Ask The Artsperts … Fine Art Copyright Infringement
by Kristine Meek and Juliana Meek
I am an artist and my social media posts have become very popular, but I also discovered that someone has taken images of my work from the internet and is now selling it as reproductions.
It is exciting for an artist when their work is so well embraced that images of their works are shared and liked by millions on social media. We have a few artists who have gone viral on social media. Artists
like Will Barnet (1911-2012) and Hunt Slonem were well-known and reputable before social media and now with social media, their work continues to grow in popularity with tagging, shares, posts, and views.
We also represent a young artist, Reynier Llanes, whose professional reputation is growing concurrently with his popularity on social media.
While museums, art critics, and art patrons are embracing Reynier’s work, social media is also excited about his work. We asked him if he knew just how many times images of his more popular works have been shared, but he replied that he couldn’t even keep up with it. One painting in particular, The Poet, was sold into private collection a few years ago but its social media presence continues to grow. It is so well loved that other artists have copied the image or used it as inspiration in their own work. In these instances, the artists tag and give full credit to Reynier’s original work. One individual posted that she made a cake with a design inspired by The Poet. This is all positive, and Reynier is flattered. These artists are not financially benefiting from using his work.
The flipside of social media popularity and countless shares of Reynier’s The Poet is that it unfortunately is being used in unauthorized ways for financial benefit. For example, a musician is using the work without permission as the cover for their album and sellers on Amazon are selling reproductions of The Poet without permission.
Amazon hosts millions of sellers and is aware of copyright infringement issues. Amazon makes it relatively easy for large corporations to combat counterfeit items on Amazon. It is not such an easy process for independent artists though. The process requires submitting a removal request form. According to a 2019 article by Nicole Nguyen in BuzzFeed, this process is slow, and artists complain that requests get denied even though there is a clear infraction. Artists also complain that it becomes a whack-a-mole scenario. When Amazon does remove the seller and the infringing item, the item will often reappear almost immediately under a different seller’s name. This forces the artist to submit another removal request for the new seller. There is no process for an independent artist to submit an image of their work and tell Amazon not to allow any sales of items using this image.
Unfortunately, until Amazon changes their procedure, the best we can advise is to include a statement on your website and in your social media bio that you have not given anyone permission to sell items with
images of your work. This would at least help raise awareness among your followers.
ABOUT THE ART: The Poet by Reynier Llanes, oil on canvas, 47″ x 36″, 2021. The image of this work has gone viral on social media. The positive is how people continue to enjoy and discuss this work. The negative is when people try to benefit financially using the image of this work without permission.
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