I know there are people who think we are nuts to display our artwork on the internet. After all, it is just so easy to steal, when it is out there like that—that's the way the argument goes. I do think about that, but really, I can't get too worked up about it. It's not that I don't care about someone stealing my work, it's just that I'm not sure it is really that easy to do, or that profitable. And what do we mean by "stealing" the work—using the same idea or methods?—downloading the photo for some kind of use?—making a literal copy of the work?
Ed Maskevitch wrote a blog entry called "Only I can be me" which talks about how openly he shares his painting techniques and methods with students and others. He says, "As they tried to use my tools I could see their creativity begin to slowly open up. Each person was creating a variation on the methods. This was not because they were trying to vary it but because they were bringing who and what they were to the methods." It's not so easy to copy someone else's work or way of working.
Earlier this week someone named Virginia took me to task, in a blog comment, about the photo I took at the Allied Arts gallery. After I took the picture I saw a sign that requested no photos. I didn't take any more photos, but I did post the one I took on the blog. Virginia wrote, "why is this photo still here (with no artist credited), ready to be stolen by anyone who looks at your blog?" She has a point, in that I knowingly posted a photo that I was specifically directed not to take. Maybe I will remove the photo. I suppose this ethical lapse didn't really register with me because I find it so unlikely that anyone could "steal" this image and find a way to benefit from it. Could they, with the assistance of this photo, somehow duplicate that charming mug, reproduce it by the thousands and somehow make a pile of money from it? Pretty unlikely—and illegal (copyright, you know). They could steal the idea of a face on a mug, but that is not exactly an original idea to begin with.
Ironically, the same day I got Virginia's comment, I made an interesting discovery about some of my own work. Deborah mentioned Susan Carlson on her blog and provided a link to her web site. I have always loved Susan Carlson's work, so I clicked on the link and was both fascinated and a little horrified to find a series of pieces featuring beetles on her site. I was horrified because they were so similar to a series of beetles that I did several months ago. My anxiety came, not from any suspicion that she copied my work—I'm pretty sure she is not even aware of me or my work, nor does she need to troll the internet for ideas—but that other people would see both and assume that I had copied her. I didn't know about her beetles when I made mine. I have calmed down. Ideas are out there in the ether and there are very few truly original ideas left. But we are each original and the way we execute our ideas is what makes our work unique and hard for anyone else to duplicate.
Yes, I'm sure many of you can cite instances of image theft that constituted real or perceived harm. I know it could happen and I know my casual attitude could come back to bite me. I just don't think I can work up the paranoia to worry about it in the meantime.