Do you worry about people stealing your art?

(c) Hazel Dooney

(c) Hazel Dooney

Do you worry about your art being stolen?  Some creative types worry about this incessantly.

The progressive, successful ones don’t.

THE OLD WAY OF THINKING: The old way was to fiercely guard your images from any possible unauthorized use, even if it meant not letting many people see them.

I had an older gentleman tell me that he was afraid to put his paintings on the internet, for fear of someone stealing his ideas!

I told him that was the least of his worries; he should be more worried about the fact that no one is seeing his paintings.

A NEW WAY OF THINKING: You can hang onto your copyrights and control your artwork while at the same time being generous.

You can do this by easing up a little.

Look into using a Creative Commons License, like the wildly successful, famous and progressive artist, Hazel Dooney.

She uses the Creative Commons “Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative” License to hold onto her copyrights and have control over her art, but at the same time allow others to use it for non-commercial use.  (That’s how I was able to legally “grab” her image for this blog post)

THE JPG THEIVES (ILLEGAL FRAME GRABS): A concern from the old way of thinking was that if you post images on the internet, people will “grab” those images and use them for themselves.

I say, welcome the frame grabs!

ALLOWING JPG GRABS: Over a decade ago, our web-guy suggested that we set up Drew’s art images so that they cannot be “illegally” grabbed and printed out.

Drew said, “Let them do it.  I want fans all over the world to be able to print out my art.”  And this generosity has worked to build Drew’s fan base.

Just recently a new art collector came to pick up a rather large, expensive Drew Brophy painting.  He was excited to meet Drew in person.  He confessed that when he was just 15 years old, he had grabbed images off of and taped them to his bedroom wall.  He spent his teenage years looking at those images.  Now he’s all grown up and can afford the real thing.  He’ll be a collector for life.

Tattoo of Drew's Sunsplash Painting

Tattoo of Drew's Sunsplash Painting

THE TATTOO GENERATION: There’s no greater, lasting branding platform than having your art tattooed on someone’s back.

This is another form of “thievery” that Drew and I approve of.  Hundreds of people are walking around in the world with Drew’s art tattooed on their bodies, without his consent.

They are walking billboards.  And we see the value in that.

STYLE THIEVES: Sometimes I get bummed out when I see Drew’s paintings being copied.  I especially get stung when I see that someone has chosen to paint entirely in his style – and the reason this bothers me is that I don’t want anyone getting that persons art confused with Drew’s.

But Drew, being the wise sage that he is, has no problem with this.

Drew claims that the more people that copy his style, the more it’s apparent that he’s made an impact on the art world. And this is an idea I can buy.  Reluctantly.

WHAT ABOUT A COMPANY MAKING MONEY OFF OF ART THEY’VE STOLEN: We’ve had many infringements over the years from companies, and here’s how I handle it:

  1. First, I contact the company and make sure they know that it’s an infringement.  Sometimes companies will hire other people for art, not knowing that the images are stolen.  I do my best to work it out amicably with the company, and we’ll work out a payment after the fact.
  2. If I don’t get anywhere with the company directly, then I put my attorney on it.  A simple “cease and desist” letter usually does the trick.

IF YOU’RE GOOD, INFRINGEMENT WILL HAPPEN: People will steal your art, if it’s making an impact.  Accept that.

Go after the companies that steal it and are making money off of it.

But for everyone else, see it as a way to share your art and ideas with the world.  After all, isn’t that one of the reasons you’re an artist?

Spunk BrophyMaria “Spunk” Brophy

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PLEASE, share your thoughts on this post below!  And Tweet it if you like it!

About Maria Brophy

During the last decade, acting as agent and brand manager, Maria has successfully built Drew Brophy’s lifestyle artist brand through licensing and special projects.

Maria writes a blog that helps other creative people to design the life of their dreams, too. Hop on over to Maria's blog at


  1. What if someone used my art but said that it was theirs? I really don’t know what to do. I mean, the evidence is clear that she stole it from me because my signature was on the artwork and she didn’t really remove it. I think she forgot to photoshop that one. But anyway, she keeps on saying that it’s hers but really it’s not.

  2. I work for a community group and find the subject material extremely handy for work we are running.good work and look forward to more blog content

  3. That is part of the progression in art, everybody copies everybody, you may get an idea from a painting, and make it you own it is how we interpet art and make it your own. Drew is not the first to paint a wave, but he is painting his perception of the wave.

  4. Maria, saw your Tweet and followed it here. I totally agree with Drew! I primarily make jewelry. I have been at shows where someone was OBVIOUSLY memorizing what I’d done so they could try copying it. A friend saw and was incensed in my honor. I told them not to bother because:
    A. I don’t do more than a few of any one design
    B. Unless their workmanship standards are pretty dang high, it’ll be obvious it’s not my work. And, when you look at what else they’ve copied from OTHER artists, it’ll be obvious that’s not their ‘style’.
    C. I already DID that design. If they want to eat my dust, let ’em.

  5. Landa, If you had read the post, you would have seen that we first try to work it out with people who infringe, and if that doesn’t work, then we take legal action.

    Our way of being is different from most. We prefer to operate from a place of peace and loving acceptance, rather than aggression and anger. The latter just tend to go against you.

    The Second Life infringement has been amicably resolved. Period. No need to beat a dead horse.

  6. Landa Denver says:

    I say “walk your talk” when it comes to stopping rip off artists. Follow through and make sure the “approved” images you license are quality or you comprimise the integrity of the art such as what has happened in Second Life and those images of Drew Brophy’s art on virtual surf boards. I am a huge fan.

  7. Great article. Thanks Maria!

  8. I am feel the same way as the guy who taped pictures on his wall. I have several prints that i actually bought for like 25 bucks. Sunset and Bamboo Beach but i can assure you that a Drew Brophy original will be the first piece of expensive art I buy. and I stole some small pictures and have them as my background on my phone. Thanks Drew you rock, and have been an inspiration to countless waves on college notes.

  9. Like it or not, we all influence each other! So share!
    I am from the Rick Griffin era, and my heart jumps to see
    him still touching us all in so many ways.. The younger gen. stands on our shoulders and so on. Carry on!
    Aloha Nui,

  10. Great philosophy! Live Aloha. I also pulled jpgs of Drews art off the internet and even made a tile mosaic table based on one of his paintings. Now I am happy to buy his art to have Ron House put on my surfboards.
    Tom English

  11. Hi Maria. Sorry that I don’t agree with you on the issue. There is no honor in theft. Unfortunately plagerism happens all the time, specially with digital images. Just try and copy somebody else’s term paper and see what happens when the professor finds out. YOU GET A GRADE OF ‘F’. Copying somebody elses work and claiming it to be your own is dishonest. An child may start by tracing over a picture, but a real artist does original work. For all you beginning surf artists out there, I have only one concept for you to remember. Do your own work, create your own style and subject matter. It is critical to your own success, independence and artistic integrity.

  12. I agree with this take for sure. That is why I do a screen saver download for fans on my blog, as “Surf Art of the Week”. I find the more I give away for free, the more I sell. This works for donations to philanthropic or charity events. Good for the soul, good for marketing, and then someone who doesn’t win the auction may come back later to buy something.

    I think this is where music companies go way wrong.

    Check out my blog at

    Oh and by the way, there are a ton of Brophy copiers out there. It is a very popular style with new surf artists. Very complimentary.