Sunday Mailbag

January 30th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: On a lot of your drawings (sketch of the week) you type out the copy right symbol and your name. If someone wanted to “steal” it or “borrow” it, all they need to do is just PhotoShop it out, correct?? What’s the point of the copy right symbol??

You mean like this?:

You are 100% right in that it would be very easy for even the most novice of PhotoShop users to remove that copyright symbol/credit and steal this or any image thus marked. Despite that fact, I started doing this a few years ago for 3 reasons:

  1. The Orphan Works Act– I’ve endlessly blogged about this ridiculous legislation that keeps rearing it’s ugly head thanks to the lobbying efforts of people like Google and the championing of it by the misinformed and the just plain gullible, so I won’t bother to rehash that here. Read about it HERE if you want, or just skip to this one if you want to see the pro and con arguments broken down. Knowing this might eventually be coming down the pike, placing something like this makes an Orphan Works defense against unauthorized use a lot harder to stick.
  2. The “This lock only keeps the honest people out” concept– A guy who used to make cabinets for me for some of my theme park operations used that phrase for flimsy locks that could easily be broken off. The idea was that such a weak lock didn’t give you security against a real thief, but would keep out anyone who would not go so far as to break a lock to get into something. Same concept here. It’s one thing for someone to grab some image and pop it into their website or use it for some other purpose, and it’s another to have to physically remove a copyright credit to do it with impunity. There is something psychological about going to that length, as easy as it might be, that sets off the “I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing” alarm in most people’s heads. Most people, given even that momentary pause, will think again and usually not do it. A kid might come by one of my booths and rattle a door, but if he finds it locked, even by an easily forced cabinet lock, he will move along. The addition of the credit forces people to make a conscious decision to violate my copyrights, and that is often enough of a deterrent to stop them.
  3. Education– This goes hand in hand with the previous reason. I’m trying to do my part to educate people about copyright and to respect it. Some people genuinely think if it’s on the internet, it’s free. If the simple addition of a copyright line get’s people to understand that ALL images on the internet are copyrighted and owned by somebody and that copyright should be respected, then it’s worth the time.

Thanks to Rick Wright for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!


  1. Mike says:

    Sometimes it’s nice to be able to find more work by the author, if you do spot the image elsewhere with no credit. A lot of authors don’t sign their work, which makes finding more of it more difficult.

  2. I see your drawings reproduced or copied verbatum at caricature booths all the time. Especially in Myrtle Beach Sc. There is a franchise there that hires Russian exchange students to draw, but misdirects people with your samples. when I asked who owned the franchise they reply “The Crazy Chinese Lady’

  3. George Cook says:

    I have checked out many sites with artwork over the years, especially yours, and have never thought of stealing anything to call my own. If I gave even a tiny thought to copying anything it was for practicing something in a different style just to see how my drawing looks next to the original, and nothing more. I only draw in styles I like, or else it wouldn’t fun to try to do. I respect copyrights and I know each artist has worked hard to develop the look and appeal of their own artwork and I have no intention of taking anything away from them, unless its knowledge and inspiration.

  4. Roal says:

    With the “Lock” concept, if a dishonest person does break the lock and disposes of it, could you prove the lock was actually there in the first place and that some one broke it? At least with digital art, I think you can.

    With digital art; you have the original work-file with the copyright stamp in it. The work-file is timestamped and usually a much higher resolution than any distributed copy, and it could possibly contain layers and other aspects that would not be in any copy. Having the copyright stamp on the original work-file would show that not only was the image copied, but also that it was purposefully modified to remove the original copyright information. Just in case an unfortunate scenario does occur.

  5. Bill says:


    This post was an eye-opener! From now on, every piece I post on my blog will have a copyright symbol!

  6. Doug Gilford says:

    Interesting from my point of view as a rabid scanner of copyrighted Mad covers. Though they are Mad property, I take a psychological ownership of the scans once they make it to my site. And when someone chops off the tag and blatantly uses the scan, it irks me (probably unjustifiably).
    Weird, huh?

  7. nunz says:

    Besides the copyright symbol, I also try to hide my signature where it’s not easily seen in my drawings, like in the hairline. Nothing blatant, just small & subtle so you can see it if you know where to look for it. You can photoshop out the copyright symbol, but how do you explain signing my name in “your” drawing?

  8. Lafontaine says:

    Interesting topic…..I’ve just started to write Copyright on every image I put on the web. Here, in Canada, many painters have seen their work reprinted in foreign countries and distributed in Canada at much lower prices. Also, a part from the fact that your drawings are simply amazing, it’s fun that you share your knowledge and educate people with these texts that you write along with your images. To often, to my point of view, the artists just write 1 or 2 words with their posts and don’t participate to the sharing of the knowledge underneath the profession.

  9. Pseudonym says:

    I’m teaching myself to draw. Signing every sketch (or page of a sketchbook) is, I think, an important thing to do, because knowing that your name will be associated with this image forces you to think of it as a learning exercise rather than a mere doodle.

  10. Probably about time to put a copyright on the Dreaded Deadline Demon pic.


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