The Internet has made everything readily available to us. We all can access any data from anywhere. And that is why designing and art are becoming faster and easier for us. While there are unlimited benefits of the Internet, there are flaws as well. Anyone can access anything, which is why anybody can use anyone else’s work for their purpose without taking permission or giving credit.
This is becoming a more significant and quite common issue nowadays. Designers and artists face this very often, and no one can find the ultimate end solution for stolen designs due to the wide availability and visibility of their content. But there are a few things you should do if your design is being stolen. Here, we have listed 10 steps you can take if someone steals your graphic design.
1. Understand the concept of copyright:
First thing you need to check that if you have used copyright for your design or not. If not, then you cannot take any decisive legal actions against the thief. Having copyrights for your design, allows you to take decisive legal actions against any theft. There are many sources available to help you understand the concept of copyrights and its application.
Copyrights are only applicable to tangible things; they do not apply to ideas. So you cannot claim copyright on the basis of your idea. You can only claim it on your actual work and designs. There are proper frameworks available of different norms and laws related to that. You should go through it if you want to use it for safeguarding your design.
2. Identify changes, if any made:
The first encounter you might get about your design’s theft is probably someone telling you that they have seen your work on some site or page that is entirely unknown to you. Your first reaction can be aggression, shock, and disappointment due to obvious reasons, but that does not mean you should act recklessly.
Take a moment and analyze everything, the stealing according to you can be a wrong judgment as well. If you see the same idea as yours, but the designs are different, it is not called stealing. If he or she had used some parts of your design only and created something else, then this also does not count as stealing. It would be legitimate stealing only if she or he had used your complete design as it is somewhere before taking your permission and no attribution was given to you for that design anywhere. So make sure that you check all the things and then act accordingly.
3. Contact the thief:
After checking the copyright and confirming right stealing, the next thing you need to do is to contact that person. It would be best if you were careful in this, do not show your aggression, and not even try to sound threatening and disrespectful. This can make things tricky. You should send a mail that I am the copyright owner of this design, and you have used it without my knowledge, which is not an ethical and legal thing to do. So kindly take this design down as it’s legally mine to avoid further issues.
If you sound a bit edgy in your first interaction, and if it is just a mere mistake, then the other person can get offended, and maybe they can stretch things as well. And this should be avoided at all costs. Because it can only be a mistake, someone might have used it unintentionally, and they can be genuine about this. If that’s the case, then his or her response can be very apologetic, and they can remove your design as well. You can resolve this there and then without worrying about further steps, if this works out.
4. Talk to him or her again:
In some cases, it is possible that another person is actually guilty, and they had used your design intentionally. Thus, they can behave in quite a different way. When you are first interacting with them, their response can be defensive or rude, they can deny your request and don’t replace the design, or they can even choose to stay silent as well. If they are not giving any replies, you should try to talk to them 2-3 times. By this, your part of the job can get over from your side, and you can take things further. As a designer, you need to stay patient and composed because it is your design, and you have all the right to take action against the thief.
5. Gather community support:
As a graphic designer, you must be present on any public platform. In the time of social media and the Internet, you should make your presence somewhere here and showcase your artworks. This is very necessary to stay ahead in the show business. By this, you can attract your audience and create a community that can help you in a number of ways. Your audience might notice your stolen work before you do, and they can promote your designs as well. So whenever you face any issue with a thief of your design, you can take help from your social media community.
You can make them report an account of that thief, which can eventually block their account permanently. They can create social pressure on that person, and he or she may take down your designs because of this. They work as an eye witness to your creations. In another language, they are the best asset of any graphic designer, so in order to fight back to troublesome factors like stealing, you should take help from the social media community.
6. Gather information and evidence:
If you are going to take some serious actions against the thief, then you should definitely start planning things. And collecting information and evidence should be your first task as you will require them in your legal actions. There should be some valid evidence that can prove that your designs are only your designs. You can have some snapshots of the design when you were working on it, be it in digital format or print format.
You can consider the images you posted on your social media with all the information in the description, such as the tools and techniques you have used in making this design. You can consider the formal contract with the company for which you have worked on the design. Moreover, you can consider all the communication part about that design as well. Start collecting every little detail that can work as evidence to prove that your design is your authentic creation only and not anybody else’s.
7. Take legal action:
You can seek many legal actions available as per your country’s norms. You can file an official complaint against the thief as well. You can consult a good lawyer who is working in intellectual property right also to help you professionally. Or if you have worked for some company, then you can take help from their legal advisors. Also, they would get involved in it because, in any way, it is their matter as well. You can seek help from any organization or forum that is working on such issues.
Another thing you can do is to send a cease and desist order to that thief. It is a legal notice paper that talks about the illegal practice they had done, your response, threat, and possible results. It also involves a proper time table with a deadline of response and demanding compensation for this misconduct.
8. Contact the advertiser:
If your design has been published on any site by the thief without your permission and knowledge, then you should contact that website as well. If it is being advertised somewhere, then the advertiser is also responsible for checking the authenticity of the designs.
You can directly contact them and let them know about the thief, about your designs and give them your evidence to prove your point. Any simple site will indeed remove the designs immediately, and you can get relaxed.
9. Use some psychological tricks:
In order to protect your designs, you can use some psychological tricks as well. For instance, use some warning text in your design or the description. You can directly use sentences like ‘all rights are reserved with the designer only’ and ‘this design should not be copied without permission or legal action will be taken.’ You can use any sentence to make it very clear that this is your design, and it should not be used for any purpose without your permission.
You can even try to use the approach of monitoring like this image is protected by copy scan, so do not copy. These kinds of phrases cannot give a complete guarantee, but this can alert their minds before thinking about stealing. This can lower the chances and attempts in the end.
10. Take some precautions:
By following all the steps, you can resolve this matter, but if you are completely unaware of most of the topics, then we suggest you should first educate yourself with all the concepts and options. Understanding the laws which fall under your area of work is a must. You should definitely use copyrights and watermarks to prevent stealing. If you are not on social media, then you should start showcasing your design over there as well.
You can use other technological approaches as well to give more protection to your designs. So if you have not experienced it, it is better that you learn from others’ experiences and take all the necessary precautions never to get your designs stolen.
There are pros and cons of social media and the Internet. Due to the reasons you are willingly making your designs publicly available, you must prepare yourself to face the problems which can arise from the same reason. You cannot get away with it entirely, and that is why you should be cautious and prepared to protect your designs as much as you can.
The only thing which is under your control is minimizing the possibilities and maximizing the security. Above mentioned steps are for all the designers and artists who is thinking about what to do next when their designs get stolen. You should take steps according to your designs and your convenience. But we suggest you educate yourself about all the necessary steps you should take after this kind of incident and all necessary precautions you should take to avoid such incidents.