Picture this – you’re a car manufacturer and you’ve just designed, built and are about to ship out a brand new car. Do you do it with a badge on front and back? Of course you do, without it, how will consumers identify it and ultimately purchase it?

Unfortunately things are not so black and white in other industries. Tangible products – shoes, clothing, food, tobacco, appliences and the latest technology all come with a logo attached that allow consumers to differentiate one product from another and also allows companies to market accordingly.

Arts, not so much. The digital age has pushed any tangible arts product (photograph, film, music, painting) into cyberspace and now, in 2016, artists must work harder than ever to market and sell their work.

More and more, artists are having to justify the cost of their products – these are the costs of running a business, just like any other and with a small profit on top. It’s rare that you’ll see Todd Stitzer (Cadbury CEO) in a supermarket justifying his business costs against the price of a family block of chocolate to a consumer, however photographers are often met with “gee, that’s a bit expensive, all you did was push a button…” Sigh, here we go again.

That brings me back to the logo. When you purchase a song, painting, watch a film, commission a photographer, the brand your buying is the person behind the material, and in most cases, there’s not a logo associated with the product – artists are merely the car driving the streets without a badge hoping that people will like and appreciate them for what they are and somehow purchase their products. Well, kind of.

Now, another metaphor. When you fork out your $50,000 for your car, you get a set of keys, a warranty and smile as you drive away. What you don’t get is the patent to the design of the car and a set of keys to every model just like yours.

So, when you commission a photographer, graphic artist or musician, a contract will educate you as to what you get before you drive away, just because you have the image file on your desktop doesn’t mean you necessarily have a say in how it it used outside of what is stated in your contract.

Back to the logo again.

If an artist shares a product with you and it has a watermark, that there is your logo. That there is the only way for a consumer or potential customer to discern whether that image, song, clip, design (or car) is a Ford, Toyota or Holden. So by removing it, you’re removing any chance of that artist being identified and subsequently selling anything off the back of their work being seen, and or appreciated by a third party.

I get it though, you’re not paying an artist just to have to perform as their marketing team right? Well yes that’s true, but nor is the owner of the Oakley sunglasses, the Nike shoes, the Apple iPhone owners who don’t seem to realise that just by using these products in public, are performing a marketing function for the companies who make them.

Here’s the kicker. Artists want logos and watermarks on their work way less than you do. It detracts from the work and looks ugly and cheap. However the watermark, the signature, the digital copyright encryption are all we have to stay afloat.

Here’s the issue. An artist provides a product to a client with a logo or watermark, client removes it somehow and uses it for whatever they please, this could be something as little as sharing on social media, or as big as submitting for editorials or even submitting to competitions as their own work. Now the artist is in a pickle. Their business relies heavily on word of mouth and there’s simply not enough work to go around to be pissing off clients by contacting them to alert them of their infringement. No matter how nicely worded the email or phone call might be, people don’t like to be told that they can’t do with “their product” what they want.

And on goes the cycle.

What’s an artist left to do? Slap big and obtrusive logos on people’s faces in images – that’s what. So next time you see an Apple iPhone with a big Apple logo slapped right in the middle of it’s amazing retina screen, you’ll know that the tech industry has fallen on hard times. No one wants to see images with big watermarks, no one wants to watch a movie with logo covering faces, no one wants to listen to music with intermittent audio marks – least of all, the artists who created them.

Before you crop, photoshop, steal or alter a product, whether you paid money for it or not, please consider that without that branding, without a reference to it’s creator – a) you may be breaking copyright and b) you enjoyed the work enough to purchase it, so why not let others do the same?

If you’re concerned about a watermark or branding on something you’ve paid good money for, most artists are happy to provide them without at either a higher rate OR for a small credit or reference when used.

Artists don’t bite… well unless they’re hungry.