We asked four emerging artists if they’ve ever had their work stolen online

Has instagram become the ultimate corporate moodboard?

[S]ocial Media has been known to help and increase artistic ability. With the rise of visual platforms such as Instagram, people around the globe are carefully designing an identity for themselves and their work by sharing photographs and videos for millions of people to see. So what does this mean for the emerging freelance creatives? If artists, photographers and designers are potentially sharing their work with billions of people are they vulnerable to getting their ideas stolen? Are the rights to our images and ideas automatically given up as soon as we share content online? In today’s society if we want anything, we turn to the Internet. With 2.8 billion Internet users, its hard to control who is viewing our profiles and for what reasons, so is there anyway to monitor this?

Adam Kurtz's work was stolen by Zara

Over the last few years there’s been a number of reports where major corporate companies have been accused of stealing ideas and photographs from creatives across the globe. Swedish photographer Tuana Aziz was shocked when he found that a photo he had posted on instagram in 2011 has been screen-printed to a T-shirt and sold in Mango high street clothing stores. He later checked the retailer’s website and found that it was available for £8.99. The company apparently removed the shirt after Aziz complained, but he captured and shared a screengrab with his Instagram followers to raise awareness to this issue.

Kesh fell victim to Versace

Another incident occurred when artist and designer Kesh, found that one of her designs was being imitated by Versace in 2015. The LA based designer was horrified when she found out that one of her original t-shirt designs (which retailed for $30) was being sold by for $650 across all Versace stores. So what does this mean for the future of sharing work online? Are our ideas and images protected in anyway? Is any content safe? We spoke to a range of creatives from around the globe to hear their thoughts on whether instagram has become a corporate mooboard for larger companies to manipulate and steal young artists work with no legal obligations or if it was just something they have to accept.

Adam Kurtz, Artist & Author, Brooklyn, New York @adamjk

Have you ever had any photos taken or imitated online without permission?

This happens constantly. It’s part due to the way art spreads online – unattributed and to communicate feeling. Work is used as an emoji is. As digestible, free-use, emotive imagery. Creating art to emote through is a big part of what I personally do with my art, but that doesn’t mean my work is free to the world.

I kept quiet when the @zara-owned store @bershkacollection stole my pin art last month bc artists always lose these battles. I don't have money for a lawyer??? so I bought a set of the knockoff pins — which also included fakes of @gpez & @bigbudpress — and didn't post about it. . but today I am so grateful to my friend @tuesdaybassen who, after actually doing what you're "supposed" to do (trying to work with a lawyer to fight her own infringement case with ZARA), decided enough was enough and shared their totally offensive reply. their lawyers boiled it down to "we are big and you are small" in the face of very clear theft of like 5 of her products! she shared her experience and it's been blowing up online all day. you can read about it on buzzfeed, jezebel, daily mail, cosmopolitan, fader, mtv and many other outlets. . in the meantime, I compiled a page of all the other artists whose copyrights have been infringed upon for other current products. at first I didn't realize but it's over a dozen different independent artists, the type that post their work on instagram with hashtag #pingame and all that. @zara and their major international stores @bershkacollection @pullandbear & @stradivarius have stolen from all of us at the same time, which is how you know. once is an error. a dozen times is routine. how did nobody question the decision? how did none of the trend forecasters at the world's largest apparel retailer (which includes several subsidiary companies) think "hmm idk looks familiar!" . I don't really know what will happen. personally? I kinda feel like "well ok I have a new book coming out and like, I'm busy, lol bye!!!!" but many of the artists affected by this only make one or two pins or patches. some of these artists handpaint their products themselves (like @ivonnabuenrostro who I love so much). . we can support all the original artists by purchasing directly from them and I've created a handy shopping guide at ? shoparttheft.com

A photo posted by Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) on

Do you do anything to protect your original imagery?

I have filed copyrights on some of my personal highlights, which means that if legal action is ever required, I have a stronger case. Luckily I also work with a major publisher for my book art. I imagine it’s pretty hard to fuck with Penguin Random House.

Do you think the way people use instagram has changed?

I don’t know if Instagram has changed so much as more people are just on it. It’s a true platform for communicating quickly, and so it’s holding all sorts of content from all sorts of people.

If you had advice to give to other young creatives sharing work online like yourself, what would it be?

Know that good work strikes a nerve, which is what “viral” really means, and that is super exciting when that happens. Also know that once you put it out there, someone is probably going to try and steal it and sell it on a print-on-demand site, or repost it to their 9 million follower Instagram account, or even remix/collage it. That’s just how it happens. Try to pay attention to it but then, also not. Unless it’s super gross.

based on a true story ??

A photo posted by Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) on

Ava Nirui, Artist & Photographer, 25, New York @avanope

cool ?

A photo posted by @avanope on

Have you ever had any photos taken or imitated online without permission? Or seen it happen to anyone else?

My photos are reposted at least twice a day. Most of the time people credit me, but I’ve noticed people taking credit for my work quite a few times. I’ve also seen people recreating my photos and taking inspiration from my work which I actually think is really exciting. I’ve become almost desensitized to uncredited reposts because it’s occurred so frequently however I’m lucky to have friends and followers who are kind enough to tag me in the comments. All in all, I can’t really critique the nature of social media because I’ve been given a platform to express myself that I would not have had otherwise, despite the pitfalls. Even though posting my work sometimes results in the ambiguity of ownership and suspension of credit, It’s a place where I can promote my creativity and distribute my ideas for free.

Do you do anything to protect your original imagery?

Not really. Some artists put their accounts on private to protect their images, but I think this limits your exposure to new and broader audiences. I think it’s really hard to prevent people stealing your intellectual property given the scale of Instagram. The majority of the time, people are not intentionally trying to disregard you as an artist or photographer by not tagging you — photos and credits get lost in the chain cycle of reposting, sometimes they are pulled from an uncredited post on Tumblr or Twitter. I think it’s just a matter of being aware that once your photos are posted online, there’s a possibility they will be shared without your name attached. It’s just the nature of the internet.

It would also be extremely hypocritical of me to go after someone for stealing my ideas because my work is entirely based around bootlegging designers. However, I’ve had a couple of strange experiences where people claimed I took their ideas or concepts on Instagram. For example, I posted a pair of jeans I made which featured a rip off Nike logo. Shortly after a small-scale street-wear brand commented claiming they did it first even though I had never encountered or heard of their line before. Nike is the most prolific athletic brand in the world and there have probably been thousands of riffs on the brand logo — no one can claim someone is “copying” them when they are in fact technically ripping of another brand. I regularly see other people online who bootleg and repurpose designer goods, but the idea of them “copying” me would never even cross my mind. Creatives are a community of people who, while respecting other people’s visions, remix and rework old and new ideas all the time. There’s a constant build and development of artistic content on and off the internet, and without re-imagining the concepts of creatives, we can never progress and evolve as a society.

hittin the ?!!

A photo posted by @avanope on

Do you think the way people use Instagram has changed?

I think people have become lazy with the way they use Instagram lately. Repost and inspiration accounts are becoming more and more popular and people feel like they can increase their follower count and popularity through the viral nature of other peoples images. There’s a convenience that goes with redistributing unoriginal photographs.

Instagram has completely revolutionized the way we receive and consume information. We’re living in a socialist age where content is digitalized and distributed independently by the artist, free of backing and promotion from media corporations or external networks. Everyone has an equal opportunity to market themselves on the internet. This breeds a sense of fearlessness and empowerment of artists and creatives online which then results in the increase of creative content and ideas.

If you had advice to give to other young creatives sharing work online like yourself, what would it be?

If someone reposts your photo online, yes it’s a violation of copyright, but don’t dwell on it. If your work is being reposted or imitated, you should be flattered. If you are sensitive to people stealing and sharing your images, I would advise against publishing your work on Instagram.

mm nah

A photo posted by @avanope on

Chloe Sheppard, photographer, 20, London @eolhcsheppard

Another old one of Sylvie ?✨

A photo posted by Chloe Sheppard (@eolhcsheppard) on

Have you ever had any photos taken or imitated online without permission? Or seen it happen to anyone else?

I have photos taken on instagram all the time. It doesn’t phase me so much though, because when I was a lot younger I used to post a lot of ‘inspiration’ photos without credit. Mostly because I found them off tumblr etc, and there was no credit on them so I’d just repost without bothering to look for the creator. I’ve seen my photos on tumblr too without credit, and it doesn’t annoy me too much because it’s sort of flattering! However it’s a bit lame when there’s like 20,000+ notes on them and no one knows who it’s by. I saw recently that Signe Pierce had some stuff imitated by a big company, I think she posted about it on her instagram a couple of weeks ago. I also used to follow an illustrator that did a lot of nail decals, and they got copied constantly, by normal high street shops and also by people on Etsy too. Unless you’re a major company I think it’s too easy to get away with!

Do you do anything to protect your original imagery?

Not really. People always say I should watermark my photos, but I think it ruins them. I try and have a lot of negative space within my pictures. If people want to use my photos on their blogs or instagrams it’s fine, it’s almost a compliment I guess. As long as they’re not claiming it as their own work then I’m not too fussed.

Do you think the way people use instagram has changed?

Definitely. I think a lot more people now see it a business opportunity, rather than just a place to post pictures for fun. For photographers, it’s one of the best places for us to share our work and get feedback from it. When I first started using instagram I was just doing what everybody else did; posting pictures of my dinners, shopping I’d bought, a flower or something like that. Then I realised people didn’t really care what I was eating for lunch or wearing out to town, so I started posting my photography and using it to try and gain an audience. Some people I know always ask me what I did to gain followers, so I tell them, and then they try and imitate it. I think people see instagram as this way of getting instant gratification and a way of validating themselves. To me, it doesn’t matter if I have 10 followers or 10,000, it’s just helpful having more because it brings a lot of opportunities to me that I wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s a great place to get inspiration for shoots too, you can create your own mood boards so simply with it.

If you had advice to give to other young creatives sharing work online like yourself, what would it be?

If people are copying your work, or trying to pretend that your work is theirs, then either ignore it and take it as flattery, or call them out on it. Be persistent. Sometimes it feels like your work is going nowhere, or nobody is really paying attention to it but as long as you’re putting in the effort and keep on trying things will pick up. Also, to not pay too much attention to what other artists are doing, our lives always look better online – because we can screen what we show the world.

Yukki Haze, Designer & Artist, 20, London @yukihaze

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A photo posted by Yuki Haze (@yukihaze) on

Have you ever had any photos taken or imitated online without permission? Or seen it happen to anyone else?

I’ve had my photos taken and imitated and I’ve definitely seen it happen to most of my friends, especially if they have a large Instagram following. I don’t really mind if someone copies my images because I think everyone is inspired by everyone else, however there’s also a fine line between someone taking your idea and putting their own twist to it, and someone copying you directly.

Someone really big recently took one of my photos and shared it on social media without tagging me or crediting me, but that happens a lot on Instagram. I’ve found images and put them up on mine just because I was inspired by them, without any idea of who took the image as there’s no way of figuring it out once its been passed through several social medias. I think it happens a lot and for the most part people don’t mean to ignore crediting you- they just find it and don’t realise it’s yours.

Do you do anything to protect your original imagery?

If it’s my artwork, definitely. I’ve started editing images of things that I’ve made, adding that it is my original work- although it’s up to other people to respect that and credit me when they use them. There’s only so much you can do though.

ye I made these so plz credit if u use the pic

A photo posted by Yuki Haze (@yukihaze) on

Do you think the way people use instagram has changed?

I think it started as a more visually based version of Facebook- like an online photo album. Now, however, it’s being utilised for various purposes, and in many cases as a portfolio or a point of inspiration.

If you had advice to give to other young creatives sharing work online like yourself, what would it be?

It’s probably going to piss you off when people first start copying you but there’s really nothing you can do about it and at the end of the day no one’s really the very first to do anything. Everything is regenerated and recycled- that being said it is NOT ok when someone doesn’t credit your artwork. Sharing an artist’s work without their name is disrespectful. But, again, everything is shared and reshared so someone might have showcased your work without realising that you were behind it as the original credits might have disappeared with the first share.

another dumb 'designer' thing I made stay tuned #chanel

A photo posted by Yuki Haze (@yukihaze) on