With the rise of the internet as an art sharing platform, it has become very difficult for small artists to protect their work from being stolen and used to generate profit, often by bots. Commonly this occurs via bots searching for keywords, such as the phrase “I want this on a shirt” in the caption or comments of artwork, and then stealing that work and instantaneously start selling it on a shirt without consent or knowledge of the artist, on sites that may be a scam anyway.
Even if artists find out about this stealing, it can be difficult to do anything about it. In response, some artists have been using the ferocity with which corporations such as Disney protect their work to bring more attention to the issue. Artists will create work that is an obvious copyright infringement and then comment about wanting said artwork on a shirt so that the bots will pick it up, knowing the large corporations will be more likely to have the platform to do something about it. Considering how copyright law tends to benefit the large corporations over smaller artists, it is interesting to see those smaller artists working to use it to their advantage. Another tactic is to make artwork indicating that any store selling it is selling stolen work in an effort to at least inform possible customers, but that is more to discourage buying than an attempt to get the website shut down for good over legal matters.
As technology continues to develop, the world of art will do so with it, and with the rise of algorithms, bots, and AI, smaller artists will continue to face difficulties with maintaining any sort of ownership over what they create