently, I felt a little funny about adding it to my own work. Mostly, I felt that to those viewing my art, it implied that I felt I was “that good” for someone to actually want to steal my work and make money off of it. That seemed to me a little high-fallutin’. After all, I think we can all agree I am no Rembrandt. My artwork will not garner millions (or even several thousands) of dollars – at least not at this point in my career. But, after this latest blatant plagiarizing of photos on Instagram, I got to thinking. This isn’t about the art. It is about commercialism. Call it what you want, using images that were created by someone else without their permission, and putting your own name on them – is plainly “stealing”. To me, it’s cut and dry. In my opinion, this is ethically deplorable – I mean if you need to steal someone else’s creativity – either develop your own art brand or pick another profession that allows you to earn a living. Seems like a no brainer, right. But, there are those out there who do not agree. Some people believe that if someone posts a photo/painting on the Internet – it is free for all to do with what they want. That is SO NOT TRUE. When a piece of art leaves my studio, it leaves with a little piece of me. I take great pride in what I create. And for me, it’s actually less about the money (although that’s a part of it) than it is about someone else putting their name on something that I’ve created.
Personally, I’ve tried to be very careful not to infringe on copyright when using reference photos off the internet. I’ve credited where I was asked to, I’ve paid the appropriate fees and I’ve requested permission from the photographer to use other images. And I understand that these rules are in place for a reason. A photo/painting/other art, even if it bears your own image, requires the permission of the creator to use for commercial purposes. Even if you purchase a piece of art from an artist – you are legally obligated to request permission to copy it for commercial reasons. That is why many artists make prints of their work available. While IP rights are constantly being challenged in an ever-changing social media environment, to me, it is as simple as “if you didn’t make it, you should’t take it” (without proper permission from the maker – that is). And, with those IP challenges regularly presenting themselves, I guess I’ll feel a little more comfortable adding the watermark. It’s just light layer of “protection” in a world of questionable and nefarious internet trollers looking to make a quick buck off of someone else.