How To Protect Your Artwork Online


Copyright is an extremely important factor to consider when you are a visual artist putting your work out there to be viewed by the public. 

The copyright will protect your work, enabling you to show it more freely, and it will also allow you to licence out your images, expanding your options in your art career.

Tips to legally protect your artwork. Photo by Arcady_31.

Tips to legally protect your artwork. Photo by Arcady_31.

You, as the creator of an image or item, be it photograph, painting, drawing, jewellery or other, automatically own the copyright of that image or item. It is unfortunate though that not everyone will respect this. In other words - you have the right to copy it (show it on websites, create prints to sell, and so on), and anyone else who copies this image will be in breach of this copyright.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright is in fact an asset to the artist, and it can be used to lease out your work in exchange for money. The copyright protects your visual work - photographs, drawings, sculptures, paintings, prints, and so on. Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created, however it does not automatically cover concepts and ideas. In the UK, copyright of works made by artists dying in or after 1996 expires 70 years after the artist's death.

Your rights as an artist

You have the right to request that your image is only published with your consent. If a publisher wants to reproduce your work in a book or on a website, you must be asked for permission, and your name must be credited to the image. You can grant this permission for free, or you can request payment.

Your responsibly 

Copyright requires a mutual respect. You as an artist must respect the copyright of other artist's images, do not reproduce, or copy them. If you do want to use another artist's image then you must ask their permission.

Use of the © Copyright symbol

The copyright symbol is used to show that an image or article is copyright protected. It is usually written in the form of the copyright symbol and then the owners name will follow, and sometimes the date. However, images are still copyright even if they are not tagged in this way. It is considered stealing to reproduce any image that you do not hold the copyright for or have granted permission to use.

Watermark images

There are free tools available online to help you watermark your images and protect your artwork. It places a translucent mark across the image, this way, anyone who gets a copy will not be able to distribute it without everyone who views it knowing where it came from.

Copyright artwork online

Copyright registration can be carried out either online or by postal UK Copyright Services. When you register your work, you are ensuring there is real independently verifiable evidence of your claim - this can greatly help you in the event of a dispute, but it may not be suitable in all cases.

Many Internet service providers (ISPs), online marketplace sites like eBay and social media sites are now asking for evidence of registration before taking down infringing content.
ISPs, marketplace and social media sites frequently receive ’take down‘ requests for content they host, but as many of these are false or malicious claims service providers often have a difficult task in determining who to believe and before they remove copied content many now ask for registration evidence to back up a claim


Useful Links  UK Intellectual Property Office Designs and Artists Copyright Society