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Copyright infringement

This morning it was brought to my attention of another artist that has replicated my work and is selling it on Etsy. I see that they have already sold three and have two others posted. If your a new artist there are basic copyright laws that means you do not infringe upon another artist's work, reference material or concept -you can take a look at what I mean "here"
.....and if you are an experienced artist you should know better or legal action will be taken...Here is the image of the original

As it turns out after contacting the artist and Etsy they pulled her store immedaitly. So it is no longer visable.

At the same time another student contacted me wondering if she could use the painting that she did in class using my referance photo & sketch for a poster. I would have liked to have said yes but unfortunalty this is unacceptable. If someone reconize the image as mine (which is very likely) and the quality was less than what they expect of my work it is not good for my reputation or for the other artist which can then be known as a fruad.


  1. If you don't want people painting like you then why do you offer expensive workshops to teach people to do exactly what you do? It seems a bit hypochritical of you... to take people's money but then not allow them to go out and use the methods you've taught them...

  2. Well that is an interesting comment.

    The point of teaching is to help people understand new techniques and improve their abilities. By having them follow along step-by-step they come away with better understanding of the concept and a painting that they can hang in their home or gift to someone.

    What is not acceptable to any artist or instructor is to have a replication of the original artwork / painting / reference material or concept be sold or reproduced in any form. This is basic Copyright Law

  3. As for the expense, the workshop is usually determined by the organization that invites the artist / instructor to teach. The cost covers, the instructors logging, travel / expense / airline ticket, food, shipping of demonstrations etc. along with providing the organization with a profit for their organization so they can provide scholarships, do art shows etc. I hope that helps you understand.

    1. I do not believe that using the same reference material is an infringement of your art work. I use photos for my paintings quite a lot and it is of no consequence to me whether someone else has or is using the same photo for the same purpose. Reference material that is in the public domain is, by definition, up for grabs. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    2. I'm sorry but you are wrong, if you are painting for your own pleasure that is really not a problem but if you intend to sell or show it then becomes copyright infringement of someone else's intellectual property. If it is public domain, then it is a different story, I will post my most current article on this

    3. You can not take someones referance material, photo, or design, and paint the exact same image in any way, even if you change the color or a petal here and there.

      Wanting or thinking that to be true does NOT make it true.

      Using someone else's photo to create a painting for sale or show is copyright infringement, if you do use someones image to copy for a painting to help you understand technique, keep the painting for yourself, or give to a family member.

  4. Again this is Basic Copyright Law.
    If another artist infringes on another artist’s copyright there is the possibility of a lawsuit and along with all court and attorney costs being paid by the artist that is infringed upon the others rights.

  5. If I had your talent I wouldn't want others to copy it either. I have been to quite a few workshops - 2 of which were from you - and have not been able to master the skill you have. If I did master it I wouldn't have the gull to try to sell or enter it in a show. What I walked away with from all of my workshops was a better understanding of how to use the watercolor - not how can I paint just like that person. My hope is to one day have a style unique to me that everyone will some day see a painting and say "oh yeah I've seen her work before".

  6. If I had the talent you had I wouldn't want people stealing my paintings either. It takes some gull to paint a picture that is a direct copy of something you have created and take credit for it. I have taken some workshops -2 of which were yours - and I try to walk away from each workshop with a new understanding of the medium and how to use it - not to be just like the insturctor. My hope is to someday have a style of my own that others will recognize but it won't be Birgit's style because it is her creation now and no one else should use it to gain anything.

  7. So what you are saying is that people can only use the techniques you teach in your workshops as 'gifts or to hang in their own homes, but not if they want to sell their art? Are you the only artist who is allowed to profit from their talent? Please... you need to get off your high horse.

    1. hi artist4u, I drew a picture of a camel without humps. I named him get it? hump-free. You need to exercise your talents in a more positive direction rather than tossing out cheap insults. You'll only make an Ass of yourself and won't improve your art. :)

    2. The techniques you learn in a workshop are yours to apply to YOUR unique art, YOUR ideas and YOUR reference material. I doubt your took the workshop to become an art forger.

  8. To artist4u

    It's really quite simple and I am not sure what part of this that is SO hard for you to understand.

    Most students learn by replicating a piece of art of person whose painting style they like.

    If a student takes a workshop they learn the instructor techniques, - when they back to their own studio they can paint whatever they want, of any subject, (as long as it is their “OWN” subject material - meaning a photo, composition or concept that has been taken by the student).

    “There is no assumption that any instructor expects to get paid or make any kind of profit off of what the student has done outside of the workshop using the students own photographs or reference material, composition or concept”.

    You seem to think that I am the only person that thinks this way and for some reason you believe I am trying to profit from my students works (which is not true). Many artists’ I know never want to teach because they fear the students stealing their ideas and compositions. I am here to help my students so they have a better understanding and can enjoy watercolor.

    You sound very angry and unhappy it’s unfortunate that you feel that way; in fact you may have tried to profit from another’s work yourself. It would be much better that you create your own style.

    As I said this is very simple and all you have to do is to talk to another professional artist and you will get the same answer.

  9. Sorry to send two comments - I thought the first did not get through. I personally could not be proud of a painting I did if I copied it from someone else. I have a painting of some grapes that hangs over my fireplace... it was an old pattern on a meat platter that belonged to my grandma (circa 1948) My friends have told me to enter it in a show but I refuse because it is not my own creation. Meat platter or not I will not enter it even in the local fair. It hangs above my fireplace for me and my hubby to enjoy. He actually took down the Thomas Kincaide painting and replaced it with my grapes. That was good enough for me. Paint your own stuff and if it is good enough to sell then kudos to you. Copying other people's work to sell or show is just plain wrong. Take the technique, as I did, and paint your own painting from a photo as I did. Believe me you will feel much better about your painting. If I can Birgit I will try to send you a copy of the water lilly I painted using what you taught. I am very pleased with how it turned out.

  10. Hi Barb - I am not sure how painting a design from a plate or bowl would apply in your situation. I have seen many paintings where someone used a plate, cup or bowl in a composition and sometimes toys, which were unique. In most occasions I would think grapes are pretty much grapes unless it is a specific copyrighted design. So I am not really sure how it would apply to your situation, you may want to check with someone that knows copyright law a little better in case you do want to enter it. In any case your ethics are admirable PS no problem about the double post

  11. Barb I believe copyright limitations are limited to 50 years after the death of the artist which then becomes public domain.

  12. To clarify I didn't paint the actual platter - just the grape design that was in the center of the plate. I had grapes and purple and green as a theme in my old house and when we moved here we hung the grapes which is rather large over the fireplace. Not sure but I just would feel better if it is a photo or several photos and build a painting of my own creation. I am working on a wooded, foggy scene now taken from a photo a friend had on their picasa site.

  13. I understand - I wanted you to also know that after a period of time (50 years) a design then becomes public domain meaning it can be used for free, but it can also be re-copyrighted. Since that image was from your friend you won’t have any problem.

    There are also Royalty Free Sites on the web, meaning you can use someone else’s image for free, but in those cases if you use an image then sell the design or publish it you still have to pay a one time licensing fee. Wishing you all the Best B

  14. Thanks for the info. I am looking into getting a good camera so I can start doing some photography. I am semi retiring next week so I am hoping to be able to spend more time with art and painting.

  15. Dear Friends,
    Such a tragedy that people don't Understand copyright law more thoroughly. US copyright is clearly stated on the US copyright Office's website.

    If I may clarify a couple of points from this discussion:
    1. Duration of copyright is,"works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years."

    2. Penalties for copyright at sever. Mrs. O'Connor was well within her rights and was in fact generous to the individual replicatingnher artwork. Regardless of how they leaded to create the work the fact remains that they were breaking us law.
    Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.

    Whether or not a particular work is being made available under the authority of the copyright owner is a question of fact. But since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law."

  16. Yes, Birgit was indeed very generous ! I would have sued immediately.
    Infringing copyright is stealing. Bottom line.

  17. Hi Birgit
    As a fellow watercolour teacher, I can understand your frustration at the situation. You are a very generous teacher and your students must get a huge amount of information from your workshops - your books are so well written and so clearly expressed that they are my suggested 'text book' for watercolour techniques. Many people see your examples and copy them to learn. It is sad that they don't then understand that the created pieces are not strictly their own.

    I suppose we must be very sure at every workshop or lesson that we tell our students that the work must not be exhibited for sale as the student's own work. And encourage them to take what they have learnt and use it to create their own images from their own reference material if they want to sell or exhibit.

    Anyway, I am glad the images were withdrawn.

    1. Hi Birgit,
      I have a special savings account for those "expensive" workshops of yours and feel when I attend it will be worth every penny. As a self taught artist, I've used your books and videos and have grown considerably. My 4th star flower is looking pretty good. If someone is looking for a less expensive way to learn from you, I hope they purchase your DVD's or videos. As for the copyright infringement, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt just one time! It seems obvious to me that I can't pass off your work/technique as my own. When I copy your work, I consider it an exercise and not a painting. I am getting ready to spread my wings and try a composition of my own very soon. It will be mine but until I do that . . . .it is yours!

      Thanks for the excellent teaching you provide.

      Thank you for your excellent online tutorials and I hope to meet you in person within the year.

    2. Hi Diana, thank you, you don't have to be an expert or have a lot of experience to be able to join us in a workshop, the goal is to learn new techniques and apply them to wherever you are at in your ability.
      Workshops can expensive, due to so many factors, travel, facility etc. and I consider what a commitment a person makes to come to one of my workshops and my goal is to share as much as possible and to give them a special experience

  18. Perhaps, it would be a good idea to create a document to be signed or at least read which could clearly explain the use of material painted in a workshop and the rules as they apply to "copying" a mentor's work. There should be a personal ethical commitment which is common sense to all, but obviously that is not the case. I would find that instructive and for you that would be protective.

    1. Hi Sarah I already include this information along with workshop etiquette on my material list. It still doesn't guarantee that someone won't use an image or class work for profit

  19. To copy exactly someone else's work seems to me to be the lowest form of stealing. I have been a calligrapher for 30 odd years and that has happened with me too, with a couple of instances of students using my carefully made lettering exemplars to "teach", usually with no experience. I wrote to them, expressing my dismay and insisted that unless they informed their 'students' that the exemplars were mine, I would go ahead with legal proceedings for copyright theft. The students, were so informed and a small indication on each exemplar gave me credit, so I was satisfied that even if the student wasn't a 'good' teacher, at least her students could recognise where the exemplar had come from and contact me for information if needed. I am happy to share anything I do with anyone who wants to learn and ALL that student had to do, was ask me if she could use my exemplars giving me the credit which was due.

    1. Hi Sue, I know how frustrating this can be and when someone takes your lessons and tries to teach it, it's not the same, the lesson is best coming from the originator who carefully thought out how to break it down into what they want to convey. Unfortunately this is difficult to control, believe me it is best if an open dialog can resolve the issue without attorneys or court, it is an incredibly stressful situation for everyone involved. Best wishes Birgit

  20. I am a stained glass artist and make my own patterns. I have caught people on etsy four times copying my patterns and reselling them. I teach the method and everyone makes the same pattern as it's much easier to teach when everyone is using the same glass, cutters, paint , came ect. I've picked up my brush after breaking my foot which needed 2-3 months of rehab. I was hurt and frusterated when I found people copying my work. I too have bought and watched every video Brigit has put out. I understand very well why she has the whole class doing the same painting, this way she can explain a certain technique and then the students do it; this would be much more difficult if not impossible is everyone was was doing different painting. Not to mention the fact that the photos they bring may not be the best to paint. She also has a painting style that I love.. And yes , I'm going to do similar - close up photos of flowers with shading and light values. That's as close as I'll get . It blows my mind how some people sit behind a screen and say the crass , crude, terse comments they would never say to someone's face. It didn't surprise me at all their moniker was anonymous. Thank you for answering my mail too!


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