art theft in the phandom
This morning I woke up to several panicked messages from friends letting me know that somebody had tweeted a drawing of mine, claimed that it was their own, and that Phil had ‘liked’ this stolen artwork on twitter:
This person not only had the gall to upload it and suggest that they’d made it, but they also criticised the way I had drawn his face and then accepted compliments from other people, as seen in this screenshot:
This drawing means a lot to me. Ready Player One has been my favourite novel for four years now, and I was thrilled when Phil first mentioned it in one of his liveshows. It’s not a particularly well-known book, and it made me so happy to hear that Phil also enjoyed it.
I spent nine hours on that drawing. Nine hours hunched over that damn graphics tablet with a cramping hand and shoulders. I constantly redrew the pose even though I suck at anatomy because I wanted it to be perfect. I worked right into the early hours of the morning because I didn’t want to stop. I was so excited. I knew that Phil would enjoy this drawing.
The only other time I’ve been noticed by
Dan or Phil was in 2015, when I tweeted another artwork at Phil. He ‘liked’ it
and I almost had a heart attack. It was
an incredible feeling and I wanted to feel that again.
Everybody here knows how difficult it is to be noticed by Dan and Phil. Most people never get it. I was certain that this artwork would be recognised, and I was correct. It just wasn’t in the way that I wanted it to be.
The art thief deleted the tweet after being called out (they haven’t apologised or answered any of my messages yet), and I’ve posted my drawing again in an attempt to have it rightfully credited to me. Despite my best efforts, I doubt that Phil will see it again, or, if he does, I don’t know whether he’ll act. The pride and accomplishment that I felt after completing this drawing has been marred by this shitty, talentless person with low self-esteem and weak ethics. And what happened to me isn’t an isolated incident.
Take, for example, @phantheraglama and @maddox-rider’s constant struggle with people who repost their art. Or when @arctoids and @incaseyouart discovered that their work was traced and used in Dan’s The Urge video. I was there when @pinofs found themselves in a situation similar to mine, when Dan liked a tweet from someone who traced their drawing.
It’s not limited to ‘art’ artists either. Some of my friends, @phansdick, @insanityplaysfics and @crescendohowell have their incredible phanfiction reposted constantly. @moaninghowell, @themostfuniveverhad and @moonlitdan’s edits have been stolen and posted, too. And this isn’t everyone. These are only the people I’m aware of, and the ones who are lucky enough to have had their plight seen by others. There are many, many other artists who don’t have enough followers to be noticed, or who never get the recognition they deserve because the thief has more followers than they do, and anything they say is overshadowed by that.
After scouring through copyright and code of conduct laws for various social media, I’ve learnt that unfortunately there is nothing you can really do except report the problem and hope that staff are able to delete the offending post. Since most phan artists don’t actually legally buy a copyright, we are completely reliant on the decency of others to prevent art theft from occurring. Most of the phandom is great and works to support artists, but unfortunately, the bad eclipses the good. The ‘good’ majority is irrelevant when there are ‘bad’ people out there, doing bad things.
So how do you stop this from happening? You can’t. There are, however, ways to make it harder for people to actually steal your art, a lesson I wish I had taken to heart before this happened.
1. Put your watermark in a noticeable place and make it your username, not your actual name. Write it somewhere that has a distinctive pattern or colours that are hard to replicate so that nobody can brush over it easily.
2. Specify in your caption what you’d like done with your art. Every artist is different – some are okay with people reposting their art with credit, others aren’t. Make sure you tell people what you want, as many people repost things with the good intention of getting it more recognition.
3. If all else (including nicely messaging them) fails, report the shit out of the person.
And to anyone who has ever stolen art, know this: Your way of getting recognised by Dan and Phil is crap. Any reblog, like, note or compliment that you get is OURS. None of that goodness is directed to you. You have done nothing but shit on the hard work and achievements of other people. You’re the scum of the phandom.
I think that Vic, from @incaseyouart, phrased it really well: It takes many years to develop a fine skill such as drawing, because to learn is to develop your style by referencing other artists and material. Tracing and reposting someone’s image, and other forms of art theft, are cheap ways of reproducing art. It is plagiarism of great effort. Not only does it steal from the original artist’s feelings of accomplishment and pride over their creation, it also discourages proper skill development. Do not repost, create. Do not steal, learn.
I hope that we can start up a discussion about art theft again. I really don’t want anyone else to go through this stressful and disheartening experience.
Update: The person has apologised and seems to regret what they’ve done. Phil also liked my post on Twitter again! Thanks to everyone who helped, and Phil for seeing the issue and fixing it :) Even though this was a win for me, unfortunately art theft is still a huge issue. Let’s not forget that.