How Artists Can Fight Theft and its Impact

Art Theft by Chinese webshop AliExpress

Pictured above: One of my artworks made available for sale on AliExpress without my knowledge.

Art theft has become a prevalent issue in the digital age, affecting digital artists in profound ways. In this article, I want to explore the phenomenon of art theft, focusing on practical steps that digital artists can take to protect their creations. I will also delve into the emotional and financial impact that art theft has on digital artists, shedding light on the far-reaching consequences of this pervasive problem. This, of course, from a personal perspective as well.

The Rise of Art Theft in the Digital Age

Art theft has escalated in the digital era due to the ease of replicating and sharing digital artworks online. This has blurred the line between originality and duplication. People tend to appropriate digital artworks without permission, undermining the creativity and integrity of artists. Needless to say, this has detrimental effects on the artists’ livelihoods.

Protecting Digital Art: Tips for Artists

As a digital artist, you can take proactive measures to safeguard your works and retain control over their distribution. Firstly, you can add visible or invisible watermarks to your creations to deter theft. Digital signatures or embedded copyright information can help identify you as the original artist and establish ownership. Using secure platforms or websites with copyright protection features can offer additional security.

When I add my name to my artworks, I tend to place it slightly over the subject of the art, so that someone who wants to steal it would have to crop around it or take the effort to edit my name out. In addition, I may or may not add my website URL or username on a prominent space in the artwork with a font color that is just a wee bit lighter than the color under it. You won’t notice it unless you focus on it.

Fakemon Card with Clodsire made by InspireMari

Pictured above: A Fakemon (fake Pokemon) card using my fanart of Clodsire. In this case, I did not overlap the art with my watermark and as a result, it was cropped out. However I am happy to see that I am credited in the bottom left corner of the Fakemon card!

To strengthen your defense as an artist, you could consider creating custom licenses or using Creative Commons licenses to regulate the use of your work. Registering artwork with copyright offices provides legal protection and facilitates legal action in cases of theft or infringement. Regularly monitoring the internet using image recognition software or professional services can aid in detecting and addressing instances of theft promptly.

Emotional and Financial Impact on Digital Artists

Art theft has significant emotional and financial consequences for digital artists. Creating art is a personal expression, and when stolen, it can lead to feelings of betrayal, violation, and frustration. Artists invest their time, effort, and passion into their work, and seeing it misused or credited to someone else can be emotionally distressing, undermining their motivation and confidence. The emotional toll of art theft can be substantial, affecting the artists’ mental well-being and hindering future creative endeavors.

In financial terms, art theft undermines the income potential of digital artists. An artist’s livelihood typically relies on selling artwork, licensing agreements, and commissions. When their work is stolen, artists lose out on potential earnings, while others may profit from their creations without consent. This devalues their art in the market, making it harder for them to build a sustainable career and jeopardizing their financial stability.

Furthermore, art theft has a ripple effect on the wider digital art community. When artists become discouraged or forced to quit due to theft, it leads to a loss of diverse and innovative creations. The cumulative impact of art theft stifles the growth and vibrancy of the digital art ecosystem.


Art theft has emerged as a growing concern in the realm of digital art, leaving digital artists deeply affected both emotionally and financially. However, there are proactive steps that digital artists can take to tackle this issue head-on. By incorporating watermarks, digital signatures, and copyright registration, it is possible to effectively deter theft and establish a clear ownership trail.
Consistent monitoring of online platforms through image recognition software enables the swift identification of unauthorized usage.

Having said that, I understand that it takes a lot of effort and mental energy to keep an eye out for art theft.

The emotional impact of art theft cannot be overlooked, causing feelings of betrayal and frustration that chip away at an artist’s motivation and self-assurance. Furthermore, the financial repercussions can be substantial, as stolen artworks deprive artists of potential earnings and devalue their creations in the marketplace.

Be sure to safeguard your work and raise awareness about art theft – it is essential to protect the well-being and livelihoods of us digital artists.

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