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"I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
With these words in mind, it's time for us deviantART members to do something about the spreading problem of art theft.
For those who don't know what art theft is: It's when someone claims that he/she made an artwork, when the artwork was actually done by someone else. It's becoming quite common these days. In particular, a lot of people have been uploading, copying or tracing copyrighted images (usually screenshots from anime and other TV shows, or pictures from comics and manga), and claiming that they "drew" the images. It is unfair to people who expend time, effort and creativity in producing their own art. It is also disrespectful to the original creators of the copyrighted images. Think about it: If you were a famous artist, would you be happy if someone took one of your artworks and said that he/she drew it? I don't think so.
deviantART recently issued an announcement that they will NOT prosecute people who upload, copy or trace copyrighted artwork. The only time they'll remove a stolen artwork is if the actual copyright owner (such as a comic book or anime company) makes a formal complaint. Since comic book, manga, anime and cartoon companies are too busy running their daily business to see what's going on here, the chances of them making a formal complaint are almost zero.
So what can we do?
We can make more people aware that this problem exists. Especially the people who support the art tracers/copiers/thieves. Most of the fans of these thieves actually DON'T KNOW that the thieves stole the artwork. They're fans because they think that the thieves are gifted, talented "artists". When they learn the truth, they lose respect for their "heroes" and stop supporting the thieves' work. I've seen it happen, and we need to ensure that it continues to happen. Without their audience, the thieves' work is basically meaningless. Why? Because the reason why they're stealing in the first place is to become POPULAR-- they don't actually care about improving themselves as artists.
How can we know if someone has been stealing artwork?
If you're unable to locate the original image by using search engines, use this page: www.tineye.com. It requires you to sign up, which is free. It is an extremely valuable tool. All you need to do is enter the image URL of an artwork that you suspect is stolen. If the artwork was stolen, the site will display the sources that the artwork came from.
We can't stamp out art thieves completely. But if nobody does anything, the situation will get worse. We can't do everything. But we can do something. This site used to belong to artists-- people who create their own work and actually care about developing their skills. Not to popularity-whores who use stolen art to trick people into becoming their fans.
Let's keep deviantART in the hands of artists.