….and reasons why it’s critical to watch what you put on the internet

As an artist I understand that a creative professional’s design work, photography, website, etc. are like our babies, we work really hard making them perfect and then you birth them into the world and hold your breath as they grow. Sometimes the work is used effectively and you get see it at its fullest potential meeting the clients highest expectations, and sometimes you see it used, misused, altered, and floating around the internet. But this post isn’t just for creative professionals; the same can go for any industry with products, services, etc. Whatever you produce is your baby until it meets the world..

Putting your work online is a gamble.

putting your work onlineI was reminded of this ‘your work is your baby’ analogy  by a recent exchange on Facebook. A photographer’s work was snatched from their blog, doctored by adding text, and then posted on Facebook. The photographer and the subjects of the photo did not want it on Social media and photographer was pretty upset when she saw the post. I won’t mention names or repost the photo, but it became a very sensitive/ heated conversation. If you saw a cute out take photo of the baby sleeping on dad as he served as the prop, then you know what I’m talking about.

Either way the conversation took a number of twist and turns, but the bottom line was the photographer did not understand how and why someone would do this to her work without permission. She even went on to threaten legal action, site copyright laws, etc.  I am in no way defending the person who did this, but the #1 rule of the internet is once your work hits the net it takes on a life of its own. Much like letting a kid loose in the playground; children go out and play meet other children, run to the slide, swing on the swing, and enjoy life. The good thing about kids and playgrounds is they don’t go far and they always comeback, unfortunately the internet is not so forgiving.

Have your images or work ever been “Catfished”?

Every designer, artist, musician, photographer, etc. has experienced the “borrowing”, destruction, misuse, and downright disrespect of their work; it’s one of those occupational hazards we deal with. With the boom of social media, internet, instagram, snap chat, and other tools that make it even easier for the average user to save a picture, make changes, and repost as their own these incidents have increased greatly. Remember the ugly face picture of Beyonce from the Super bowl performance, by the end of that week I saw the same picture and Beyonce was green with  muscles like the incredible Hulk ( isn’t photo shop great) . Many times this is not done to be malicious or break a law, but it’s really because the person thinks it’s funny or cute. Most aren’t familiar with fair use and copyright laws and they aren’t trying to discredit the creator of the work or make a profit it’s just to share (since that’s what facebook wants us to do any way right?). It’s just like the kids at the playground sometimes they come back a little different then you sent them out there, like with a bruised knee, ripped jean, or lost hair bow.

So what’s an business website owner to do?

Here are few quick tips about protecting your work/products on line and ways to possibly avoid the unwelcome exchange I saw this week”

  1. Accept the inevitable. Tt’s going to happen if it’s on your blog website whatever, it may make it to twitter, Facebook and beyond
  2. If the response if good say thank you and claim it, if not distance yourself from it even remove from your site or original posting.
  3. Only put up work you would want your highest paying client to see.  If it’s not your best or not ready don’t post. Read my recent post on building a portfolio website for more tips on what work should and should not go on your site.
  4. Get the clients permission to post everywhere, not just certain place. In the story above the clients said OK to the blog, but not social media. There is no way to control where right-click save will lead you so it’s best not to post at all.
  5. Don’t be fooled by the security of watermarks and anti-saving programs. These may deter some stealing, but they won’t stop screen captures, advanced Photoshop skills, folks taking pictures of pictures.
  6. Know when to fight it. Although theft is inevitable you don’t always have to walk away, if you can identify a culprit and or if another business is making money off of your work then you better fight it, send letters get lawyers, whatever. A Facebook share is one thing but defamation and profit stealing is a whole other ball game.
  7. Don’t post or show off the work until you clients have revealed it first. I’ve seen to many times where a new logo or web design is on the designer’s website before it hits the clients.

The bottom line is to succeed in the online marketplace you have to put your work online. You can’t keep your work from everywhere on the internet just like you can’t hold a kid back on the playground, but you can take steps to make sure it is ready and keep it safe. And just like with kids unpredictable things will happen, and sometimes it may be worse than a trip to the playground.