Dealing with Art Copycats: My Experience and 5 Essential Tips for Artists

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is based on my personal experiences and is intended for educational purposes only. I am not a lawyer, and this should not be considered legal advice. If you find that someone has copied your art, I strongly recommend consulting with a qualified attorney to discuss your specific situation and determine the best course of action.

This blog is about my recent experience of having my artwork copied by another person or "artist".

I've had it before - like many, many artists and designers out there - that my artwork has been stolen, i.e. screenshotted or downloaded from my website and used to make products and sell them on Amazon, usually in extremely low quality and by shady companies I don't want to be associated with.

But this is something else; it is a different kind of thing when people, and strangely enough other artists, deliberately re-draw your artwork or take the inspiration a bit too far or too literally.

the first time it happened

The first time it happened, I discovered it by accident. It was an add on Instagram from a private fabric company. It was like my design, at first glance you could say it was different enough, but then the more you looked at it, the more obvious it was that it was a copy. And the person who made it was following me. It felt like a punch in the gut. I had created this design two years ago and it is still one of my favorites because it has a very sweet and personal story behind it and the place I call home. I felt bad for days and couldn't sleep well at night trying to figure out what to do next. "Am I overreacting? Am I wrong? This is so unfair! It was my idea, my creativity! What if she created it more than 2 years ago and I'm making a fool of myself? Should I embarrass her on Instagram? What would that say about me? Should I just let it go?" were some of the questions that went through my mind. When I shared this with others, I got all kinds of reactions from people when I showed them both designs. From "OMG, that's so obvious, what a nerve" to "expose her on Instagram", from "it happens to everyone" to "well, it's not that similar, let it go".

I was SO not ready to let it go. I read various articles online and blog posts about what to do when this happens, and I knew for sure it was more common than it seemed. It still felt awful. I found a blog post that advised me to "not get emotional about it," because, lest we show and express our feelings and emotions, right? (*irony off*). Then I found a really helpful recorded chat in Spanish about copyright infringement between a lawyer and a psychologist. It was amazing!!! (I can't find it anymore, sadly, but if I ever do, I'll post it here). They discussed the feelings an artist might have when something like this happens, and it felt like they were inside my head. I felt understood, seen, and empowered to fight for my intellectual property and rights.


I decided to stop complaining and whining about it (I had done enough and let it all out) and took matters into my own hands. I didn't want to add drama to my stories, I thought it might do more harm than good, and decided to resolve the issue privately. I first sent this person an email expressing my surprise, asking her to take down the design, stop selling the fabrics and products with this design, and give her an "opportunity" to explain herself before I contacted a lawyer.

Their response was pathetic and full of excuses. I decided to contact a lawyer who assured me that I was right and that he would take the case and that she would then be obligated to pay my legal fees. In the end, she had to take down the main design (she had made a main pattern, a coordinate using some of the elements, and some spot illustrations), stop selling the fabric, and destroy the remaining stock. But her lawyer insisted that the style of the design was different enough that they wouldn't pay for my lawyer. I felt stupid at first, but then again, she had to hire and pay a lawyer herself, so fair is fair. The main thing was that the copy was gone. Lesson learned.

the second time it happened

So I was browsing through Stories on Instagram one morning when I saw an artist friend of mine who had tagged her art licensing agency. I had seen this agency a few times that week, so I went to the agency's profile to see what kind of artists and styles they represented. I scrolled through their feed and one design immediately caught my eye.

It was my design. No doubt about it.

In a different color palette and clearly re-drawn, but it was a 1:1 copy of my design, with enough details changed that "no one would notice". And let me tell you, it wasn't one of those designs where you say, well, it's just a heart design or it's just Christmas trees, anybody can do that, you don't own that. It was an Easter design with a specific layout and very specific display elements with specific details. I was in disbelief that it would happen again.

But it felt different this time. It still hurt, I won't lie, but it didn't keep me up at night, I was able to manage my emotions in a healthier way and I didn't fall into the victim trap. I knew my rights and what to do. I took screenshots of everything and decided to contact them and put their art licensing agency on CC.

Since English is not my first language, I wanted to communicate in a professional way, not too aggressive, but still express my feelings and opinion to the artist. I went to chatGPT, explained the whole situation and then modified the text to my liking and "voice". I'm really happy with the result of this copyright infringement notice and I think the situation was resolved quickly because of this clear, professional and well-written text.

SO what should you do if this happens to you?

My point is: it will happen eventually. Knowing this doesn't make it any less painful, and it shouldn't stop you from sharing your beautiful art. IF or WHEN it does happen, let me tell you that it is okay to feel sad, disappointed, angry, disrespected, and overstepped. Feel it, talk about it with your family and friends and let it all out.

BUT, my advice is to RESPOND, not REACT. Do you know the difference? Responding to aggression means that you take a moment to think before you act, so your actions are more controlled and thoughtful. Reacting to aggression, on the other hand, is more immediate and often driven by your emotions, which can sometimes make the situation worse. It's like the difference between pausing to choose your words carefully and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.


And here are 5 pieces of advice on what to do if someone copies your works:

  1. Document Everything: Take screenshots and gather evidence of the original work and the copy, including dates and times.

  2. Stay Calm and Objective: It's natural to feel upset, but try to maintain composure and approach the situation with a clear mind.

  3. Consider Legal Action: Depending on the severity of the infringement, consider sending a cease and desist letter or seeking legal counsel to protect your rights.

  4. Communicate Professionally: If you choose to reach out to the individual or company responsible, do so in a professional and respectful manner, clearly stating your concerns and desired resolution.

  5. Protect Your Work Going Forward: Take proactive steps to safeguard your artwork in the future, such as watermarking images with your logo,  registering copyrights (if this applies in your country), and monitoring for unauthorized use.


Has this ever happen to you?

let me know in the comments!

Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Martha Regina (Monday, 03 June 2024 18:30)

    Hola Lucía! Siento mucho lo del incidente de plagio. Gracias a Dios no he tenido que pasar por esa situación. Creo que puedo entender lo que has sentido. Son los riesgos de esta (y muchas otras) profesión. Lo bueno es que te diste cuenta, lo has sabido manejar y has logrado resolverlo. Espero no te vuelva a suceder!
    Un abrazo!