Feather Brush, and Art Knockoffs on Amazon

When I worked as a theater set painter and faux finish artist, we used feather dusters for special effects. I wanted to use our cockatiels’ naturally moulted (shed) feathers to make a similar brush. They get new feathers every year, going thru several small moults between spring and fall so they’re never bald, LOL! Not sure if they replace EVERY feather on their body annually, but when I vacuum it seems like it! I’ve saved some of their feathers for a couple of years now.  The small pile of fine yellow and gray crest feathers are the most rare of those I save since many accidentally get vacuumed up before they’re noticed. I have not done anything with the crest feathers yet, but I made two paint brushes out of some of the bigger, stiff ones their wings and tails, and a medium sized feather that is softer but still has spring to it.

FeatherBrushes_schnackel

Courtesy of our cockatiel companions, naturally moulted feathers saved up to make paint brushes.

Even though our birds lost these feathers naturally, it was still just a little creepy seeing them all laying on the table like that, like some horrific predatory aftermath…gah!

Experimented with them a little and think I need to make some looser, softer versions, as these are both quite stiff, but am sure I’ll find a use for them as soon as I get used to the type of marks they make. I have plenty of leftover feathers to experiment with.

featherbrush_schnackel

Experimenting…

ARTISTS’ WORK INCREASINGLY INFRINGED ON AMAZON

Many artists I know thru online groups, etc, are sending dozens, even hundreds, of DMCA takedowns per week, to Amazon alone, for infringements of their work. Difficulty getting Amazon to respond to valid takedowns makes the chore even more time consuming.

The issue is so bad it has been getting some press lately, like these articles from CNBC and Plagiarism Today:

Amazon counterfeiters wreak havoc on artists and small businesses

Amazon Has a Serious Copyright Problem

Phoenix Magazine Feature, recent stuff

PHXmag2015

Phoenix Magazine feature photo, Nov/Dec 2015

Phoenix Magazine Featured Artist, what an honor!

I was honored to be a featured artist in the December issue of Phoenix Magazine! http://www.phoenixmag.com/arts/cindy-schnackel.html

The interview was a lot of fun. Niki D’Andrea, the author, and the photographer, Angelina Aragon, were such nice people. I happened to have invitations for a private artist’s party and opening reception, of a show I was in, (at the Tieken Gallery, see earlier post), so I invited the two, and they had a good time there. It was great to see them again, and, being arts reporters they already knew some of the artists.

I’d like to thank Wayne Michael Reich, an artist and writer, for putting my name in front of Phoenix Magazine in the first place!

Being a featured artist is exciting and I was very pleased this publication understood the infringement problem I’d had, and agreed to put my watermark over any of my art, for the online version. Artists naturally want media coverage, so it can be a tough choice to pass up an opportunity if it’ll start a whole new slew of infringements that eat up time and energy. I’ve seen many artists suddenly become copyright converts when they find that first infringement, often for some company or cause they are appalled by. Most infringers treat online image searches, such as google, as their free clip art source, when in fact, the internet is not the public domain, it’s just publicly visible, two very different things! Nonetheless, their lawbreaking is a pain in the ass for the artist! Watermarks are not 100% effective in prevention but they deter most, and that’s a significant gain in being able to put that time and energy back to use making more new art. Thank you, Phoenix Magazine!

Graphic Panel T-Shirt

PanelTee_schnackel

New ‘graphic panel tee shirt’ of my Giant Coffee Drinking Chicken painting

Though I have all but left the whole Print On Demand scene, after finding format changes and other issues kind of draining, I still have quite a few of my works on private view on my Red Bubble account. I sometimes buy them for myself as promotional material, mostly. This is the new ‘graphic panel tee.’ The back and sleeves are cotton and only come in black or white. The front panel is a white synthetic material and that’s what’s printed. The fabric seems fine, but I’m still testing it by wearing and washing a few more times, before I declare it a hit. The fit is very similar to the regular tees there, plenty long. If they were not so long I’d get a Small for myself, but I like things loose, and am short, so a long small shirt often feels like a girdle around my hips and goes past my butt LOL! So I get a Medium and that is a little baggy and easier to access pants pockets etc. Taller people appreciate the length.

Shows

AZ45ClosingRec_2015

The closing reception of the AZ 45 is Sunday Nov. 29, details in the flyer above! If you’re in the area but can’t make the reception, the gallery does open by appointment. The show comes down after the reception the 29th.

I have entered work in a few group shows that will be in December and January, and if I can get something done will enter a couple of others, as well. I do have work in {9} The Gallery, on Grand Ave, in Phoenix, in December. I’ll be updating my shows and events page as details come in, so you will have all the times and addresses, etc.

There was kind of a cluster of group shows I actually got an idea for in time to enter this fall/winter.

I’ll be getting back to my animal series and hope it’s ready to show by fall of 2016. If I really get going on it, maybe sooner, but I’m giving myself plenty of time so that there’s enough for it to be a solo show if possible. I’m not counting out the possibility of it being more than me, but it is more message-y than my work usually is and I don’t want that message diluted with unrelated stuff, (lovely as that stuff might be). So if I do it in conjunction with other artists I do want it to be on the same theme/message, which is veganism, factory farming, animal rights, and how we think of animals. My pieces are still humorous and still “me.”

I have seen some really wonderful art on these topics, varying from cute to very dark and in your face.

A related issue is the GMO debate, such as Fred Tieken’s ongoing series with his now Trademarked character, Uno, the one legged bird. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and showing with Fred, and it is his gallery that the AZ 45 is in. He even had a giant Uno constructed, which is at a show in California now if I’m right. I loved his show in Phoenix with Uno and other strange critters. I really identify with his view because he’s serious about it but manages to keep his humor and personality in his pieces, and that’s important to me, too, in my own art. I was not “converted” to veganism by force, nor would I expect anyone else to be. I hope my work on the vegan and factory farming topics will convince people to rethink their food. I am pretty sure Fred’s work made people think about GMO!

Why I Watermark, and When “Being Found” is Bad

BINGinfringement2014Sept

Graphic created from screenshots. I added obscuring text to the screenshot image to help stop further misuse.

 

Watermarking is like locking the door on your house when you go out.  While nothing is 100% prevention, a lock deters most, which is a huge benefit.

Above, a search engine (Bing) calls some images “clip art,” which implies incorrectly that they’re free to use. (I marked the screenshot with text to help prevent further misuse.)

The image above had only a tiny watermark on the edge, unusual for me now, as I use a larger mark, but this was for media/gallery use. Every artist has to figure out where their line in the sand is. This is about what works for me.

I regularly do reverse image searches, and employ other search tactics, to find infringements.  When I find infringements, I send DMCA takedowns to the hosts of infringing sites, and the infringing use is usually removed quickly, as the host is required by law to do so. (See links below on Reverse Image Searching, and DMCA Takedown.)

I was spending several hours a week on takedowns before I started using prominent watermarks.  Once I did, new infringements almost stopped, but sales of my original works kept increasing, debunking the theory that watermarking will kill your sales of original art.

Here’s why infringement can harm artists, and why I take preventative measures:

  • Unauthorized uses are unpaid.
  • Some uses are against your beliefs, even criminal; reputation damage by implied endorsement.
  • Some people falsely claim it’s their work, causing doubt about who’s lying, more reputation damage.
  • It can kill licensing deals. The person buying a license to use the image does not want something now associated with another brand or concept.
  • The law is on copyright owners’ side but enforcement is expensive! Prevention is better.
  • The less time I spend on takedowns, the more time I have to make new art and market it, and the happier I am that I’m not getting ripped off!

 

False sense of security in outdated methods

Don’t fall for the claim that only uploading low resolution (small) images is enough protection.  If it looks good on your site that small, it will look just as good on the infringer’s site. Plus, it can be made into multiple small products.  And, why would an infringer care if their buyers got a blurry reprint?

Most sites do not call for a high resolution image anyway, as the page would load too slowly. Small images typical of web display, (500 to 800 pixels per side), are infringed constantly.

The only time you must upload a high resolution image that isn’t ‘defaced’ by a large watermark is when you sell reproductions on Print On Demand sites, (POD’s), but these sites only display a small version. A POD is a site like redbubble, Fine Art America, Zazzle, Society 6, etc.

The watermark options on sites are simply a layer, usually easy to bypass on your site, and often not picked up at all by search engines, where much infringement now occurs now thanks to the large views.  Right click disabling, no pin codes, etc, are all of very small benefit, as most peple now know how to bypass them, and again, search engine views bypass it.

Keeping up with technology is important. Watermarks can be removed but some are harder to remove than others. Like the door lock analogy, the prevention of most incidents is still very worthwhile.

 

Do you believe “being found” is always good?

Being found in the wrong context, such as the erroneous ‘clip art’ search results above, or by spammers, scammers, and infringers, is not good. It doesn’t help you in any way, and can harm you.

Tailoring your sites and search tags etc to be found by your art’s admirers, and your buyers, is good. Promote your pages yourself, to a known audience. Even happy buyers’ word of mouth is still viable in the 21st century.

The old idea of just getting lots of ‘traffic’ is outdated and unhelpful. As I noticed others picking up on the ‘traffic’ thing as mostly crapola, I saw these sites move to ‘content’ as the thing they most wanted. That is, yours and my content. So be careful of site Terms, and what you put there.

For example, every time I make a new blog post or upload a new image, it attracts some undesirables along with the good traffic.  A new blog is almost immediately liked or followed by a spammer, or sometimes gets a spam comment in the moderation file. The more search tags I’ve put on it, the more junk traffic it gets.  I will only put my name in some tags, plus one or a few really pertinent tags, now.

Narrowing down who readily finds my stuff has not hurt sales of my original work. I don’t offer much on my POD anymore so it’s hard to say there, but artists I know who do sell lots on PODs say they’ve found search engines were never a big part of their buyer traffic. They are good at promoting their work and their efforts are why they make sales.

You can put no-bot code in your sites depending on if the option is available, if you truly do not need search engines at all.  Most of us still want to be found on search engines enough not to do that but I know some artists who do it and prefer it.

Being findable in an identifiable way is good. Being found on scraper sites, lousy misleading image searches, uncredited social media ‘shares’ etc, is not good. Watermarks continue to keep my work identifiable, and of little use to infringers. A potential buyer seeing an uncredited share with the watermark cropped off could do a reverse image search to find the owner, which would be much easier if the owner had marked images to compare it to.

It’s not free promotion unless people can readily see whose work it is.

 

Watermarking How-To’s

“How to ensure your watermarks are secure” https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2013/08/01/how-to-ensure-your-watermarks-are-secure/

A watermark is simply whatever text, symbol, etc you choose to ‘stamp’ onto an image to identify it. If it’s composed of legible typed text it’s identifiable as your work. This is why I don’t use a symbol; no one would know what it meant.

Please be cautious about using sites that offer a way to watermark your images. Some look kind of scammy. Some may be fine but I wonder how much control you really have. I have tried NONE of the watermarking sites, and prefer to mark my own in photo editing software.

Youtube and other video sources have videos demonstrating how to watermark in whatever software you have.  Gimp is free online art software. Photoshop Elements is a limited version of the full Photoshop and affordable, relatively speaking.

Save a version of your image file for watermarking, so your original unmarked image is not lost!

If you don’t know now, learn how the “layers” and “transparency” work so your mark will be part of the image, (flatten layers), but preferably semi-transparent. These are not as obnoxious as fully opaque type.

Use your unimportant snapshots,  or a copy of one of your image files to experiment on and have fun. It’s not fun when it’s an important image and you feel you have to get it just so.  Experimentation when it doesn’t matter is a great way to learn new tricks. Experiment with text tools, brushes, erasers, filters, transparency, scale, etc.

If all this is overwhelming, just use a text tool in even rudimentary software your computer or tablet comes with, and at least add your name in small print on the edge. It’s rare any PC or Mac does not come with something that can add text to an image, even if not as sophisticated as real art/editing software.

Unless your signature is normally an important, prominent, visual element of your artwork, I would not rely on it being large enough or legible enough to serve the same purpose as a watermark.

 

Resources:

 

Templetons Copyright Myths

http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html 

 

Watermarks and removal of copyright management information

http://www.photoattorney.com/watermarks-can-be-music-to-your-ears/

 

Problem with False Creative Commons Licenses

(Not everything uploaded to stock or licensing sites, clip art, etc, is there legally!)

http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2013/06/11/the-problem-with-false-creative-commons-licenses/

 

NOT Cool, Google!

(The irony of how search engines’ big view can take your traffic not drive it to you, and increase infringement at the same time.)

http://www.sdakotabirds.com/feathers_and_folly/?p=1834

 

Public Domain Sherpa

(Learn about actual ‘public domain,’ which is not at all the same thing as ‘publicly displayed!’)

http://publicdomainsherpa.com/ 

 

Cornell: Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States

(Useful chart)

http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm

 

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA, and DMCA takedown process)

(A fairly brief explanation, I thought I’d spare you the novel-length documents of the copyright office, etc)

https://kb.iu.edu/d/alik

 

How to Do a Reverse Image Search on Google

(Not the only way but very useful.)

https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?p=searchbyimagepage&hl=en

 

 

“Sharing” is a misused term that needs to die

C

“How Image Sharing Sites are Undermining Photography,” by photographer Tara Bradford, July 18, 2013

http://www.tarabradford.com/2013/07/every-photographers-nightmare.html

This could as easily be about infringement of images of paintings, sculpture, etc, or for that matter, poetry and writing.

This article was posted on a Facebook group this morning, and many artists I know, (myself included), are well acquainted with the author’s struggles to protect her copyrights.  Infringement really does cause damage. It’s not flattering and it’s not really free promotion. (If its unattributed the ‘free promotion’ excuse is especially stupid.)

People may not understand that an image IS a product. It can be used as illustration, advertising, to generate ad income, support causes, make greeting cards and other products like pillow covers, key chains, mousepads, reprints, knock off versions of the art from Chinese sweat shops, and more.  All without the artist or photographer being asked or paid.  It is no wonder that many are marking their images with a giant name and copyright notice now, even though that does mar the image. But it also mars it for many unauthorized uses that cost artists money and time.One of the biggest myths I’d like to see die, along with the misuse of the word ‘sharing,’ is the false belief that everything online is in the public domain.  It isn’t.  These people may be confusing ‘public place’ with ‘public domain,’ but either way it exhibits ignorance and a sense of entitlement that makes image owners clamp down.  The public domain applies to almost nothing online, despite increasing appearances of even search engines to make it easier to infringe than ever.

While on the topic of public domain: Beware of sites that offer images they claim are in the public domain; they may have been uploaded by infringers so anyone using them is subject to being accused of infringement, too. Problems with False Creative Commons Licenses: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2013/06/11/the-problem-with-false-creative-commons-licenses/

Beware of “licensing organizations” offering free images

CI personally don’t use clip art, textures, stock photos, or rely in any way on so-called copyright free art. (Even if I wanted to, I’d be hard pressed to find anything that lent itself to what I do!) Many graphic designers and digital artists use these sources for their material, though. Nothing wrong with that if they do it legally. A big concern is that the sources for those things are not reliable as to whether the material IS legal. And many people misunderstand the license terms which may allow free use, but not commercially.

From an email subscription that arrived in my inbox this morning: Plagiarism Today, “The Problem with False Creative Commons Licenses”

http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2013/06/11/the-problem-with-false-creative-commons-licenses/

The article hit home for me, because an infringer on Wikispaces, an art teacher no less, was giving away my art, (and the art of many others), to Creative Commons.  Though I was able to get the image removed by sending a DMCA takedown, I don’t yet know how much damage his infringement did to me.  Because I never authorized the ‘licensing’ of the image, anyone using it is doing so illegally, just as the example in the article above, and can be liable for money damages. I know of other people having problems with paid for clip art etc, that stemmed from someone illegally offering it. It seems to be a common problem, so if you use these sources, do your research and read and understand the terms.

Thank you!

5 Important Copyright Misconceptions That Linger

Good info for us all to know.

“5 Important Copyright Misconceptions that Linger”

From Plagiarism Today, Oct. 15 2012, by Jonathan Bailey

http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2012/10/15/important-copyright-misconceptions-that-linger/

Another good source of info is below.

http://www.redbubble.com/groups/copyright-protection-group/forums

And this, thanks to a fellow Linked In member, who supplied this link:

http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html