I've made some mistakes in my life, but a positive intention turned and bit me in the ass and regularly pops up so I can't forget an amateur mistake I made a few years ago. (Above, my tattoo. Below, the original artwork in my sketchbook.)
About 4 years ago I decided to start promoting my artwork online. the idea was that I would promote myself as an illustrator and a custom tattoo designer all at the same time. I had plenty of illustration examples, but only a handful of tattoo designs, which happened to be most of the designs for my own very personal tattoos and a few other things I had done. Well, I didn't have my tattoo designs up for more than a few months when I began getting emails asking permission to use my designs. I was dumbfounded, surely these people meant that they wanted me to design them a tattoo. Wrong. They were asking if they could use the designs as is. I would reply in a friendly manner that the design was my own personal tattoo, but that I could design them something similar for a fee. Most of the time the reply was a sorry and they liked my artwork but no one actually hired me to draw for them. The final straw was when I received an email from a guy in Germany. Who, in very very broken english thanked me for my swallow tattoo design and sent along a photo of his brand new rip-off tattoo. I was furious and took down the tattoo artwork immediately. (unfortunately I don't have the photo any more because I deleted it out of anger.)
Fast forward to today. I still continue to find my tattoo designs online on a regular basis. I will just be searching on google checking out tattoos when BLAM. There it is, one of my designs. Usually on someone's blog or myspace page, but worst of all I recently found 3 of my designs on a foreign tattoo flash website, promoting them as "Free Tattoo Flash Art" They even had the nerve to set it up so you can email yourself your favorite ripped-off artwork so you can easily print it out and take it to your tattoo artist. The problem is the entire site is German or French (my foreign language knowledge is limited) and there is no email address for me to complain to. I even looked through the source code to see if it was stored there. Nothing. So if you are more knowledgeable than me at finding email addresses please help me find this. Here are the links. (Note: the original artwork had copyrights on them but they were photoshopped out.)
I also just today found someone on Etsy, who is using my Swallow art for necklace designs. I am furious about this and don't even know what to say to her in the email she is making money off of my artwork ARGGGG. I will write to her but I need to cool off first so I don't blow my top completely in the message. Any suggestions of what I should say to her? Here are the links and a couple photos of the stolen art.
Here another example of someone using my image for their own gain. This girl even lives in the same area as me and was using it to promote her photography business on Craigslist. As far as I know she stopped using it after I emailed her.
The other is a professional xtreme skiier who claims to have come up with it himself, but it is clearly badly traced or copied. Here's that link and a pic.
I do know that I made a mistake in believing in the goodness of people and now know that not everyone respects or understands art. Especially tattoo art. Everyone seems to think that the internet is just full of free tattoo artwork and that it can be used with no respect. So The lesson today is, ask your talented tattoo artist to design something for you, and if you just "have to have" that swallow tattoo you found on the internet, at least ask your tattoo artist to alter it so that the original art stays original!