Thursday, September 18, 2008

Part II; Who Are These Art Thieves?

The image above was stolen and sold as a needlepoint pattern.

Art thieves on the internet come in several varieties. They range from petty thievery to outright art fraud crooks. At the lower end of the scale are the kids who post our artwork on websites, sometimes claiming it as their own and sometimes just displaying it with no credit given to the artist. Unfortunately, some of the websites that they post it on, such as Webshots, allow visitors to order prints of any images they find on the website. Thus they are taking income away from artists who may very well be selling prints of that same image.

The next tier of art thief is the older artist who ought to know better who copies our art and presents it as his/her own original art. But by far the bigger threat to artists' livelihoods come from those enterprising web mavins who steal our images and offer them on products on their own websites - or offer prints of them. Usually, the copyright notice (which most of us are forced to place on our artwork) is carefully and skillfully removed to protect the guilty. When caught, they usually claim that they found the art on a free clip art site or got it from someone else who said it was okay to use. Yeah, Right.

I happen to know about one such particularly brazen individual who was so blatant in stealing artwork and so defiant toward artists when she was caught that she is now being prosecuted by the federal government for fraud, among other things.

Ebay has become both the boon and the bane of many artists. It has become a favorite outlet of the top tier of art thieves; the Chinese art factories. They copy the artwork of other artists in assembly line fashion, reproducing hundreds of copies of the same painting. Then these copies are sold in the United States as originals to Walmart and other discount stores and at those "starving artist" sales in your local community. The "artists" are paid starving wages, all right; by our standards at least.

If you've ever bought a painting at one of those sales, you now know that you didn't help to support a starving local artist; you helped to support the Chinese government!

Next I'll share with you some of my own encounters with art thieves young and old.

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