What to Do if Someone Steals Your Design

by on 12th March 2010 with 65 Comments

Protecting your intellectual property has always been a difficult task and the Internet has only served to complicate matters. The web has become an unoriginal designer’s one stop shop for endless material to shamelessly ripoff. Today we’ll take a look into some of the reasons design theft is so rampant online and explore some answers to the essential question of what to do if someone steals your design. A big thanks to Von Glitschka for providing much of the content and advice seen below!

The Problem

Putting your work on the web gives you next to zero control over who views that content and what they do with it. Your portfolio site could be stomping grounds for someone looking for a quick logo design, website layout, etc. One of the main issues here is that it’s so easy to just grab a piece of artwork off of someone’s site, reproduce it, sell it and never get caught. It’s also virtually impossibly to monitor this kind of theft to any successful degree without significant resources. The best you can do on your own is merely hope that no one is stealing your work and that you or someone else will notice if it ever does happen (learn how to obtain commercial protection below).

A Fine Line

Another major problem is defining what exactly constitutes a theft of intellectual property. The online design community is currently obese with daily doses of “inspiration” contained in blog posts. We designers post and use this content to admittedly influence our own projects. Browsing the designs of others can give you great ideas for color schemes, theme ideas, graphical styles, layout alternatives and any number of other possibilities.

However, there is an immensely fuzzy line between inspiration and theft. Exactly where that line lies is perhaps different for every designer. My best advice is to consciously avoid ripping off the ideas of others by using inspirational artwork as a leaping point for your own significantly different creation. Unfortunately, even if you’re on your best behavior, there’s still no shortage of people out there that aren’t so honest. To prove my point, let’s look at some real life examples from an artist who seems to have quite the ongoing struggle with this very issue.

The Vonster Scandals

Anyone active in the online design community has probably heard or seen a thing or two from Von Glitschka (@vonster for my fellow Twits). Von is an amazingly talented Illustrator with a portfolio rich in impressive character illustrations, hand drawn lettering and logo designs. Unfortunately, as Von has discovered, you can make people like your work so much that they want to claim it as their own. He frequently encounters instances of companies or individuals using and/or selling his artwork completely without consent (a whopping 16 times in 2009 alone!).

Hawk Mascot


The original artwork above was not only ripped off, but actually uploaded to a stock art site to sell to other designers! The ignorance this thief showed towards the likelihood of someone finding this is quite remarkable!

Tribal Tattoo Face


In this instance a toy company grabbed Von’s artwork and sold it in the real world as part of a children’s temporary tattoo package. It definitely makes you wonder where the other tattoo art came from as well!

Barf Bag Art


As you can see in the images above, the theft isn’t always an outright copy of the art as with the previous two examples. This artist took the time to adjust the facial features a bit, no doubt to give themselves a little arguing room should they get caught. Here we see that fine line between inspiration and theft being flirted with. Some might say that the final result is different enough than the original to no justify theft, however I disagree completely (and so did Von). The angle of the head, the shape of the cheek line and teeth, the oval nostril holes, and the waviness lines of the spew are all far too similar for the artist to claim that the artwork is original.

How to Respond

If you find that someone has indeed used your artwork without consent, the easiest thing to do is to get mad (or even flattered) and brush it off as out of your control. The most difficult thing to do is launch a wildly expensive and drawn out legal battle that will probably cost you more money than you’ll gain. Both of these reactions are fairly undesirable and shouldn’t necessarily be your first choice. Here are a few tactics to try first (some straight from the Vonster himself).

Report It To The Site Owner

If you notice the infringement on a stock art site or something similar, odds are they have a reporting system in place and actually take copyright infringement very seriously. Recently I encountered just such a situation on one of the Envato marketplaces when another author uploaded a piece of art that seemed indisputably based on my best selling item. I simply clicked a button that said “report item” and gave a brief argument as to why I thought this represented an infringement. Within 24 hours the art was removed and the author had written me an apology for any similarities his artwork bore to my own. The ease of this solution makes it among the best possible, but it applies only in very specific circumstances and won’t even be an option with most infringements you encounter.

Do Your Homework

If the infringement occurs outside of a controlled community, the first thing you need to do is become aware of your rights. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) seems to be the standard piece of legislation that covers you in these circumstances. As Von points out on his blog, you technically own the rights to your own artwork whether you’ve officially filed any paperwork to that end or not. However, possessing an actual legal copyright beforehand makes it much easier to pursue prosecution of the theft.

Write a Copyright Infringement Letter

After you’ve researched a bit and understand your rights, the next step is to contact the company or individual disseminating your artwork without approval. There are guidelines set forth by the DMCA regarding what should be contained in this letter. Fortunately, good old Von has written enough of these that he has created a template that does the work for you. In this letter he outlines each requirement and gives an example sentence for how to address the requirement in the letter.

Hopefully, the infringement letter will be enough to make the offender back down. If you come across as a calm professional, knowledgeable of your rights and intent on resolving the matter, you’ll find that many businesses or individuals will be eager to seek an end the situation before it becomes too serious.

Go Public

One particularly interesting tactic that Vonster discovered was to inform his Twitter followers of the transgression. This can lead to lots of helpful advice and an all out uprising of enraged designers completely willing to flood the offender with angry emails. An angry mob is a lot harder to ignore than a lone complainer!

The Big Guns

Obviously, there are several scenarios where reasonable requests simply don’t appeal to unreasonable people. In these circumstances, you’ll have to find a decently affordable copyright attorney to back you up. Always be mindful of how much time and resources you’re willing to spend to ensure the problem is resolved.

A List of Demands

Upon finding out that your art has been stolen your initial reaction will no doubt be to cry out for retribution. As soon as an attorney enters the matter you might even have a tendency to start thinking about a hefty settlement. My advice for this is to analyze the situation carefully before making any demands.

Obviously, the first thing to request is that your artwork be immediately removed from wherever it is being used. After this, the key question to ask yourself is how much you think the company or individual has unlawfully profited from your artwork. In some circumstances this number could be substantial but in many more instances it will be quite minimal. Try to avoid being greedy as exuberant requests will complicate matters and ensure a negative response from the person or company in question. If you’re unsure as to their profit, it is often appropriate to request a usage fee proportional to what you would’ve charged them for the art in the first place (plus a slight PIA charge of course).

Keep in mind that if your artwork is being used in a commercial product, pulling it off shelves will result in serious financial setbacks for the offending company. This will of course cause them to resist heavily but if you succeed in getting the item pulled know that a little justice has been served simply by that action alone.


If you’re concerned that you may become a victim of intellectual property theft, you’ll want to seriously consider sending off the paperwork to copyright certain items you see as high-risk. Other than that, you should explore options for digitally watermarking your images to track and prevent theft. Below are a couple of possible solutions for you to check out.



“Imperceptible to human senses, Digimarc’s digital watermarking technology allows users to embed digital information into audio, images, video and printed materials in a way that is persistent, imperceptible and easily detected by computers and digital devices.”



“Civolution is a leading provider of technology and solutions for identifying, managing and monetizing media content. Civolution offers an extensive portfolio of watermarking and fingerprinting technology solutions for forensic tracking of media assets in pre-release, digital cinema, PayTV and online. Through its service portfolio, Civolution offers world-class broadcast and internet intelligence to help media content owners control their assets and unlock new revenue streams.”


Having your artwork stolen is no walk in the park. It’s a messy, time-intensive problem that will do it’s very best to leave you frustrated and tired of fighting. I hope this article has shed a little light into how to respond to this growing problem, before and/or after it occurs to you.

Have you ever had your artwork stolen? Let us hear your stories in the comments below. Be sure to share any advice you have to others going through the same problem.

Comments & Discussion


  • dev0347

    Some excellent points, but…

    In most jurisdictions where the concept of copyright exists, there is no paperwork involved in establishing copyright. Your copyright is created by the very act of producing any original copyrightable work. Trademarks need filing, but that is an entirely different issue from what you are describing.

    Using a labelling system like Creative Commons to proclaim the copyright status of your work is extremely useful, however, as it establishes up-front to the law-abiding user (who are the vast majority of your visitors) what they can and cannot do with your work.

    DCMA applies only within the confines of the USA. If you send me a DCMA notification (I’m based in the UK), I will tell you where you can shove it. I will not tell you that because I think that copyright theft is right. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact. I will tell you that because it is offensive to think that US legislation applies outwith its jurisdiction. You need to use the appropriate legal remedy for the country in which the theft takes place. You will not get credit in a foreign court for filing under American law. [There’s a very interesting case where Disney tried to persecute – or prosecute, if you prefer – a father whose son’s name was Barney for his use of barney.co.uk as his son’s domain. Disney followed American legal procedure and the UK authorities laughed them out of court.]

    The DCMA letter that you link is useful only inso far as you amend all references to DCMA to refer to the law that applies in the country where the content was created and/or the server is located. One of the good things about remote hosting is that you can use DCMA against a US hosting company, even if the end user is based overseas.

    The barf bag example you quote refers to derivative works, i.e. works that you create based on you altering someone else’s original work. I think one of the most key messages that people who use other’s work for ‘inspiration’ (let’s be kind, here) need to understand is that you cannot make derivative works of anything without the permission of the owner (unless they have – through Creative Commons or something like the GPL – explicitly allowed you do so). Changing a design subtly or wholesale does not give anyone legal wriggle room. A derivative work is illegal in exactly the same way as an exact replica is.

  • http://trickpedia.com Sid

    You should definately add Myows (http://myows.com) to the list. I my self is a designer and often get robbed of designs and stuff. But the guys at Myows are really gud with copyright protection. They are still in Beta so the registration is free so get one soon.

  • http://trickpedia.com Sid

    You should definately add Myows (http://myows.com) to the list. I my self m a designer and often get robbed of designs and stuff. But the guys at Myows are really gud with copyright protection. They are still in Beta so the registration is free so get one soon.

  • http://www.noisygraphics.co.uk guy

    An interesting article, and good of you to broach a really sticky subject.
    I think another tactic with copyright is having the right attitude, this can help hugely when your blood boils and the thieves spoil your day.
    Here are some strategies that don’t compensate financially but may compensate in more important ways.
    If you’ve already sold the artwork then tell the owners, it’s their problem.
    If you own it then being a good designer or artist the single piece of artwork probably has been chosen amongst many other pieces so it must be good work. It’s worth contacting people to ask them to remove the piece but it’s also a marketing opportunity – take screen shots and advertise how much your fame is spreading!
    If you don’t intend selling the artwork or design consider changing the copyright to creative commons and advertise the crime and the new freebie, the monetary value of the artwork will be diminished if it’s common and free. And you get free advertising as well as your story told all over the place.
    Lastly, just draw something else. At the end of the day you are the one who can make this artwork which is so special it’s worth stealing so make more of it from your limitless imagination. The value is in your ability, not the artwork itself.

    We all get inspiration from our peers, viewing a piece of artwork will inform your own work especially if it’s really good. So what happens with plagiarism is somebody is so impressed by your work that they have been inspired by it and you’ve nailed the subject so well that they can’t work out how to express the work better than you did. Wow.
    Plagiarism is a chance to advertise. Most cases of plagiarism produce weaker copies so let people see how your version is better and show the versions side by side but don’t worry about it just capitalise off it.
    In the odd case where somebody has plagiarised your work and produced something better than you from your idea then be pleased that you inspire giants and learn from what they have done which makes their version better. Get in touch and ask them if this is the case, you may find they are a fan of your work. If they are a fan advertise the fact and use it, association is good marketing.
    Lastly be aware that parallel development is a fact. After 20 odd years in the graphic industry and being luck enough to have worked with more great artists than I can remember, I’ve seen parallel development regularly so when you see plagiarism it may just be coincidence.

    I’ve had artwork stolen and been plagiarised many times. I just make more artwork and forget about it. The one that does hurt though is making artwork as an employee, you have no rights to anything even if it’s not used, I’ve found this can be a sink for vast amounts of good work which can be denied from you on a whim and can make your portfolio a bit thin when you need it the most.

  • http://www.loudable.com Suhasini

    Hey this post was pretty much needed, thanks for sharing.

  • http://ansh.thisisitonline.info Amberly | Web Designer

    Interesting Read. Really good point you got there. Definitely bookmarking your article. It will come handy one day.

  • http://campbellcreative.ca Rose Campbell

    This is a well written and informative article and some interesting comments too. Thanks.
    I find it frustrating that so many people know the copyright laws when it pertains to photographers and illustrators but not designers. They expect to pay per use for a photo or an illustration (unless copyright is purchased) but copyright laws are so foggy when applied to design.

  • http://www.designshack.net Joshua Johnson

    Thanks for all the great feedback. Excellent call on adding Myows (http://myows.com) to the list. A great resource!

  • http://designinformer.com Design Informer

    Hey Josh, really nice article.

    I suggest adding TINEYE to this article, http://www.tineye.com/search

    It’s a reverse image search engine and you might see who is stealing some of your work.

  • http://www.designcrumbs.com Jake

    I ran into an issue where another ‘designer’ made a new site for himself and took the text content from my site and used it on his verbatim. When I confronted him he said:

    “Well I only took it from you because it’s close to what I would have wrote anyway.”

    He even left specific characteristics about ME in there using it to describe himself.

  • http://www.cobaltcow.com Nathan Sarlow

    Great article – however a word of caution with the ‘Go Public’ section.

    Be VERY careful before publicly accusing someone of copyright infringement. In some instances, the end client is usually not the culprit – but just as much of a victim as yourself. Of course they will need to remedy the situation, but bringing down the name of a company could be more of a hassle for you than the loss of your work.

    Just do your research before you go around making direct accusations.

  • http://www.vonglitschka.com Von Glitschka

    By default a creator (Artist/Designer/Illustrator) is the copyright holder of the work they create regardless if they ever officially file it with the .gov copyright office.

    The “Tribal”, “Hawk” and “Puke” work wasn’t officially registered at the time of those infringement. Both companies paid me for the usage regardless when presented with the information.

    Since then I’ve had the “Tribal” and “Hawk” registered and I’m settling a matter right now with a company regarding the use of the “Tribal” on their product nationwide without permission. It’s not a direct lift but the source is crystal clear as to where they derived it from.

    A registered copyright gives an infringement case the ability to legally reinforce it. You can gang up four images on one piece of 8.5 x 11 paper and get it registered all via an online portal for about $40.

    If you do that you have a minimum $25,000 infringement that can than be legally enforced if an infringement happens. This makes for good leverage in getting usage fees for the art being used because they’ll quickly realize that is cheaper than being sued.

    BTW, http://www.tineye.com is a good model, but their database is shallow. If Google bought them out or offered the same service than I’d be willing to pay for it in order to track who uses my images online.



  • http://www.vonglitschka.com Von Glitschka


    DMCA doesn’t require the creator to source out the origin of the infringement they are only required to address the known infringement regardless if the end client was aware of it or not.

    The end client is then responsible for the infringement consequence and their recourse to recover any loss of revenue would than have to be address to their source of the infringed work.

    For example the Imperial Toys ripped off my tattoo art. It’s not my responsibility to figure out what artist in China ripped off my art and sold it to the toy company, that is on the shoulders of the toy company to ferret out. I just addressed Imperial via DMCA protocol.

    The few times I’ve gone public is to expose a company who is being weasels and not responding to my DMCA letter or giving me the run around. Sure, the CEO of one of those companies bad mouthed me on Twitter saying “Stop trying to extort us.” and than the next day their marketing director called me saying “Please ignore our CEO he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” LOL

    Imperial Toys legal counsel threatened me with libel for posting about it on my blog. To which my copyright lawyer wrote them a letter saying “Nothing my client has stated is untrue other than the fact your company isn’t ran by literal weasels.” LOL Classic law drama there!


  • http://www.kirenindigital.com Kiren

    Let them steal my work, I’ll just create more..:)

  • Anonymous

    People out there, I got a question and i hope someone has some reasonable answer…

    Situation: Let’s say i created an original design and 2 month later, on a website, i find another design that is 95% similar to mine but the website owner claims it’s done by him.

    How can i prove that i am the one who first created the design, it’s original creator and not the other guy – if any of us doesn’t have any legal papers to prove this?

  • max

    @anonymous. Myows.com, which is mentionned above, is made to solve situations like one you describe.

  • the clever one

    I’m a graphic designer and I say F*ck copyright!! we should all do what the hell we want to do. There is no such thing as an original idea.

    In this world, you shouldn’t be able to copyright anything, free-flow of information I say.

    My $0.02.

  • http://benj3.com Ben Elliott

    Great article, but I have yet to have these problems.

    Once I do get that far into the web designing world though, I will refer back to this article if I experience anything like it. :)

  • Aga

    Great article, interesting cases and very helpful.

  • http://www.surveillance-solutions.net Surveillance Solutions

    we have design stolen all the time thank god for patent attorney’s on stuff we patent a lot of work though but its expensive and hard to beat,find all a person has to do is change one little thing and you have no leg to stand on so basically just a fact of life unles its real important

  • http://www.rgdesign.org rgdesign

    Very usefull article, a shame mostly of this only applicable under US territory… but, helpfull any way.
    For me, when i discover someone stole my products (many times with flash components) i feel happy, because that´s means i´m doing cool things. Nobody will stole something that isn´t cool, right? So i made something new and forget about that…

  • http://www.surveillance-solutions.net Surveillance Solutions

    Not to bad as long as its not hitting my server on flash and wasting or using up my broadband ,but still we will send a letter advising to quit using our copyrighted material even though they liked it enough to steal it,thats the keyword STEAL

  • Dee Fruster

    We have had a number of instances where we have created websites for clients as part of a free service on our advertising directory, similar to a yellow pages. We never pass ownership of the site to them, but we create a simple site as a sort of place holder for them to point a link to on the directory. We also put a “designed by” tag on them and the site is actually hosted in many cases on our server. But now we are seeing the exact site at a new host with our name removed from the “designed by” tag and replaced by the new “designer’s” name, usually due to the client registereing a domain name and paying for hosting at a new host and usually because they don’t understand that they don’t need to move it simply because they registred a domain name. Is this illegal? Is there some presumption that the client owns the work now and can do with it as they please?

  • Copyright gone mad!

    The Hawk and Tattoo illustrations are blatant copyright infringements and should be stopped but what’s with the barf bag? I did an illustration of a character in exactly the same pose in pen and ink while I was at school 30 yrs ago – but I’m not complaining that I got there first. If copyright gets any more stringent we will lose freedom of speech and the ability to create for fear of copyright infringement. We all draw our influences and inspiration from somewhere. What’s next? Copyright a circle or square maybe! If every illustration and design throughout history was subject to present day copyright laws – we would have no historical records, empty libraries and art galleries with no exhibits. Our society is fast becoming a dictatorship suppressing creativity.

  • Lori Fadil

    After entering a design competition, becoming a semi-finalist, & told by a rep of the company, “You didn’t make the finals… We’ve decided to go in a different direction,” I was disappointed. When I saw some key elements of my project recreated by them, in several different forums, I was sick! I had to sign a release for them to view & distribute my work, for evaluation, just to enter- if I didn’t, they told me explicitly & in no uncertain terms, I’d be sent home, without consideration. After receiving my portfolio & consent, I thought, maybe they received better work than mine, & moved on. After seeing the portfolios of the “finalists”, I was completely baffelled… Not only lacking in originality (which was a prerequisite to entering), some were downright underwhelming! I was grilled by them about the “how’s” & “why’s” I thought I could even compete with no “formal” design education, against the others (though I’ve been working in all aspects of design successfully for years), and how I could have created these designs to function with such unusual materials. So I explained. Basically, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” the end… Until I saw my designs replicated almost verbatim, under THEIR logo- right down to the “unusual” materials! Even their website is promoting these distinctive elements- with no credit to me. That’s the kicker! The competition, I’m sure, has had greater talents than mine (I’m sure) entering, but I wonder if it is just a gimmick to get some fresh ideas, insights, & designs WITHOUT paying for or acknowledging the sources. Any advice or shared thoughts?

  • http://www.michelemking.com MIchele

    I just learned a company ripped off my fine art, stole an image off my website of a popular painting that I sold several years ago (to an attorney!). My piece being produced as as a giclee on canvas by this company’s “in house artists”. The theives made very minor modifications (that make it look uglier) and there’s no doubt it’s mine. I learned when a friend emailed me when she accidentally ran across it on a third party site that links to other design sites. She congratulated me on my new commercial venture not knowing it was a fake. They were selling multiple copies for $350 each (on special for $179) and this was an original piece that I sold for over $2,000. Not only should the company not be profitting from and taking credit for my work, it also undervalues my imagery and name to have it floating around the marketplace. To make things even wierder, I tried to go into the originating website to see the piece but it is B2B , providing access only to design professionals for decorating etc. The site will not let you even sign up to use it unless you send them a business license and provide all your personal info. I find that super wierd. Anyway, this is my story. I plan to talk with an attorney, maybe the owner of the piece will help me. I can let you know what results. Any thoughts also welcome. this is slightly different from your scenarios of designers being ripped off.

  • copyrights for copylefts? What about BOYCOTT?

    Hi, Creative&Colleagues,
    even if am very belated but let me share my two cents: my beurk experience of A LOT of abuse from the online artgalleries. Well today any 9 from 10 of online galleries will still abuse the artworks and the names of artists.
    They stole your artworks and simply shameless monetize them together with(out) your name…even if you are already opt-out’ed away from them, and is about for two-three years removed your portfolios (or as i found two “artgalleries” where i personally have never ever signed up into!)…
    And you can ask them as much as you like that they don’t have any permission to (ab)use your artworks – and you will almost instantly receive such an answer blaming YOU like “hehehehe, OF COURSE it’s only YOUR fault that you has downloaded your artworks and has created your profile here! And for even better monetization we OF COURSE will stolen all your potential traffic, too!hehehehe”- the e-artgallerists are soooooo perfect with their politique of monetization and none of any DMCA, FTC, TOS, Private Policy, Disclaimer or Copyrights rules is applicable to ‘em… No way!
    And of course is still less than useless to ask the host providers or search engines to ban them – haha, YOU – the artists — are still stupidly ridiculous, you – just poor artist who probably can’t even sell yourself your artworks…because if no — then nobody with any commercial capacities will be able to fall into this primitive trap of selfnamed e-gallerists’…blahblahblah…
    Bofff, i don’t know how would be better describe such an idiot situation…
    Personally I would like to invite all creative to completely boycotting all online artgalleries and all online contests for the end of 2010.
    Because in reality none of these artgalleries will help YOU make a red dime.
    No way just because they provide to you some virtual space “for fr’ee” and then all potential visitors/traffic which you try to attract to your portfolio will use and re-use and even abuse with redirecting far away from your works… BUT YOU CAN attract the traffic and sell directly from your website/weblog etc!
    Or other live example, how you would feel then you receipe a complaint cause “bad” giclee and the client ask the money back, and you are not even able to understand about what (s)he talk…when i work exclusively with official contract done for anyone of command. Heck, people pay money=invest to “your” work, and receive nul value such a copy miserable quality one…YOUR reputation can be down almost instantly…

    The illegal musical downloads have very strong solution but not other visual art. (-https://www_eff_org/related/11254/blog-)
    What do you think would be possible
    to find the attorney who would be capable to help US? Unfortunately i myself know the lawyers who don’t have much ability to understanding about “art” or “design” except a music(but not “serious” classical only bumpt shmumpt and rarely about the antique arts…simply because everybody are today an “artist” (scam or spam no matter…) and your when your artworks are sellable they have not more copyright “protection” until the images of your works are registered as “brand” or you don’t have a registered licence…


    PS: sorry for my horrible english, hopefully you can understand about what i talk here…;-)

  • http://www.fineartamerica.com gayle

    I just recently found out by accident a company is using my image,it’s printed on a lamp.They did small changes but, you can see it was taken from my original painting.
    I sent them a e=mail an they said they’d reply soon, if they soon do not answer I’m seeking legal help.
    I’ve been ripped off twice now, by having my art images stolen.I see there is free or a small fee where volenteer lawyers help w/h the arts.I will contact them and see what can be done.This makes me madder then a hornet and it’s NOT flattering at all!!!This will go down and I’m speaking up!!!

  • http://www.electricburner.info Electric Burner :

    i love to visit art galleries both home and abroad, art has been my life”~’

  • Sarah

    If you feel like naming and shaming someone who has ripped off your work (or anyone else’s for that matter) go to youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com.

    A few posts there are a bit iffy but there are some really good examples.

  • http://www.leafletprinting.co.uk Cheap Printing

    I have suffered from this and it’s so frustrating. On the same token though I once designed a website which came out similar in terms of colours to a competitor and he went crazy. I had not actually seen his site prior to this and the guy totally over reacted… guess theres a fine line between copying an idea and making a site which is similar.

  • http://www.leafletprinting.co.uk Leaflet printing

    a really good post which would really allow people to see how thay can get help with copying design issues without actually having to go through it themselves.

  • http://www.leafletprinting.co.uk/doncaster printing doncaster

    really nice post and a really informative bit of information about people pinching design.

  • http://www.cheapleafletprinters.com printing

    really good advice and i can tell you it certainly does work well. i thinking i would be printing this post before long.

  • Confused

    I really don’t quite get it. I understand if you “steal” something like they did in your explained demonstrations of the two logos, etc. But where do you draw the line on inspiration?
    Here is my argument. This may be “old school” technology, but here I go.
    You take three items set them in a setting in the middle of room. You can do the same with any object.
    You have ten artists come in with their choice of medium draw, paint, sketch, or sculpt those items. I can guarantee you that not one of those will be the same as the other. One might see it in a blocky format or one might use a technique never heard of before like a Picasso. Now you take those items the artist drew, sculpted or etc, and have ten more artists come in and do the same thing to the already designed items. Do you see where I am going here? If someone uses another person’s creation as inspiration to create something on their own, then why would you call that stealing? Are you stealing from nature when you draw her landscapes? Are you stealing from Monet when you take his art work and use the same image only in Photoshop with layers for a logo or created idea? I think you need to be careful where you draw the line on Inspiration and copy right stealing. What if all text that is called Helvetica True text font was copy protected? Every person who uses that text would have to get permission from its owner then. When it comes to Inspiration we need to be careful who we are calling thieves and who we are calling artists. I do agree in Von’s case it was blatant stealing of his artwork. But Von used an eagle, and was inspired somehow to create that eagle. I can tell you for a fact that without ever seeing that eagle or hawk, do you imagine that he have looked at a bird (if eagles never existed) would he say oh let’s put some talons on a bird (like a pigeon), and call it my creation. I will call it eagle and use it only for my use. Then I will upload on a free domain based web system, and hope no one will be inspired by it.
    As to the barf image, look at the soldier who drew “Kilroy was here”, sure looks like a good demonstration of that soldier’s idea back in the early war. Look how many variations there are of that image. There was an artist in the 60’s who used that exact type of artwork and eye design for the underground magazine “Truckin in the USA”. Just be careful when you want to throw stones and let’s be careful what we deem as stealing and what we can deem as Inspiration.
    I welcome any feedback negative or positive on this retribution.

  • http://www.cofdamedia.com Edwin

    Blatant theft by an Indian company

    Our website http://www.cofamedia.com

    Their website http://www.sequere.com/

    I don’t think it get’s anymore clearer than that.

  • http://www.splotdesigns.co.uk Claire

    It’s happened to me. This company are making money out of my design but apparently I have no rights. Gutted. Spent nearly two decades trying to get paid for my illustration and that happens.

  • http://www.splotdesigns.co.uk Claire

    oh and this was a sample I sent to them three years ago and they rejected it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Heartstrings.by.Jyoti Jyoti Sudhir

    Ohhh..I am in a total mess. I hate this gal who I tried to help. She lost her job and came to me for some sort of advice. She took all my jewelry for an exhibition and copied all my designs.
    She has made her own site now with most of my deigns and I am hating it. I am not uploading anymore new pieces just because I am too scared that she would steal everything away once again.
    I am under a process of having my company registered but it is taking too much time. And this gal is happily doing her business.
    Ohh..I never thought one of my classmates would do such a thing.

  • Ren

    Oy! Found this great article while doing a bit of research, ’cause I just found out one of my former schoolmates from university has a few of my concepts from a corporate project “redone” in his online portfolio. He didn’t sign them, but he didn’t credit me. And even if he redrew a couple of them, I (and the company and the prof I’d say) know where those ideas and initial images came from! I guess I’ll have to go back and redo mine to make his copies look boggy. Never saw it coming. Flattered and put off at once!

  • http://artsyfartsymama.blogspot.com/ Lindsay

    Found this site researching what I can do to the person copying everything I do. Thanks so much for the advice.

    I have my own registered business and now I’ve had to stop posting because my ideas keep getting ripped off by one person. The twist here is that the offender is my EX-HUSBAND’s NEW WIFE!!! I just don’t get it. She’s been reported once for stealing an image & was forced to remove it. Now it’s starting up again. I’ve tried blocking IPs, blocking them on social sites & everything I can and they still seem to find a way to use my wording & imitate images.

    Note she has NO graphic design experience, yet she suddenly started a business exactly like mine. I then created a craft blog to share some of my other talents… now she has one, too and has been copying wording, projects, you name it. Her stuff is nowhere NEAR the quality mine is, and I know she won’t be stealing clients. But I just don’t understand why she would want to be ME. I’d just like to live my life.

  • http://www.wordsdepot.com/Article/The-Greatest-Web-Hosting-Firm-For-My-Business/359937 Luise Austino

    Hi there, I have fully read and find that your written work is rather great as it comes with plenty of insightful data. On the other hand, was curious whether you would willing to interchange contacts with my website, as I am looking to compile more contacts to further spear point and reach better audience for my site. I don’t really mind you setting my contacts at the main page, just accepting this links on this page is great and enough. Furthermore, would you please contact me at my web portal if you are keen in exchanging links with me, I would really like that. Thank you very much and hopefully to get a reply from you soon!

  • http://www.baidu.com/ wenwens

    Seriously Thank you for your help, this website has been a great relief from the books,

  • http://designshack.co.uk/articles/inspiration/what-to-do-if-someone-steals-your-design?& Aaron

    would choose to thanks for the work you have made in writing this posting. I hope the same best work from you in the future also. In fact your creative writing abilities has motivated me to begin with my own personal weblog now.

  • http://nondisclosed Zanzi

    I have a question for all you long suffering compadres.

    What do I do when most of my work has been stolen, not just off the web ( I don’t have a webpage because of this problem ), but straight off my PC – through hacking – and ( I know about security, but these people get through every time I even buy a new PC reformat, etc etc) and most of my portfolio has been reproduced and copied? I have even had physical thefts from my apartment – I never knew my work was any good, until I saw it reproduced.

    In my situation, I am trying to admittedly with this encouragement ( if you can call it that ) get back into the graphic design industry – the question is: How do I present my portfolio when it has been commercially reproduced?

    For example one company may be ( without naming names )taking your work for every themed week, – as well as other big names who have used my concept, and even my story concepts for movies.

    How do I come across as not being bitter and or boasting, when in fact I have had such a volume of my work stolen – even physically? What type of portfolio do I have left? Where is the money to buy the equipment so they can even keep stealing from me?

    Do I mention this in my resume, or do I literally ‘lie’ and say that I have no work, when in fact, my publishing it will look like I am ripping off the people who have stolen it from me.

    I do have a tip, and I try to do this even for doodles – take a photograph that is time stamped of your work – that date once taken cannot be altered, there is your proof of the time it was produced.

    Your advice would be appreciated!



  • http://9001iso.wordpress.com/ iso 9001

    Ich habe überall nach einer guten resorse sah ich danke Ihnen.

  • http://followthemoonartshop.com Sylvia

    Hi- I am very glad I found this site- I would like to put my 2 cents in about art theft: I googled my name – just for the fun of it and found one of my pieces of art ( I sell on art.com and other sites) on a Chinese website. This site has 400 artits at their disposable and will reproduce a piece of art (masterpieces and the like) and sell to you as an “original” – I saw my art- it was available as an “original” for up to $800. OMG!! Anyway- I thought about how to approach this (because it seemed as though they were a large com. and not in the US.- I was going to se the template you have (thank you) but I did not have to. I carefully worded an email to the company with a few lines that said- this is MY artwork – it is copyright protected- please remove it immediatley. The next day – I was going to use your template to send another email but I did not have to – the art – and my name was removed! I was lucky ! Sylvia P.

  • http://www.proppak.com Captain Mike

    I have just invented an underwater propeller cover called a PropPak. I live in the Seattle area and some copy cat from Florida copied my logo, font and patented item. Like you said in the article I was mad and complemented. It just burns me up that I have been working on this since 2009 and here it is 2012 and someone can just copy all my hard work. I have spoken to my patent lawyer and I need to be patient. The rip off guy is not allowed to make a profit off my claims.

    Thanks for letting me vent
    Captain Mike underwater propeller cover

  • rxse7en

    Wow! Good stuff. I was recently hired by a publisher to produce her magazine on a monthly basis and I would just charge an agreed upon per-page rate. We had no written agreement or contract–she came with good references and she checked mine. I recreated a whole new look with a new logo/masthead and created all of my internal page templates.

    I produced two issues–two 24-page magazines–and then she sent me an email claiming she can’t afford my services any longer. I wrote her back saying that I understand that times are tough and if you’d like to continue using my templates we can discuss price. She wrote back that she paid me for the two issues and that she owns my templates. She even tried to use the old “but I paid you as Work for Hire.” :) This was all last week. I contacted my attorney and was told to wait and see if she publishes the next issue with my design.

    What do you guys think?

  • rxse7en

    Late last week I finally received a check for the work completed on the second issue. Unfortunately I can’t deposit the check, as she noted on it “2 of 2. For all services rendered.” She tried to sneak that little gem in there.

    Well, she went ahead and published the next issue without changing a single thing in my templates–she even used my exact logo/masthead and all of my color and font choices. I’m waiting to meet with the attorney today to see how we will proceed.

    Not sure if anyone is actually reading this, but I will keep updating even if it’s just for my own venting. Anyone else ever go through this and what was the outcome?

  • May

    Hey, just wondering about a technicality. If you’re inspired by something you see on the internet and re-produce a version of it yourself by hand for personal use (no selling) is this considered stealing?


  • rxse7en


    I would think that if you copied something and never published or sold it you’d be fine.

  • Sally

    Really interesting reading and food for thought. Thanks to everyone for their views and advice.
    I have recently had someone I know copy some of my creative work (objects I make)and then tell me she hoped it was okay to copy it and then proceed to tell me about the online store she was going to sell it on. And expect me to be excited for her! I was ready to scream! I’m in a dilemma as it is her workshop and equipment I need to use to make my creations. I pay to use these facilities and it just makes me feel very uneasy that more and more of my original work is being replicated. I had been thinking of selling my work for quite a while (making my hobby pay for itself this way) and wanted to be sure I was doing very different work to her so there would be no problems and I have developed a number original items in my own style and that are very different to anything she had done in the past. Recently she has been copying a number of things I’ve done and at first I didn’t mind as I figured if it was just for herself it was okay but she obviously doesn’t understand this is my intellectual property and thinks she can just copy and it sell it, and then tell me “that’s ok isn’t it?”.
    I am thinking of just getting my work up online and selling it anyway and getting it up before she does so it is more obvious it is my original work. Very frustrating! I could just use another workshop and equipment but I did enjoy the work environment there as there are some nice people who go there too. Plus is it one of the few places that are close that I can easily use when I need to. It’s really disappointing and disheartening to have your work ripped off, especially by someone you considered a friend.
    Any suggestions?

  • http://yasirhossain.com Yasir

    I was a co-founder of a tech blog which is gaining steam. I also did the design as well as the coding for the site as well. Last month the two other members pushed me out and locked me out of my own site that I have created. I told them at least change the site design/coding, but a month later, nothing. I sent them a cease and desist with no luck. Any thoughts of what I could do?

  • matt

    I recently found out a local web design company has been using one of my websites in their own profile. They even use it as an example of their work in custom web design banners on their web site and social media sites.
    They have been doing this since they registered their domain almost a year ago.
    Does this fall under copyright infringement? They are using a snapshot of one front page of one of my websites.

  • Buzzy

    I will strangle them

  • http://solsticegraphics.com natalina

    Here’s my question:

    Is there a way to copyright the design while it’s in its proof stages? For instance, you create a concept design and send it to your client for review. Client says they are scrapping the whole idea for right now. Later on, you find the concept was used…not so much the design itself…but the concept behind the design—which is 90% of the design itself—was blatantly inspired by my original proof. Do I have a leg to stand on in that case to at least get credit or tell them to cease and desist using it? And in the future, besides a giant watermark across the design which impedes the desired effect frankly, is there any way I can protect my conceptual designs at their beginning stages? Any advice would help! Thanks!!

  • Jona

    Excellent tips.
    I’ve just had someone use my artwork, im flattered but a little annoyed not to be asked. They used an image of some graffiti art I made in 1994, I believe they took it off my floor site.
    Its being used to promote a tv show, with the image of an actor posing in front of it. Its obviously added in since the artwork is 18 years old.
    Not sure how to approach it. Im not after its removal, just would be nice if they paid something for my design to be used. Before people ask, it was a legal piece of Graff done at a specially held event in UK.

  • Victoria Law

    i have just had several welly designs knowingly stolen by another welly importer. They have original prints that I designed, all they have done is changed the colour. I have lost over usd500,000 worth of orders because of this. Please don’t tell me to be flattered, this is business not a talent show. What is the point in me working when all I do is line someone elses pockets. I already have one litigation on another boot that has now been copied by about 30 different retailers including some high profile designers! this is all business i have lost, i cannot afford to go through more litigation, and my company is in trouble because people are directly copying my work, not even making slight changes! My copmany would be flying if people hadn’t blatantly stolen my designs!

  • Meh

    This is completely useless if content of yours was stolen outside the US, which happened to me twice, you can send these pricks the most polite email but they’d still ignore you because they know you can’t touch them…. Heck you can”t even know if they understood a goddamn word you said. I wish I had the money to hire a local lawyer in their countries and sue their ass, but I don’t so I’m fucked.

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