Slightly longer answer. It happens but you can't sell if you aren't online and people that copy will copy with or without a watermark. I simply don't worry about those that copy and concentrate on selling to those that will buy.
Unfortunately there are many dishonest people in the world and no matter what you do, if your work is halfway decent, it will get copied. But it is either hide it in a closet or put it online. I constantly deal with that. I run reverse image searches often. The scraper sites are a losing battle, pretty much nothing you can do about them. Now if you find someone selling your work you can ask them to stop, send a DMCA, contact an attorney, etc... Like stated above, the images that they can grab are low resolution and the most that they can do is sell it on a coffee mug.
Once on twitter somebody tweeted me back on one of my cat paintings.
"wow this is cool, I will print a little copy for myself"
I thought %&7"(/#@ ohh well at least you should keep it in yourself what you will do. Then I tweeted back the link to the image and wrote it would be nicer if she buys a little print and support my art with that. Of course didnt happen. But that person would never had bought one anyway..
I don't get too excited if and when someone copies my work for personal use. I realize (right or wrong) that's just the way it is. As a result, I only upload reduced size files. Somebody using my work for profit, well that's another story.
With a good printer and a bit of skill with a graphics program you can make a pretty nice 8x10 print from our preview images here. What's that saying? "Locks are to keep honest people honest, they don't stop dishonest people", or something like that. Like others have said, if they are dishonest they were never going to buy anyway, it's not worth worrying about. The bigger problem is shady company's taking our images and offering them for sale on products on Amazon and such, but trying to stop that is like playing whack-a-mole. I just don't worry about it but I don't get many sales anyway, not exactly a big loss. In fact if somebody else managed to make money from my art I'd be tempted to congratulate them. lol
If you are a creative type - where are you going to display your work ?
It could be in a small town, or a large city - but in theory people could duplicate your work anyhow when they purchase an original .
They could buy a card - or snap a cell shot at a show - easy enough.
Not a good feeling to know that your work is copied - but typically it is small time potatoes - and you didn't actually lose a sale from it.
If you do find your work on the Internet - by a Google reverse image search - you send a DMCA notice for take down.
I wouldn't bother chasing ghosts around the Internet - only if it is on another sales site.
Unfortunately no site can protect work from thieves who are adamant on having an image that is on their page.
As soon as you go to a site, the image is on your computer. No right click or watermark stops that. All images go straight into a temp folder and can be grabbed from there by people who want it. That is how browsers are designed to make the browsing and speed more efficient.
I only have to make a screenshot and I have any image I want, from any site.
We do however, counter this with these options
1. We have no right click on some pages
2. We offer a watermark (unfortunately this does deter some buyers)
3. Enlarging any thumbnails degrades the quality of the image terribly so it is useless for a print. Remember if they want the image for a phone wallpaper etc there is NOTHING we can do to stop that, even phones have screenshot takers
4. Your full resolution image is hidden away so people only see the low resolution copy
5. On the full resolution preview on the main image pages, it only shows a small section and a border is actually removed. That way, even if people took the time to open all the full resolution image and copied each segment to stitch together, they would not get the complete image.
The low resolution thumbnails and preview images are as safe as we can make them, your full images are not on the site
You need to look on the site which is stealing the work and find a contact link. Then you need to file a DMCA notice (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
Unfortunately these need to be sent in by the artist themselves to the site stealing them or to the server host of that site.
I thought this was an economic post about people coping.
Copying didn't originate with the internet. It just made it a little easier.
I like what Janine said about chasing ghosts. Don't go walking around haunted houses or weird internet sites.
I consider a 900 pixel download from here a freebie as long as they don't try and sell it or use it commercially. There is nothing and I mean nothing you can do to stop someone from downloading any picture from any site on the internet.
I have licensed my photos 40,000 times and most of that is on the internet where it can show up in a Google search and be copied. So far i have had very few problems and the ones I had were dealt with.
It is like leaving your wallet on the seat of your car. MOST people will not steel your wallet...... some will. You can't worry too much about it. There are many honest people out there who are willing to pay for things. Anytime you post anything on the Internet people CAN steel. Even steeling your identify. We can't worry about our art when it's on the Internet. I have seen my work stolen too, but I am making pretty good sales. So, I am happy.
My avatar is world famous, it has been tattooed numerous times, used for peoples paintings, used in a street mural artist competition some of these uses with permission most without. I’ve made zerrrrrooo sales off of it....
I sell in 15 different galleries and venue up and down the Central Coast of California. I attend a half dozen open houses and featured artist showings in any given month.
I cannot remember being to one where I did not witness someone taking a photo of something hanging on the wall.
I get it that it is not right and I do not condone it, but it is part of doing business in the day and age where everyone is carrying a camera around with them and has little or no understanding of the ethics regarding art and or copyright laws.
As difficult pill to swallow as it is, you just have to accept it as part of doing business.
I take a lot of pictures for some of these venues, with the artist's permission, of course, to be used in advertising. I can get a great shot that will give me a file large enough to print in larger sizes without a problem.
In reality, your images are not protected anywhere.
I wish I had the money to pay someone to steal 20 or so of my photographs and/or artwork. Then I could raise a huge stink over it - and more people would look - and maybe buy a few. As it is - no one even looks . . .
I have 2 flying crow photos that are the same image except one is a png file for tshirts. They are among my most viewed photos. I am pretty sure they are linked somewhere for people to swipe as tattoos. Eventually it will sell.
That is why I am happy so much for single card sales, because its mean there are honest people out there, its mean also is what they could afford and they didnt want to get the image on the sneaky way, and maybe they wanted also for me to know that they appreciate my work as an artist
Electronic media and "can't be copied" are two poles in life. On the one hand, it's the risk we take, on the other, they won't get a very good copy. In all likelihood, if there were a way to prevent things like screen shots, we'd just stop people who were not likely to buy anything anyway.