I receive a lot of emails from emerging artists who want advice about marketing themselves online. Thus, I've decided to start yet another series on the blog which I will call, My Art Advice. In this series I will tackle some of the questions I've been asked and I will give my advice about how emerging artists-- and artists in general --can utilize the Internet in order to gain exposure for their art.
The first topic I will deal with is copyright concerns and the fear of having work used without permission. A lot of artists that have contacted me are wary of the Internet in regards to how their uploaded art can be used by others. These artists know that they can gain exposure by uploading and displaying their art online, but they also have concerns that people may 'steal' or 'rip' their images. Thus, I will tackle this issue-- take my advice for what it is worth-- an artist giving advice to other artists. In other words, I'm not asking you to live by what I write... you must draw your own conclusions (no pun intended).
Let us look at this concern at face value. An artist desires for his or her work to be seen, but at the same time is wary that his or her work will be used without permission. While there are ways to protect your art online the simple truth is that if someone wants it bad enough they can work around any security guard that you have in place-- or they can find someone who can. Nothing is 100% safe on the world wide web. That is a risk we all take by uploading our work online-- it is a valid concern. However, by not displaying our work online we risk not being seen. Personally, I would rather run that gambit than risk total obscurity.
Allow me to explain... if I only displayed my art in brick & mortar galleries my work would only be viewed by a few hundred people per year depending on how many times I exhibit and where. By uploading my work to art sites and social networking sites I greatly increase the number of people who view my work at any given time. I know artists who rarely exhibit... yet they have had over 100,000 people (and growing) view their work online after being involved with the 'online art community' for just a few years. I won't drop names, but these artists went from having only a few hundred people viewing their work per year in person to having thousands view their work per month online. Would they be so well-known had it not been for uploading their work online? No. They took the risk and it paid off.
So here is my advice in regards to concerns about images being 'stolen' or 'ripped' online. Sometimes you just have to throw caution aside and look at the bigger picture (no pun intended). Displaying art online is vital to artists today-- especially for emerging artists, artists living in a rural or isolated area, and artists who have to work a day job and don't have the time to seek out brick & mortar opportunities. There is no excuse not to upload your work somewhere on the web when one considers all of the positive outcomes that may occur. Don't allow the fear of having an image used without permission keep you from having your work viewed by thousands that desire it and want to pay you for it -- or simply view it. This is crucial!
Experience tells me that there are really not that many major cases of artists having their work used without permission after uploading their work online. It is very rare for an individual or company to rip work online in order to profit from it. If it does happen and is discovered there are many legal steps that you can take if your images are used for profit without your permission. I'm not a lawyer-- do a google search for art law or copyright law.
Think of the Internet as a train that is heading toward the happy town of Potential Success. Thousands of artists hop aboard each day... do you want to be the one left behind? Don't get caught in the negatives. The success that can stem from displaying your work for the world to see far out-weighs the fear of someone abusing your images. The Internet allows artists to create a network of potential buyers/collectors and to keep in contact with other interested parties-- fellow artists... gallery owners. Those are opportunities that one can miss out on if he or she fails to take advantage of what the Internet can provide.
Don't like my train example? Fine... think of the Internet as a 'tool kit' for success. The features and capabilities of websites are all tools that you can use to 'build' your presence-- and dare I say, business. The tools are before you-- use them! You can worry about (and cash in on) copyright issues when and if someone earns a profit from your work.
Take care, Stay true,