After Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, and with Christmas coming, your Facebook newsfeed must have been filled with ads for days. This article is aimed at helping you stop impulsive purchases and encourage you to do a little research before paying.
Some of the most popular items that we’ve seen on ads these days are (surprise, surprise) jumpers, mugs, cell phone covers… featuring fun and original designs.
Each one of these designs has an artist behind it. More often than not, an independent artist who’s already selling it via their platforms of choice, to receive a decent percentage per sale.
But some websites take advantage of disinformation to sell the same designs without asking for the original artist’s consent, thus taking all the profit.
How do you know if the website is trustworthy?
When purchasing online, sometimes it can be difficult to know who to trust. Next, you’ll find a list of tips to guide you when choosing whether to make a purchase on a website… or get away from it as fast as you can. I’m going to use this mug’s ad which appeared on my Facebook newsfeed a few days ago as an example.
Can you see the artist’s name?
Awesome. If there is also a picture, the name serves as a link to the artist’s profile, and you can find more designs in there in the same style, updates, a description, a contact link, and links to more of his profiles on other platforms… Chances are you’re on an honest site.
You don’t see what’s the artist’s name? Not even a nickname? You can’t find more designs by the same artist? Better try somewhere else.
Googling the website + “reviews” doesn’t always work
In order to confirm our suspicions, we may need to do some research. Looking for other buyers’ opinions is a good way to solve doubts, but one needs to be sceptical.
Let’s keep using this particular example, the site where they sell the black cat’s design supposedly without the rights. They have received some criticism for delivering their products late, or for having expensive shipping rates, but other than that, their reviews are pretty good. In fact, the first thing you find when googling is 4/5 and 5/5 reviews.
What does this mean? Even if there are reasons to believe that they might be selling these designs without permission, the site seems to take the business seriously. These opinions are about the products’ and the service’s quality, they don’t answer what we want to know. Most buyers don’t care about whether the money goes to the artist or not, or they just assume that it does.
Keep in mind that reviews can also be fake, submitted by the website’s admins.
When you search a little deeper, you start finding users accusing them of selling art without the required licenses, and also of not responding to emails. There are also artists publishing on their personal profiles to ask their followers to not buy their designs from this platform. But those are not the first results that one finds when googling.
If you do your research on your own, don’t settle for the first reviews. After reading many, use your own judgement to decide.
About social media channels: keep a sceptical mindset as well. Even if the website has social media platforms, followers and good reviews, that doesn’t guarantee that they’re paying the artists for using their designs.
Google the site + “art theft”
This query seems to provide more valuable search results. If you google for example “Teefury art theft” (a website which is well known and trustworthy) you won’t find any accusations against the platform.
On the other hand, if you google “The-suspicious-website’s-name art theft” and the first links you see go to claims of misuse of copyrighted works, and opinion articles warning against the website, you should probably look for an alternative website to buy…
Keep in mind that every website can have users selling copyrighted works without permission. But that doesn’t mean it’s the platform’s responsibility; it’s just about those particular users. In these circumstances, the copyright claim system tends to be agile and solve the problem by closing the offender’s account.
Security and popularity don’t imply honesty
You can find many guides and tutorials online to teach you how to tell if a page is safe to make purchases on it or not. This isn’t one of them.
As it’s already been stated earlier in this article, the website may have a team behind it taking the business seriously, paying attention to customers and delivering products in time. They may have built a safe website, with a perfectly secure paying method.
They may receive sincere positive reviews. All of that doesn’t mean they’re doing everything well, it doesn’t mean they have the permission or licenses to sell the designs.
If you want your money to reach the correct person and pay the artist because you like their work, focus on finding the answer to that question and, finally, if you still have doubts about the website, look for the artist.
Check the copyright policy of the site
There should be a link, possibly on the site’s footer, called “Copyright policy” o “DMCA policy”. At least there should some dedicated paragraphs about intellectual property and copyright in the general “Terms and Conditions”. If you can’t find anything like that on a website that sells original artwork… it’s another bad sign.
If you do find it, the copyright policy can serve you to know about how the website deals with these matters, and you can proceed to inform them about any misuse of a copyrighted design if necessary. Maybe it’s all been an honest mistake and they’ll take down the design, or maybe they’ll ignore your message. In any case, it’s useful information to decide whether to buy there or not.
I want the design, how can I find the artist?
When there’s no name and no contact link, one needs to find a different way to contact the artist, or at least the same design, to buy it from a legit website.
Once you find them, it would be nice to let them know that you think someone is selling their work without permission.
If you have reached the suspicious website through a Facebook ad, for example, check the comments on the ad. Sometimes, when it’s been running for a few days, you’ll find a fan of the original artist warning buyers and sharing a link to the official website. If you’re lucky, that’s the quickest solution.
If nobody has shared this information, and you are pretty sure the website isn’t legit, warn buyers yourself and ask if somebody knows where to buy the design legally. Remember to come back and share the link if you find it before someone else answers.
When everything else fails, this is the system that I use: Make the design flat, saying that you’re interested in purchasing it as a poster, for example. Then, if you can, right-click on it and select the option to search that image on Google.
If you can’t, take a screen capture by clicking on the “Impr Pant” key and cut the design on some image processing program. Or use a tool to capture sections of your screen directly. Next, save the image and drag it to your browser, in order to use it to search on Google Images.
Among the results, you should find some of the artist’s official profiles.
If the design shows some very specific quote or characters… You may also find it using just keywords. Maybe there is a signature somewhere in the image! But if the platform doesn’t let you zoom in, it can be hard to read the artist’s name like that.
Some trustworthy websites to purchase without regrets
When in doubt, here is a small list of legit websites where you will find tons of original artworks and designs, shared by their own creators. If you know any others, please leave us a comment or contact us via @SafeCreative or Facebook.
Thanks for reading us and safe shopping!