Copyright Infringement and Artist Copycats scare artists who want to share their artwork online.
When another artist admitted to copying one of my paintings, I started collecting news about other copycat painters, artist forgers, and art world scandals. Below are some of the most interesting art copycat stories I’ve found. Topics include Historic Art Forgers, Contemporary Art Forgers & Copycats, Protecting Your Artwork Copyright, and How Other Painters & Artists Deal with Copycats.
Because of my own copycat artist experience, I’m much more careful about the images I post online. Below I outline some steps I’m taking to protect my artwork copyright. You can take similar steps to protect your artwork copyright too.
Copycat Painters, Artist Forgers, & Art World Scandals
You probably know it’s easy for art forgers to copy your original artwork. But did you know that artists in China can make exact reproductions of master artworks from photographs? Read about it in Can You Spot the Fake Fragonard Painting? One is a copy from China that cost $100! from NPR.
Historic Art Forgers
Art forgery has been around as long as artwork has been created. Here are some interesting reads on old-time and historic art forgers:
- Michelangelo! Did you know that art master Michelangelo started off as an art forger? Could The Masterpiece Be A Fake? Profit, Revenge And ‘The Art Of Forgery’ from NPR explains more about Michelangelo’s early career as a forger. Apparently Michelangelo damaged and buried his early marble sculpture, Sleeping Erosas, to make it look like an ancient Roman statue.
Han van Meegeren painted forged Vermeer oil paintings. He fooled art experts and sold his fake Vermeers during World War II to Nazi Hermann Göring. After World War II Han van Meegeren was charged with treason for collaborating with the Nazis. Han van Meegeren pleaded guilty to forgery as a lesser charge to treason. Because his forgeries were so convincing Han van Meegeren was forced to paint a forged Vermeer painting in front of art experts to prove his artistic talent. Read more about him in the interesting article 10 Most Infamous Art Forgers in History from Business Pundit.
- Interesting second generation forgery with Han van Meegeren: in 1947 when he died, he was ranked as the second most popular person by the Dutch people for his art and fooling the Nazis. Han van Meegeren’s paintings became very popular and his son later forged Han van Meegeren’s paintings to sell them as “genuine” van Meegeren forgeries.
- Read about more famous art forgers in:
Contemporary Art Forgers & Copycats
- Richard Prince: in case you missed the controversial art world scandal on Richard Prince and Instagram:
- Painter Cecily Brown recently spoke out about another painter copying her artwork. Read Does Cecily Brown Have a Copycat? from ArtInfo
Beltracci: this fascinating film “Beltracci: The Art of Forgery” showed how German art forger Beltracci fooled museums, galleries, and collectors with his paintings. The film interviews Beltracci and shows him painting and forging. The film was a hit at the 2015 Reel Artist Film Festival in Toronto.
- Read more about Beltracci in How Beltracchi, the world’s most famous art forger, plays with the market from DW
- Mark Landis convinced over 45 museums into accepting his art forgeries into museum collections for over 30 years. Unlike Beltracci who served jail time for forging, Mark Landis was not sentenced to prison because he never took money for the fake artwork. Read more about Mark Landis and the documentary ‘Art & Craft’ Explores How One Forger Duped More Than 45 Museums via NPR.
- Knoedler Gallery, the prestigious New York art gallery that scandalously closed in 2011, is settling and fighting multiple lawsuits related to forged artwork that the gallery sold to museums and collectors.
Protecting Your Artwork Copyright
Because of my own copycat artist experience, I’m much more careful about the images I post online. An upcoming post will detail tips for protecting your artwork copyright. Here are is a quick summary.
Register your artwork with the Copyright Office in your country. I’ve registered my painting that another artist copied, along with other artwork on my website. Registering copyright in Canada involves filing a form and paying a fee to the Canadian Intellectual Copyright Office (CIPO).
Make it clear that your artwork is protected by copyright, even if you don’t register it. Add the copyright symbol © and “all rights reserved” to the back of your artwork and on artwork images that you share online.
How Other Painters & Artists Deal with Copycats
- Artist Lori McNee had another artist copy her on Facebook (unlike my in-person experience with an on-site art installation). Lori McNee wrote this post: How I Stopped a Copycat Artist on Facebook (Or so I thought!)
- Don’t Fear the Copycats by former art gallery owner Clint Watson on Fine Art Views is a different take than mine on dealing with copycat