It's often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, seeing an image or character you created reproduced by someone else without your permission can be much more shocking than gratifying, especially if it is an image that you've had trouble monetizing yourself.
What are your options if an artist - an illustrator, tattoo artist, graphic designer or website creator - has used your image without your permission? Can you seek monetary compensation or just a court order preventing further use of your original image?
Protecting your artistic creations
Copyright law is much broader than patent law: Any work that is fixed in a tangible medium with a "minimal degree of creativity" can be copyrighted by the creator without any official action. This includes:
- Photos you put on social media
- Drawings or cartoons you upload to a blog
- Physical paintings or sculptures displayed in a public area or even in your home
- Tattoos and photographs of tattoos
Reproducing these works of art can subject an individual to civil liability.
Stopping illegal use of your images
If you've begun seeing an image you created popping up on the internet or put to use in another medium, consult a skilled copyright attorney at the law firm of Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C., for assistance. Your lawyer can help you:
- Track down the source of your stolen image
- Send a "cease and desist" letter
- Pursue a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal district court
Pursuing legal action may allow you to recover any profits earned from the use of your image, as well as additional monetary damages.
Copyright your work
After you've tracked down and stopped the source of these unauthorized reproductions, consider registering your image's copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. This will provide you with additional legal protections if others use your image again. Registering a copyright puts a date and time stamp on your creation, and the public availability of this information can poke enormous holes in the defense of anyone caught using your work.