The Official Blog for Tattoo Artist Magazine

Dawn Cooke: Nothing is Sacred in the Market Place

Lately there has been concern about bloggers taking artists’ pictures without permission. I have been paying strict attention to this. When Frank worked for me at Depot Town there was one blogger, in particular, who was taking some of his images from Facebook and using it in his blog. (I won’t name this particular blog because this isn’t the important part.) Now, there are a few more out there since then…

Out of concern for my fellow tattooer I sent a message to said blogger. I asked why he was taking an artist’s pictures of tattoos and posting them on his blog. He assured me that Facebook was public domain and that he was giving credit to the artist and that his blog had thousands of hits per month. He said that he was trying to promote the art of traditional tattooing.

Through this interaction I found out that he was not a tattoo artist himself. He was an enthusiast. He also said that if any artist wanted him to remove an image that he would. I expressed to him that he should get permission or at least notify the artist who he took an image from out of respect for that artist.

I think that if this particular fella had approached artists instead of hijacking work off Facebook, he might have had a better reception. Because all of us would like a bit of exposure for our particular craft, he may have had better luck just asking.

Let’s be honest, when I heard that he had that kind of traffic I gave permission to this blogger to use my imagery that I posted on Facebook. Facebook and other sites are public domain. Artists need to realize what they are doing. In a sense, when they post images without watermarks on public sites they are giving permission for anyone to use the image as long as they aren’t making a direct profit from the usage.

I am not defending these image hijackers, but I am saying that we need to have a grasp on what we put out there and how we put it out there as artists. Copyright laws protect artists in our country against people making profits off of artists’ property without permission.

The law provides protection for any intellectual property automatically. The inventor of that property owns; the images, idea, object or what have you, without question as the maker. Some countries do not have these laws that protect intellectual property, this makes the Internet a very slippery market place.

The best thing to do is put a watermark or copyright symbol on all your images. Or don’t post any content within the public domain. If you post a link to your personal blog or website that will protect your content more so than posting images directly via Facebook.

Yes, it is common courtesy to ask before you take, but we have laws in place because people obviously don’t use this kind of common sense when they should. Or they just don’t care at all about morals when it comes to the mighty dollar.

Sadly this antisocial approach is the norm these days! We can only try to back each other up as artists and refuse to allow people to steal what we create. On the other hand, if they aren’t helping to promote you, it will be someone else they are promoting. Media is a powerful tool. Either you figure out how it works and how to use it to your advantage, or you languish.

I was perfectly aware the real reason this blogger was taking images, it was to promote his own online supply business. Sure, he may have had some intention to promote artists also. Why not? I mean, I help you –you help me. I scratch your back you scratch mine. Isn’t that how things really work? Let’s be truthful. Everyone has a motive! While everyone would love to save the world, the reality is that we have to save ourselves in order to even begin to think about saving anyone or anything else.

The philosophy of this is ingrained in the market place! Name one tattoo artist out there that just does tattoos out of the kindness of his or her heart? We do it to make a living because we base our every need on paper notes that we acquire for this service. We don’t want anyone benefiting off our blood, sweat and tears so we get pissed if some non-tattoo artist uses our images to promote his/her business. Naturally!

The same nonsense is going on these days with tattoo conventions!!! Big promoters are trying to cash in on what we have built! But it is also the way our system works. It sucks, but we have to be aware of this. So artists, be smarter. Pick and choose your battles and stand firm on the battle lines! Watermark your images. Hey, you can sue for damages too. That’s another thing that the law allows. Don’t do conventions if some event company runs them and not a decent shop or artist.

If there is something to gain by allowing someone to use your images, by all means do it! But if someone is hijacking your shit and you don’t like it, do something about it for sure!

My personal feeling is that there are always going to be artists starting out who will fall prey because they want so badly to be recognized. My message to you is, do good work and you will be recognized. Don’t sweat the bullshit! Just learn the craft and do well. Recognition always comes on merit.

You don’t want to be recognized for sucking! You can be in every magazine in the world but if your work stinks it won’t matter –it will do more harm than good. You can never be published ever, but if your work is amazing people will see it! I have seen examples of this. I have been that eager newcomer. Luckily, when I started out there was no Internet on the scale it is now and I sucked too badly to get my tattoo pictures published!

If we don’t want to see this craft become a big-business industry we better think fast and smart about it, because that is where it seems to be going. Everything sacred is swallowed up by capitalism! How do you go back underground after the media tattoo explosion? You wait long enough, and it won’t be cool anymore! Just like any other FAD! There must be some way to take it back for the benefit of the artists, and that is to beat big-business at their own game! Know the rules so you can effectively break them!

(Dawn Cooke is a contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine can be found at Depot Town Tattoo, 33 East Cross St. Ypsilanti, MI 48197 www.dawncooke.net and www.dawncookeart.com)


One response

  1. Dawn,

    nicely put. I’ve actually been in shops during my travels where artists have had other artists work in their portfolios claiming that it was their work. I haven’t seen this much, but once was enough. I think of all of the people who have helped me along in the last 17 years and I do repost some work in the hopes of helping others. Great blog and I look forward to reading more.

    Ram

    May 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM

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