We’ve been having another big discussion at Art Marketing Secrets recently – this time about the whole issue of stealing images from artist websites. While we all know that it’s true that this is a fact of life, the big question is: Does it really matter? Will it significantly change your art career if someone downloads and re-uses an image from your website?
At first it’s tempting to go for the obvious answer – OF COURSE it matters! It’s just plain wrong to steal work from a website and to re-use it without permission – especially for commercial purposes. And those images could be used to make prints and art-cards, and could be licensed out to make all manner of things like coffee mugs and tea pot stands.
But is there a real risk of that?
On the other side of the fence one could argue: What can anyone seriously do with a small 72 dpi image? It’s not print quality so it’s not like it is going to be published as an expensive giclee image for example. And in some cases it misses an important point:
What if in making your images completely safe you make it more difficult for galleries and collectors to use your website? That would be like shooting yourself in the foot – right?
One example of this is the popular mouse-over image galleries where you can’t actually see an enlargement of a thumbnail image unless your mouse is hovering over the thumbnail. It probably protects your art but anyone seriously interested in your work is going to have their patience extremely tested – and that’s not really worth considering if you hope to sell some art or “be found”!
You can also add digital watermarks to your images, but in our experience they tend to look unsightly and take away from the quality of the viewing experience. This might be OK if you are focused in a very low-cost art-print market space, but if you’re into promoting your high-end originals we have yet to see a site that looks good with watermarked images.
Some of the do-it-yourself online portfolio services offer image protection as part of their service, but it is far from foolproof. Want to know why? I just tested two of them and was impressed at first that I was not able to right-click and download the image on the screen. But then I remembered the “Grab” application on my Mac – and in a few moments I had successfully copied images from both services – glad that I wasn’t paying them for that feature!
So, there you have it. We haven’t yet seen a fool-proof solution for protecting art online and at 72 dpi, we’re not sure that it actually does matter. There’s an age-old concept that wherever you put your attention, there you go…. Based on that, our honest feeling as we write today is that you should probably spend more time thinking about and planning how to get the RIGHT people to see your website than worrying about how to keep the wrong people away!
That’s our view and it’s always subject to change if we learn something new. What do YOU think about this? Please comment below – we really want to hear what you have to say!