Recently, digital-artist Sara Shakeel became an internet sensation for creating images replacing stretch marks with glitter. However, she soon had her artwork stolen by a large brand with no credit or commission. In speaking out about the issue to her following of 208k, it became apparent how common copyright and plagiarism issues are for online artists.

Shakeel began her collages blending the psychedelic and surreal with everyday imagery while working as a dentist. Much like Sara Shakeel, for many artists today the opportunity of using an online gallery space through social media can begin a creative career. However, it also invites the danger of easily having artwork stolen through larger businesses simply saving images and pasting them onto products or other websites.

The accessories brand Chaos Social Club recently used a piece of artwork by Sara Shakeel, taken from her Instagram page, and featured it as the background of their Kendall Jenner poster selling for $91 each. Without any credit or commission to the artist, the issue of theft regarding online posts becomes a larger issue.

In releasing her frustration to her online audience of 208K, it quickly became clear how large of an issue copyright and plagiarism is for other artists too. Many supporters flooded her comments as well as the brands (which disabled their comments section to silence the accusations) in mutual anger at the reoccurring problem.

There are many ways for artists online to help protect their work, such as watermarking the work, preventing right clicks and so on. However, the issue at hand wouldn’t exist if larger businesses were more educated on and empathetic towards the effects their stealing has on a smaller artist. To put it simply, to take artists work and use it as your own is to deprive them of potential income.

Moreover, even the opportunity to collaborate with a big brand could propel an online artist’s career forward. In this sense, the politeness to reach out to a creator, show admiration for their work and offer a collaboration may tremendously benefit them with or without the opportunity of payment. And so, in an industry based on collaboration, artists of all sizes such be equally appreciated and supported.