Professional Practice: Posting Your Work Online

I come across many up-and-coming artists and students who are worried about posting their work online. They're afraid that somebody is going to either steal their ideas or their work. While it does happen, it's not nearly as widespread as people think. Personally, I've been posting my work online since I was 16 or 17. I'm 35 now and I've never, at least to my knowledge, had any artwork or ideas stolen. I'm here to encourage you to post your work online. Post your work everywhere, in fact! You want to get your work out there. You want people to start associating your work with your name. Only good things can come of it. Still worried about theft? Read on:
  • Protect yourself by posting lower res images. Simply don't post high resolution, print quality (300 dpi or dots-per-inch) images online. Use 72 dpi images, which are standard for viewing on the web. These don't print well at all; they look pixelated and ugly. An art thief would have to be very committed and talented to convert a 72 dpi image found online into something salable.
  • The world is full of ideas. The odds of anybody trying to steal your specific idea are pretty low. As artists, we have to let go of the conceit that our ideas are completely unique. There are projects in development right now that are pretty similar to the ones you're working on. Don't worry. They won't turn out the same.
  • Furthermore, while your art may inspire others, it's highly unlikely that anyone else will want to put in the effort it takes to develop your ideas into fully finished works. Everyone has their own ideas to develop. If you're worried about it, try to relax. If you continue to worry about it, just avoid posting a lot of supplemental material about your story or idea. Stick to posting specific, unconnected pieces from each project so you don't reveal the whole picture.
  • Whatever happens, you own the original. Whether it's created using traditional or digital media, you can prove to a court of law that you are the creator. That always puts my mind at ease.
I'm not saying that nobody steals art or ideas. It happens. But you'll find that the community is small and word spreads quickly if someone is ripping off other artists. Artists tend to protect their own because we all know what it takes to create something. We don't tolerate stealing. So please, don't hesitate to post your work online. Start now. The sooner the better. Check back next week, where I'll discuss in more detail why it's so important to post online and provide a list of places to start posting. Thanks for reading! JM

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