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Tips to help prevent art theft

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Joined: 26 Dec 2005
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 10:36 pm    Post subject: Tips to help prevent art theft Reply with quote

How to prove that art is yours if you have been accused of stealing your own art.

Here are just some ideas I had, they're not all original but I wanted to put them all into a collection to help people prevent this serious problem.
recently I've been increasingly paranoid about art theft, not because I think my work is awesome and worth stealing, but because I've been experimenting with lots of different styles and techniques, and learning to use new tools in photoshop. So I've producing work which look vastly different to a lot of the other works in my gallery, and I don't want to be accused of stealing art that I've actually done myself.

Ok here are my tips. Keep in mind that you shouldn't mention them until someone has actually stolen your work and you have to prove it's yours. They're not all 100% effective, the crafty art theif will find a way around them, but if you use a combination you should manage to stay on top of it.

1. Establish your Identity.
Have a profile on FAC, DA or another art sharing site, and post a little about yourself on your profile. This doesn't have to be anything personal, it should just include the things you like to draw and your main influences. You can also list your favourite shows, which will tell people what they're likely to see in your gallery, and what programs or materials you usually use/have access to. It's also good to have a few friends to chat to who can vouch for the fact that you are an active member of the site, because if your profile is blank and had no comments but your gallery suddenly has a bunch of amazing pics, people will be more likely to think that they aren't yours. You should also list any other sites that you have uploaded your art onto, and what your username is on those sites, as well as any other site owners that you have allowed to display your art.
Pros - Helps to make you a "believable" artist.
Cons - Takes a bit of effort, but well worth it.

2. Screen Grabs/scans/photos.
Save pics of your screen as you're doing the work (if you use digital media), or failing that, save your work in stages. If you draw your work, scan it in stages, or take a photo of yourself with the drawing (if you're camera shy, it can just be your arm. You can even put the pencils/erasers/pens and other drawing materials that you used in the background.)
Pros - Excellent "proof" that you made the art yourself.
Cons - May take up space on your pc.

3. Personal Marks.
Signatures, watermarks, links to your site etc. work well, but make sure you use them consistently. If half the pics in your gallery have these and the other half don't, people looking at your gallery are more likely to think something's amiss. And Make sure you have a plain pic of just your signature/stamp/watermark on your profile page.
Pros - Very "Personal". if the stolen art still has these on it, you will be more likely to convince people that it's actually yours.
Cons - Easy to edit out.

4. Original Upload.
If possible, upload your pic onto an art sharing site like FAC or DA a few days before you upload it anywhere else. Sites like these show the date that you uploaded it and give you the opportunity to write a description of the pic, so be sure to include something along the lines of "This is my art and the original upload." If you can, keep a personal record of the dates and sites on which you post each of your artworks (like in a word document).
Pros - If the date of your upload is before the date of the theif's upload, then that's a strong piece of evidence in your favour.
Cons - If you don't keep a record, it may be hard to determine when and where you uploaded your pic first.

5. Colour Bar
This is an idea I had that may be a little bit messy and time consuming, but if done correctly it should prove that the stolen pic has been edited. It involves making a tiny pixel "bar" that looks similar to the CMYK print test bars found on newspapers, and works like a signature. It should only be about 10 pixels long, and each pixel should be a different colour from the one next to it. You should record each colour's hex triplet (this is the six digit # that you get when you use the colour picker/eyedropper on a program like photoshop. It includes both letters and numbers).

Also, make the pixels a variety of colours and make at least one of the pixels Black (#000000) and another White (#FFFFFF). I'm going to use this code as an example:

The codes for these 10 colours are: #FFCC00, #CFB53B, #4B5320, #228B22, #000000, #FFFFFF, #008080, #C9A0DC, #FF77FF, #960018.
Now, once your picture is finished, hide a few of these tiny bars in your pic and save. Really try to make them unnoticable to an art theif. If an art theif resizes, edits or saves a low-quality or low-resolution version of your pic, the colours will be different or blurred into each other. So when someone accuses you of being the theif, all you have to do is show them your original, and say "I hid some colour bars in my character's hat/sleeve/cape. It's ten pixels long and the codes are......" So the person who has accused you of being the theif can compare your pic and the one submitted by the real theif using the colour picker/eyedropper.
Pros - Will very accurately show that a pic has been edited, particularly if the black and white pixels are not "Black" (#000000) and "White" (#FFFFFF).
Cons - A bit time-consuming, there may not be many places to hide the colour bar, may be slightly imposing to your pic.

6. Easter Eggs
This works a lot like the Colour Bar, and involves you "hiding" small shapes in your art, to show that you did it on purpose when you were making the art. Again, you should hide them well so a potential art theif won't notice.
For example his is a piece of the background of one of my pics:

If you magnify it, you will find:

So if someone accuses you of stealing the real theif's art, you can say "Magnify this area and you will see that I hid these shapes/letters..."
Pros - Less time consuming and imposing than the Colour Bar method.
Cons - Less accurate than the Colour Bar method.

7. Description
Art sites like FAC and DA give you the option of writing a description of your work. Make the effort to write a detailed description, as this will make the fact that it is your work more believable, as opposed to an art theif who hasn't written much of a description. If you have made fan art of a particular character, include some info about that character, list what media and programs you used, how long it took, and any references or influences. It really helps to be honest here, for example if you write "This is a request of a Naruto character. I don't know much about Naruto but you can ask *insert requestee's name here* for more info" or "I'm not very good at poses so I copied the pose from a Yu-Gi-Oh screenshot", people will appreciate your honesty and find you a more likely candidate to be the real artist.
Pros - Makes you seem like an open, honest person, and shows that you know about the thing that you've drawn.
Cons - Takes a bit of time and effort, but it well worth it.

8. Photobucket and other sites
If you want to put your art on Photobucket or another image hosting site, upload it onto an art sharing site first, so you will have the date of the original upload. Then, once you get onto your image hosting site, be sure to upload your pic into a private album. Give your pic the same title as you gave it on the art sharing site (eg Sailor Moon holding a rose), rather than just click to add title.
Pros - Will help convince people that you were the original uploader.
Cons - Not as convincing as other methods.
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Evil Overlord

Joined: 31 Dec 1969
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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For those who do digital art and use layers or objects, the original Photoshop (or whatever) file usually works well.

For print work, a scan in a higher res than the one on the site can work -- you can't raise the res of an existing image -- well, you can, but the quality will not be any better without doing a tonne of cleanup so we can tell.
You will obey or molten silver will be poured into your ears.
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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know you guys can tell, but people also have their work stolen from FAC and put onto sites where the owners may not have the same experience/resources.
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