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Articles. Images. Designs. Creative ideas.

All of these are things that require a level of originality, a certain level of uniqueness. This also means that not all people have the gift of coming up with their own work. And when people are unable to come up with their own ideas, the risk of them trying to snatch the work of someone else heightens. 

How to Protect Your Creative Work

Some people say that it’s almost impossible to protect anything online nowadays. With technology advancing so fast, and with ill-mannered people taking advantage of that fact the wrong way, there always seems to be a new way to grab someone else’s work.

But you know what? That’s okay. Don’t let the possibility of your work being stolen sacrifice your need to express yourself and send an important message across.

Here are some ideas on how you can protect your creative work:

Think twice before signing anything.

Some clients may need you to create content that would help improve their rankings. They could post an article of yours on one of their pages, or ask you to create an infographic explaining how their business works.

Here’s the most important question – who owns the piece of work once it’s published?

Sometimes, freelance work also means giving up your right to your own creative ideas. This is why you have to be very careful before signing anything. Some clients take ownership of your work the moment they post it, which means that you have no more right to tell them to take it down or not to use it for anything else.

What if you never signed a contract? More often than not, in the absence of a written and signed agreement showing that you agree to pass the ownership onto someone else, then the copyright belongs to you. This means that you alone can decide where the creative work goes or what’s done with it and can take proper action against someone who uses it without asking for permission.

Protect your hardware.

Protect your hardware.

Computers, laptops, mobile gadgets – all of these are susceptible to attacks. The moment anybody gains access to your computer, they also gain access to everything that’s in it. And if you think they could only be after your passwords and credit card info, think again. They can also save all of the articles you worked hard on, the images you spent an entire week creating, or any other creative work saved on your hard drive.

The worst part is that it’s harder to keep track of what’s been stolen or not in this case. The moment your computer is hacked, you’re just going to have to wait and see if any of your content shows up somewhere.

This is why every creative mind also needs to protect their equipment. There are virus protection services that will give you security solutions for your computers and mobile gadgets. This way, you restrict the access that anybody else has on your files, keeping you files safer and more secure.

Draw a contract before anything else.

Yes, we just told you to be careful before signing anything. But guess what? If the contract comes from you, then you should have all your rights and interests covered right away.

Instead of trusting the other party to think about your interests, take the initiative to take care of the paperwork.

Understand how copyrighting works.

If you really want your work to be used properly, you would have to consider putting it under copyright. Of course, there are legal procedures to make this happen. This is where research comes in.

Look for a copyright expert you can talk to and find out what the necessary steps are. Look out for potential loopholes and make sure these are covered fairly well.

When your work is copyrighted, you do not only make sure that everyone knows whose work this is, everyone also knows that they’ll get what they deserve the moment they try anything funny. Sometimes, that thought alone is enough to make people leave your work alone.

Have a watermark.

For those with visual creative work, having a watermark helps let people know who the original work belongs to. It doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, the smaller and more discreet the watermark is, the better. This means that the watermark will not affect the quality of the image in any way.

Of course, there will always be people who will find ways to use your photo despite it having a watermark. They can crop the picture to leave off your watermark for example (if the watermark only appears in one corner), or use photo editing tools to make it work. This is why you also see some images online with huge watermarks covering almost every inch of the image. Sure, you can barely see the original with that huge mark all over it. But it would also be harder for anyone to get rid of it and pass it off as their own.

Consider licensing.

Consider Licensing

Some artists still want to allow other people to enjoy their work, but on a limited scale. In this case, you can always think about licensing.

Notice that when you post a photo you took on Flickr, you also have the option to customize how the photo can be used by other people. Some users do not allow downloads to take place. Some allow downloads, but request that their photos not be used for any commercial purpose. Some allow their photos to be used anywhere, as long as proper credit is given.

So before posting any of your work online, think about how you want others to use it as well. This way, it would be clear enough for anybody who comes across it what they can actually do with it.

Post low-resolution images.

Again, this is a piece of advice for those who have visual works of art.

Yes, high resolution images bring out the best in your work. Every vibrant color used, every single bit of detail – all these come out only when you use high resolution photos. However, this would allow people to copy your work in high resolution as well, which means that should they reuse it without your permission, they can make the most out of it without you even knowing.

Uploading your work in low resolution may not give viewers the full experience, but it would also mean that even if people find a way to download it, it will not show up as beautifully.

Call out people who use your work right away.

Some artists are too polite. They see their work posted somewhere and they shrug it off, thinking that it’s just a newbie in the field trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But you know what? This is how you breed stealers and cheaters.

When someone gets away with stealing the first time, they are encouraged to do it over and over again. Before you know it, they may have plagiarized your entire life’s work without you lifting a finger to stop it.

Call someone out the moment you notice that your work is being copied. Remember that this is not being mean – it’s actually the exact opposite. By calling people out for any mistake they do, you also give them the chance to change and do things right.

Think before you post.

If you think it’s too much stress trying to make things right when someone copies your work, then just don’t give them the opportunity to do it. Stop posting your work on public sites where anybody can have easy access to it. If it’s for your portfolio, consider giving only a preview.

When you post your work online, you also have to understand that you open up access to it. So if you’re not prepared to face plagiarizers and cheaters, then might as well not give anyone access at all.

There are so many ways for you to protect your work. Yes, there will always be instances when you just can’t do anything about it, especially when the person trying to steal your ideas has had so much experience doing it. But trying to limit their moves can somehow lessen the stress for you.

All it boils down to is taking responsibility for your work. When you take this seriously, you would take every step necessary to cover all ground as far as securing it is concerned. Don’t mind people who will tell you that you’re selfish and have no regard for fellow creatives. After all, it’s not their work, it’s yours. If they also have respect for the field, they would understand that you’re just trying to preserve something that nobody else should be taking away from you.

Why Your Creative Work Matters

Creative Work

Every mind was created differently. Out of the billions and trillions or people on earth, each mind has the capacity to think of something that no one else will think of. Amazing, right?

This is why each piece of creative idea coming from your brain should be considered as something valuable, something with real worth. It’s that rare piece of metal or gem that you find nowhere else but in a single place in the world. And in this case, this gem is found right inside your own unique head.

Inspiration or Stealing?

One of the biggest challenges that people have is differentiating inspiration from stealing.

What does it mean when you get inspiration from someone else’s work of art?

If someone is inspired by the work you did, this means that they took one look at your work and thought of an entirely different piece. Your work may have triggered something in the creative part of their brain, opening up more possibilities in creating their work.

More often than not, if a piece of work inspired someone else, the work that results from it will not remind you too much about the original piece of work where the inspiration came from. The approach may be similar, or the technique may be the same. But the overall final result will be completely different.

Now there are those who may say that they got inspiration from the work you did. But you take one look at it, and you know that it’s a copy of your own work.

A piece of creative work is stolen if the most distinguishing elements of your piece is the same as the elements in the other. This means that when you put both pieces side by side, you would think that the same person did it, or that they copied it from a single source.

This is very important.

Sometimes, you may feel flattered and happy that someone else is getting inspiration from the kind of work that you do. But if their works is too similar to your, then both of you may end up in heaps of trouble.

Here are some scenarios:

The other person loses credibility.

If you truly love your field, you would be more than willing to support those who would like to follow your footsteps. Allowing them to continue copying other people’s work, whether intentional or not, is not in any way a form of support for them.

Now if someone else who is familiar with the work you do spots their work somewhere, what do you think will their reaction be? They would immediately see a copy of your work, not an original piece. This means that the person who was inspired by your work will lose their credibility way before they even launch their career.

You lose your credibility.

Now let’s turn things around. What if someone who is not at all familiar with your work sees the work that the other person did? They may learn to appreciate it as the original. And when they see your work? You’ll probably be the one who will be labeled as the cheater, the one who tried to pull a fast one on a fellow creative.

You don’t want either of these two scenarios to happen.

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Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos. Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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