Back in February, Diplo used an original GIF by illustrator Rebecca Mock as background art in promoting his music. Staff writer Jo Fu wrote about the incident and his misogynistic response to the fallout. Here, she speaks with Mock about how artists can protect themselves and their work.
Several detractors have tied this theft to your sharing your work online. But as a digital artist with animated material, it seems like the best way to promote yourself and your efforts. How did you protect yourself against this and other instances of theft?
There are several steps one can take to protect work online. Signing and tagging your own work is a way to lead people who stumble upon it back to you. You can also use Creative Commons to license your work to potential sharers and hold them accountable if they don’t follow your guidelines, or file for an official copyright—for a price. Even if you do none of these things (I don’t for all of my work, but I should), you still hold the copyright to work you create under US law. If someone used your work without your permission, you have every right to call them out, tell them to stop, and demand compensation—and take legal action if they don’t comply.
I think people should be more mindful of where they pull internet images from—the first step, before using a graphic that’s not yours, should be tracking down its origin and asking for permission to use it.
Will those processes change considering Diplo and his fans’ response?
I don’t think the legal structures of my industry will change—when the rules are followed, they work. In the future I will be more adamant about making sure people are honoring my requests for proper tagging, credit, and compensation. I was unsure at times what my rights actually meant I could do, or how to take action, and now I’m much more clear.
The original art Diplo used as background for promotional material.
Diplo coarsely suggested that “credit was enough,” but as a professional illustrator, that’s clearly untrue. What are your expectations for granting permissions, compensation, and crediting, when you let others use your work?
Firstly, the “credit” was actually just a mention of my handle (not even tagged) on Instagram, which is a personal account and not linked in any way to my website or blog, and so was entirely inappropriate. The assumption seems to be that I was simply looking for attention from Diplo and his fanbase. What I was expecting, what I always expect, is a proper showcase of my skills, linked to a platform where potential employers can contact me. I’m self-employed, and I rely on exposure to find new clients. I also depend on charging for usage—if a client wants to use my work for promotion of their event, product, or image, they are potentially profiting, and I (or anyone whose work is being used) has the right to charge for that usage.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and illustrators who are sharing their art on Tumblr, DeviantArt, and their own websites? How do you negotiate for pay and credit, when “exposure” itself is seen as a reward?
“Exposure” is not payment. Artists who work hard to create original work should be able to expect a fair wage, and “exposure” often only serves the people who are doing the “exposing”—they get away with not paying the creators, and drive prices down for the rest of the industry. If I do work for free, it’s only ever for personal projects, non-profits, or artist collaborations.
Negotiation can be intimidating, but it’s important for both parties to be on the same page. You can be informal, but get all the information you can. Every client has a different budget and different needs. Think about your needs first, to figure out a price range to can work in—what do you need to make a living? What is your process, and what is your pace?
Also know your rights. You always have a right to ask for payment, to ask for an explanation, for credit, to retain copyright, etc. Sometimes clients will insist on usage rights you are not comfortable granting—compromise is part of negotiation.
You can find Rebecca Mock’s portfolio here.