On the Henna Gathering forum I moderate, someone recently expressed their frustration at people both stealing their photos on Instagram outright, and also using the images for inspiration for their own henna work, copying a design almost exactly without giving credit to the original.

Here’s my response (unedited here – so please don’t mind the conversational tone).

Um, I just wanted to say – welcome to the club! It’s some sort of rite of passage on the path to greater artist awesomeness to have your stuff stolen / uncredited, to confront the people who stole / didn’t credit it, and then get upset about their reaction and lack of common courtesy and sense.

Good things you can do with this so that you move forward in a positive way:

-Use theft and uncredited image use as inspiration by other artists as inspiration as market research! Which of your designs do you see it happening with more than once, if any? THOSE are your popular designs. You’re onto something with them – look at them and analyze what makes them good, and do more of that! Also make sure you’re also presenting them prominently to your clients.

-Watermark like crazy, and put your images in more-theivable-but-also-more-useful places like flickr and your own website (www.yoursitehere.com, nothing less!), where yes the images will get stolen more, but – for the better – the idiots who hotlink to the images rather than actually downloading them (60%? a totally made up statistic) will be sending link love to your stuff constantly, increasing its search engine ranking… On Instagram there really is NO SUCH THING (except by crazy crazy image farming sites, who invest tons of effort and hacker skillz into getting around stuff), since you can’t right-click on images to get their URL. On Instagram, all low-level thieves can do is screen shot, which leaves no/less digital trace back to you. (Your watermark is good…..but a digital trail leading back to you is far better and more useful to you.)

-Enjoy the increased search engine ranking and all of the positive things that brings for your business.