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Has someone copied your work?

My dad told me he thought he’d seen some of my artwork in a shop. When he sent me a photo I realised it wasn’t my work – but it was very similar. I contacted my agent, who agreed it looked like plagiarism and got his lawyers involved. They contacted the shop directly and I kicked up a stink. I wrote a blog, posted on Facebook and Twitter, and got a campaign going. Some creatives are frightened to confront people, but I think you need to stand up for yourself and be prepared to take a risk.

We think that the company who commissioned the art copied the designs from another company’s catalogue and my designs were caught up in the sweep. The manufacturer and then the retailer bought the designs in good faith. The retailer was very helpful – they responded quickly, and when I spoke to them in-store they were polite and understanding.

So many people are subject to being ripped off these days. The internet makes it easy for people to copy artwork, but we just can’t let it become acceptable. Establishing who might have painted up the copied designs has proven difficult in my situation, but the fact is that people do approach artists and ask them to copy other people’s designs. Most won’t, but there are people who will. There’s no integrity in that, but nine times out of 10 they get away with it because people don’t notice.

If you suspect this has happened, then make a fuss. Having an agent makes it easier because you have some heavyweight legal support behind you, but you can also harness the power of social networking. It’s hard to protect yourself, but people don’t take enough precautions either. Don’t put downloadable hi-res artwork on your site, for example. And don’t think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Buying your artwork is the sincerest form of flattery.