To Post or Not to Post?

Art by Andrew Moghab

Artists don’t work in a vacuum, we are social creatures, we make work to show it. Fans and critics alike are necessary to the process of making art. These days showing your art almost always involves posting it online through social media. But how can you prevent getting ripped off? While it may take an artist a hundred hours to produce a single piece, it only takes thieves a matter of seconds to profit off of someone else’s’ work. Just as important as producing the work itself is learning how to protect it. Following are some options to do so:

Circle C

The first step is the simplest: add ©, the year, and your name to anything you create. This is your declaration of copyright and marks the art as yours. The © is important because it tells the viewer the work is protected by copyright. The © can be added digitally or drawn on by hand, the technique is not important, just the mark itself.


Some artists choose to watermark their work. This is a visible branding that overlays your images. It is usually transparent and fairly large. Experts in digital imaging can remove it with Photoshop or other image editing software, however, it’s usually not that easy to do. You can add watermarks to your images with Photoshop or similar image editing programs, some of which feature batch processing to make it easy and efficient. The downside besides the time it takes to do it is that it also compromises the viewing experience as it visibly alters the image.

Creative Commons

Founded by Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig, Creative Commons is an organization dedicated to making it easier to share work without the sometimes arduous process of copyright registration and without the same restrictions. Creative Commons offers a wide range of options to allow people to share their work on their terms. All have some level of sharing, the most restrictive being “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.” Licenses are in effect immediately upon implementation and there is no required fee. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization and donations are gladly accepted.

Copyright Registration

You can register your copyright with the Federal Copyright Office. Online registration fees start at $35 for a single registration. There is a wait time that can be up to 5 months. It’s also important to know that while many international laws closely follow copyright laws in the U.S., they do not automatically apply internationally—you’ll need to check those if you are selling your work internationally or find that your work has been used elsewhere in the world.

Following Up

You can check on your images to see if they turn up anywhere unauthorized by uploading your image to a reverse image site like TinEye or Google Reverse Image Search. This isn’t full proof, but can certainly help you take a cursory look.

The answer “to post or not to post” is complicated, and as with most ethical issues, it depends—on your circumstances.


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