Don’t steal

This is the note I got when I tried to download an image from a photographer’s Web site.

I was going to post it here, proving to you that visiting to see the other photos was worth your 2-3 minutes. But instead, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This begs the question – how easy do you make it for your ideas to spread?

I think we could all take a lesson from Hugh MacLeod. Hugh is one of the most successful and highly-regarded marketing, branding and Web 2.0 gurus in the world today. He didn’t get that way by telling us not to steal his stuff. Rather, in many ways, he encouraged us to do so.



Filed under Branding

23 responses to “Don’t steal

  1. dont_steal.gif 😉

    he should check this video for dummies

  2. that is fine for pen and ink drawings on biz cards. they have no intrinsic value beyond being witty… but for a fine artist it is a very different story. It is sad to go to such an extreme. If the free market does not work for art then the government must step in for the good of society. to think otherwise is a form of radicalism that I do not adhere to.

  3. Stupid. The only way to prevent art from being “stolen” is to never show it to anyone. Art actually gets *more* valuable when more people know about it.

    Oh, and transparent gif layers don’t do squat. See?

  4. fp

    I’m with Cowart (and others such as Lane Hartwell). Artists, writers, photographers, composers… all are protected by copyright. Poseurs like ad-man MacLeod can give it away. But of course you get what you pay for.

  5. I picked this post up from Hugh’s Twitter feed. I’m a big Hugh fan, in that I appreciate him broadcasting a lot of great insight on ‘Web 2.0’ but I have to agree with the term ‘ad-man’ above. Hugh is a marketeer and interested in pushing commodity not art, fine art, craft or design. The term ‘Artist’ is tossed about like ‘Designer’. Example: Brad Pitt is NOT a artist because he had some input on a few rings, Sean Jean is not a designer because his name is on a shirt etc. That’s the essence of what Hugh is interested in capturing (it seems).

    To my point. As someone that ‘makes’ for a living I find the use of ‘artist’ on the web a little irritating since it forgets the issues of those of us that work online and off line. Having a physical object photographed for marketing on the web and then ‘stolen’ and used on another site or reproduced with out permission happens too much. We artists ‘get it’ a little too well I’m afraid.

  6. If you really wanted the image, why didn’t you just do a grab and then give a link back to the artist?

    IMO, the only “lesson to be learned” from “Pinky” MacLeod is that you can steal everything you want from Cluetrain or even Leo Burnett and pass it off as your own, undigested and parrot-like – but sooner or later even some of the biggest Ewe fans are gonna notice.

    As far as Hugh MacLoud being “one of the most successful and highly-regarded marketing, branding and Web 2.0 gurus in the world today”… is that what we now call middle aged flackers who live on their dad’s couch – a “failure” by his own definition of the word.

    Are you even aware that this man you so highly regard is directly implicated in a fraud scheme concerning his involvement with Jason Korman in London? That the very people that worked in Korman’s office reported them to the fraud squad at Scotland Yard?

    The information is freely available on the internet. Korman has been involved in two similar court cases in the UK and found guilty in both of them.

    But go ahead, drink in His Wisdom. Maybe he’ll open a used car place down in #Alpine and set up a really cool blog and twitter account about it, and you could get an El Camino with a gun-rack real cheap + he’ll throw in some of those witty cartoons FOR FREE!!!

    Note to Twitterers. PLEASE steal my stuff.
    Breaking News: Nobody wants it. Rock On!

  7. @Victor –

    Thanks for the link. Several people hit it, so maybe a few are learning!

    And yeah, I had to laugh too when I saw the “dont_steal.gif” – despite my annoyance.

  8. @Noah

    1.) I checked out your stuff @ – I like it. But I’m no art critic nor expert, which leads me to…

    …2.) I can’t possibly defend nor promote the “intrinsic value” of any art, in any form.

    3.) And finally, I think the free market does work for some artists. Again, I point to Hugh. And again, isn’t the debate on the value of his art part of the overall game?

    IMHO – you are clearly talented, do you face this same “value” debate?

  9. @Nathan –

    I clearly agree with you. And yes, thanks for pointing out my side note – if people really want to “steal” it, they will, so you might as well make it easy for the random promoters of your work out there to do good things.

    But obviously there’s plenty of those on the other side of the fence – just look at the comments here.

    We’re in a “show,” not “tell” world, so can you (or anyone else) point to some other artists having success with similar practices as Hugh?

  10. @fp

    Nobody is arguing that artists, writers, photographers and the like aren’t protected by copyright.

    But in today’s world, it’s too easy to circumvent your defenses (as Nathan pointed out in his comment).

    So instead of worrying about blocking the throngs of thieves out there who will figure out how to steal it anyway (and annoying the legit folks) – I’m proposing the embrace of modern tools to project your art, rather than protect it.

  11. @Ryan

    Ryan, thanks for continuing the conversation on your blog ( – if you get the chance, please share any great insights you receive out there.

    As far as the term “artist” being wrenched and thrown about like cheap parade candy – yes, it has, and it’s not coming back.

    So I’m not about to engage in that argument, because it’s already been lost. So if people want to argue on applying the term “artist” to the likes of Sean Jean, or Brad Pitt, or their 2-year old, or Hugh MacLeod – okay. I’m out.

    And yes, I think Hugh is an example of someone who wants projection – but does that mean he’s peddling a commodity? Something indifferent and unremarkable?

    I vote “no,” and that he presents value in his work. Will his style of diffusion work for every artist? Probably not.

    But what’s the value in obscurity? And, with your comments in mind, how do “artists” walk the fine line of presenting their hard work and promoting their ideas, all while protecting themselves from being seen as a commodity and a lowly self-promoter?

    And, perhaps more importantly, how do they feed themselves in the meantime?

    I don’t have an immediate answer, and it’s likely that as soon as you come up with a “formula” – you’re immediately cliche.

    What say you?

  12. @gapingroid


    1.) The guy’s drawing cartoons for Microsoft and gets a shout out from Seth Godin in his latest book, so I’ll give him the nod on being highly-regarded and successful.

    But, if you’ve got examples of marketing, Web 2.0 and branding idols I should know about, give a shout.

    2.) No, I don’t know about his “Scotland scam” – but why didn’t you link to it?

    3.) It looks to me like you’ve devoted an entire Twitter account to spoofing Hugh.

    I’ll let the irony of that speak for itself.

    4.) An El Camino and a gun rack? Now you’re speaking to the heart of a Southern Iowa boy.


  13. @Cale

    You can’t beat the system of copying in place on the web or idea theft, it’s too easy and tempting. What you can do is change the game and educate consumers on your process, craft, & time to position your work against knockoffs ~ which is a form of marketing its self.

    I believe in Transparency as it helps develop a community to police your work (in their interest as well as your customer who paid fair rate) (*see flickr community) I also see TinEye helping artists in the very near future.

    With regards to commodity I’ll use Hugh as an example. He is promoting a wine, he doesn’t make the wine or even pick the grapes. He’s the marketing guy using his drawings to gain exposure for the winery which is fine. But am I gonna buy Stormhoek because of a web 2.0 ‘celeb’ putting his name or doodle on it? Or buy something else unique and positioned by the craftsmen who created it?

    Hugh is using his Web 2.0 Celeb status to promote a product and good on em’! (Hence the Pitt & Sean Jean examples). But I had to disagree with his general use of the term ‘artist’ because some of us do very well without having to put our name or a celebs on the bottle. If more people aimed to achieve that level of dedication everyone would win not just the ‘marketeers’.

    Personally I agree with Tara Hunts ‘Wuffie’ view of the web and promotion more than Hughs. I just enjoy the personalities on the web and varied ideas then develop my own. Avoid the Kool-Aid kids 😉

  14. I have 3 Beta invites for anyone interested in my reference above. @me with your email on Twitter/ryantaylor

  15. @Ryan

    Thanks for pointing to Tara Hunt – looks like some really great stuff there. I’m always up for learning more views on how folks are genuinely earning some social capital out there.

    I agree with you on the value of educating your audience and engaging them with your passion – ultimately turning a few of them into fans, and a few of those fans into customers.

    But without getting into a proxy war on behalf of Hugh – I used him as an example because I believe he has a genuine passion built into his drawings.

    And the main point I’m trying to make is the results – he gave away enough that he got a ‘celeb’ status (aka, success). And now, people pay him for his work and debate about it on dinky little blogs like mine. 🙂

  16. fp

    I think that gapingroid meant he would prefer perhaps a ’66 Ranchero with a 351 out of a ’79 Ranchero, a c4 tranny, an 8.8 explorer rear axle with a 29 spline and mini spool. The interior probably with a pioneer deck, a custom center console, a pair of sexy mustang 2 seats, a b&am shifter and a grant steering wheel. Original ford mags replaced with a set of 17 inch american racing fusions too.

    But you could get an El Camino with a gun rack if you wanted one, from MacHuge’s Used Car Lot, Alpine, Texas.

  17. 1.) The guy’s drawing cartoons for Microsoft and gets a shout out from Seth Godin in his latest book, so I’ll give him the nod on being highly-regarded and successful.

    Is he employed by Microsoft? No, he’s not. Did MS take the (unsolicited) “Big Blue Monster” off their bus? Yes they did. Highly regarded? By a couple of thousand people just like you. Successful? Mental breakdown, nervous exhaustion and living on his parents’ couch, both in Cumbria and Alpine Texas while middle-aged? Moderating his comments heavily and “morning after” erasure of twits? Sitting in a bar all day in Alpine TX? No meaningful relationships outside of the internets? Doesn’t have two quid to rub together? Works for known con-man Jason Korman (both of them having been chased out of the UK for questionable business practices) on a per drawing basis? No fat girl nod here, sorry.

    But, if you’ve got examples of marketing, Web 2.0 and branding idols I should know about, give a shout.

    Cluetrain and Leo Burnett before him. Both from whom Hugh has stolen from shamelessly and presented the ideas as his own: undiluted yet twisted. Are you from the past? Try watching “The Power of Nightmares” or any other Curtis documentary on advertising for starters.

    2.) No, I don’t know about his “Scotland scam” – but why didn’t you link to it?

    Scotland Yard is in London. Please pay attention when you read a comment or watch TV. Two words: goo gle. The information is there. I don’t have time to waste on you Hugh Neo-Cons.

    3.) It looks to me like you’ve devoted an entire Twitter account to spoofing Hugh.
    I’ll let the irony of that speak for itself.

    Wow! You’ve really done your detective work Encyclopedia Brown! If you can tell me exactly how pointing out the 2.0 Bullshitters™ is “ironic”, you may be eligible to win some free Love Mark t-shirts!

    Since you seem to think Tara “Baby” Hunt is news – I can see I am wasting my time here. If I see one more person use the word “passionate” I am going to hang myself – no disrespect.

  18. @fp

    Would that be a 351 Windsor or a 351 Cleveland?

  19. @gapingroid

    Okay – let’s assume that Hugh is an evil idea thief…

    …do you think it makes sense for an artist (or creatives in general) to make it easy for others to distribute and share their work?

    Or does your Hugh scenario prove that it’s best to lock it up and guard your mental property?

  20. Pingback: The value in giving it away « The Rally Flag

  21. fp

    trick question? there were no ’79 351 clevelands and not many of the short block windsors. No, when we’re talking ’79 ford 351, we’re pretty much talking about the tall block 351M(odified). But you knew that.

    Take it easy.

  22. @fp

    Haha, good stuff. Takes me back to my demo derby days… but that’s for another, much more hick-influenced post.

  23. fp

    I’m a pinewood derby man myself, and more mack than hick.

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