03 May 2015

Why Are Independent Authors Using Stolen Art?


I’m fairly new to the world of self-publishing, and one of the first things I noticed was the startling amount of stolen art that is occurring without our writing community. Now, I’m not talking about copying story ideas or plagiarizing, but something much more insidious and damaging. This type of theft can be so blatant at times that it risks substantial harm to the thieves themselves.


Screenshot 2015-05-03 14.54.08


The above is promotional material presumably for a romance novel. Here is where the author snagged it:


Did the author know this is copyrighted material? Was the hired artist a professional? Had they heard of intellectual property? Since the stolen art was used in promotional advertising and not the actual cover of the book, did they not care?

Let’s look at another:


Dude! Those look awesome! Especially the middle one.



They lifted the character Raiden from the billion dollar franchise of Metal Gear Solid from Konami. The cover artist changed some of the color and made his eye glow, but alas, a bit of dressing does not a copyright unmake. Does the artist hope no one will notice, banking on the ignorance of the author himself? My God, what if the author commissioned the cover artist for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the artist did a copy-paste from a Bing search and laughed all the way to the bank? Are the other two covers original, or are they lifted from some more obscure designs?


Oh God.



Not only did this person steal, but they made it ugly. It’s like nabbing a Porsche and then airbrushing kittens on the hood. While the image above isn’t specifically stolen, the sword itself should wave a few flags. That weapon is extremely recognizable because of its rare hollow pommel, a true feat of smithing. Also, that fine blade was brandished in one of the largest film franchises in history as a center piece. Aside from the stolen art, how many ideas within this novel are nabbed as well?

Aragorn is not pleased.


Movies may be the easiest medium to steal from. Perhaps because the assets are so visual? Do we dream of having sales numbers like films, and therefore we are desperate to pilfer whatever we can, whenever we can? Here’s another example of theft from a film to promote a novel:

B-QTcqbCAAA_uhE (1)

My God, that image is terrifying. And it was even scarier in the film Night of the Hunter :




Oopsie Daisy! When I saw this on Twitter, I inquired.

Screenshot 2015-05-03 13.15.09

Ah, friendship.

Shouldn’t we be accountable for blatant copyright theft? Shouldn’t we know what is on the cover of our novels? If we, as a community, are willing to allow an attitude of “I don’t know and I don’t care” when it comes to the presentation of our work and craft, then clearly we are headed toward collapse. Independent authors like us won’t be taken seriously or viewed as a viable alternative to the major publishing houses. I can’t express how furious I am that these authors—with whom I stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the marketplace—have covers and promotional materials that are clearly stolen. I have reached out to each, linked where the images in question originated from, and only ONE AUTHOR responded with “Oh shit!” and fixed the issue A.S.A.P. (that author is not on this list).

There is no debate or grey area: this harms authors. But circling back to my original concern: why are we using graphics that we do not own or have permission to use? I’ve got some ideas:

1.) The author has no idea and is being fleeced by the cover artist or marketing firm.

2.) The author hired someone who is not a professional, and that individual doesn’t care.

3.) The author can’t write an original book, so why bother with an original cover?

4.) The author knows they will never be successful as a writer, so their poaching will fly under the radar.

5.) The author is too dumb to understand copyright law.

That’s all I got.

So what do you think? Why did the above authors steal and what’s more, ignore warnings when they were informed of said theft? Do they not monitor their communication feeds, and my complaint got lost in the shuffle? Do they think they can blame the cover artist/promoter if and when they get caught? Do such authors forget that their name is on these things? What’s more, I wonder how the graphic artists feel about this, as well as the companies that own or commissioned the stolen art?


  1. William D. Prystauk

    Excellent article. Funny thing, whenever I post pictures to my website, I always give credit to where I found the image.

    Unfortunately, I think many “authors” don’t realize they are getting stolen material from so-called graphic artists when they create memes and book covers. Obviously, a true, professional graphic artist wouldn’t use stolen art.

    However, I think some of these self-published folks simply think they can use an image because it comes from a commercial powerhouse and, therefore, won’t harm them. But it always hurts the original artist and this can lead to loss of revenue and/or exposure.

    All art counts, commercial or independent, and if a writer wants to be respected, he or she cannot steal from others. I am sure these writers will get the message when their work is lifted and sold by some online “company” for pennies on the dollar, and they receive no royalties.

  2. William Galaini Post author

    Excellent, sir. And thank you.

    Now, I contact an author each time I catch them doing this, and only ONE fixed the problem. How can we, as an independent community struggling to be taken seriously, protect ourselves? What if someone steals art that YOU commissioned for a cover?

  3. Ginger

    There is in research the idea of “due diligence,” wherein the onus is on YOU, the person who is putting your name on the final work, to be able to prove that you took all possible and necessary steps to find the owner of any images you use, any texts you quote or paraphrase. If you go through all the effort and cannot find the original source, then you should still cite “source unknown” to cover your butt.
    I can add to your idea list:

    6) The image was found on the internet and the person who pinched it does not understand that even on something as big as the internet where you can LOOK at it for free, ALL CONTENT BELONGS TO SOMEONE. Just because you can look doesn’t mean you can USE without permission.

    7) I was going to say “Maybe they’re not familiar enough with the source material to realize that they’re pinching from big studios with big budgets and big lawyers.” That picture of Raiden is actually from a fan art wallpaper site, not a studio site. But even if we give the photoshopper credit that they aren’t familiar enough with video games to recognize a Metal Gear property, they’re STILL using unattributed work for the intent of financial gain. It doesn’t matter who you’re swiping it from

    1. William Galaini Post author

      Six makes me wonder how these author’s would feel if THEIR material was stolen…

  4. Angélique

    These authors have no idea in what kind of trouble they could get into…
    In my experience, you end up with “stolen art” in those situations:
    1) You paid a “designer” peanuts for your asset (book cover, banner, logo, whatever) and you got what you paid for. Bad design, stolen design, or photo stock design.
    2) The asset was made by an inexperienced friend or designer who thinks using Google image is an acceptable ressource. It’s not.
    3) You simply have no idea about copyright. Many people think it’s ok to use someone else’s (copyrighted) work as long as it’s significantly modified. It is certainly NOT.

    1. William Galaini Post author

      That brings up a great point, Angelique, in that we as authors must INSIST to pay our artists, editors, and web designers the best we can within our budget. We need to “make the best product possible at the lowest cost possible while paying the highest wages possible” to quote the rat-bastard Henry Ford.

  5. Taylor Fulks

    First of all…thank you for posting ABOUT me without letting me know. Very professional. As for my tweet graphic, I purchased it from a graphic designer (photoshop or whatever) from the UK, for £15 for four graphics.
    I haven’t seen the movie you speak of, nor did I knowingly “pinch” a pic for my personal use.
    Secondly, my book is stolen, daily. It’s the risk we take by publishing or making our work, public.
    Lastly…if you’re going to point fingers and call names, have the testicular fortitude (balls) to tag me in the post since in fact, you used my image, and my tweet in your rant. Who is stealing from whom?
    Taylor Fulks~

  6. Ginger

    So, Taylor, are you arguing with your second point that it is ok for you to use someone else’s work without appropriate attribution or pay because someone else out there has done the same to you? “It’s ok to hurt you because someone else hurt me,” is this what you intended to imply? Also, didn’t you say in the quoted tweet that a friend made that graphic for you? If you did buy it, you might consider contacting the company to tell them they sold you work they didn’t own the copyright for and you demand your money back. As one of the previous posters mentioned, it could get you into some serious hot water.

    If someone brings a problem to your attention, why would you just shrug it off and not try to fix it? And then why make a fool of yourself by lashing out when someone calls you on not fixing a mistake / problem you were aware of? That reflects poorly upon you as an individual presenting herself as a professional writer and (this I believe is the crux of Galaini’s post) reflects poorly upon the whole community of self-published and independent authors. You guys have it hard. You’ve got to blaze your own path in the marketplace against the big players and all kinds of scrutiny are being poured on you. Dozens, HUNDREDS of review sites won’t even give a self-published author a chance to submit because they’ve experienced poor professionalism and diva backlash from members of that community. Why on earth would you do anything to make it harder for yourself to be taken seriously?


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