The double edged sword of posting your work on the internet and making it accessible to anyone: on the one hand its a method to promote your work and to participate in community dialog; on the other, it leaves you open to theft of your work.
It happens often, to writers & artists whose work is taken to build websites, presumably with a goal of generating cash by using other peoples' work and names to entice traffic that turns a profit (advertising that pays by the number of hits to a site).
Some infringement is by people who don't know any better. Most is by people who convince themselves that there is a grey area* the size of the Sahara when it comes to “referencing”, “borrowing from” or “paying homage to” an artist.
If the offender is in the U.S., there is a chance to do something about it. An example is House Industries, a font house whose illustrations were stolen and reproduced (I think it was on t-shirts or glasses). They found out (a lot of the scum bags think no one will notice) and sued. The happy ending is that up until that point, House was a couple of guys working out of an apartment. The settlement provided the cash flow that helped turn them into the successful company they are today.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the happy ending. This morning I read about a blatant theft that even the most self delusional person could not convince themselves was “OK” or “in the grey area”: a publisher took the interviews of Darren Di Lieto, along with the work of dozens of other artists from a website and published a book which is being sold for $100. The book even includes a CD of the artwork. Unfortunately, the publisher is in Hong Kong (presumably– the contact info on their site is fake).
*The “grey area” is actually a three part calculation:
- Can I make money off of this?
- What are the odds of the artist finding out?
- Can the artist afford to hire an attorney to come after me?