Kal Barteski, a Winnipeg artist, is warning others in the arts community to be careful about what they post online, after her artwork was stolen and sold at a major U.S. retailer.

On Tuesday, Barteski discovered one of her paintings had been reprinted on a handbag and was being sold at a J.C. Penney store in Florida — without her permission.

A friend had snapped a photo of it in the store and sent it to Barteski.

“I was really hoping it was just a copy, but it was the original,” she said.

Kal Barteski

Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski found one of her paintings was taken without her permission and used on a bag made by The Aldo Group. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)

Barteski had posted the image on her website and found the exact same image used on the bag.

So she tracked down the makers of the bag in Montreal — a company called The Aldo Group, which operates stores across Canada under a number of names, including Aldo, Little Burgundy and Globo.

Barteski called the company and demanded answers.

“I kind of thought, ‘Is this actually worth it?’ because it happens all the time. I thought, ‘We have to do something about it as artists, as people,'” she said.

Barteski’s work has been taken without permission before, she added.

In the end, The Aldo Group offered Barteski a payout and a chance to collaborate on future projects.

Silvia de Sousa is a business lawyer with Thompson, Dorfman, Sweatman LLP in Winnipeg who does work on intellectual property cases.

She said that often people have no idea what they’re doing is wrong.

“In most cases, I think the person that takes it doesn’t realize that just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean that it’s free to take,” she said.

Often, she said, a cease and desist order will resolve the issue, but she recommends artists add a terms of service clause on their website regarding their copyright.

That clause will let browsers know they do not have consent to take what’s on the site.

Barteski said it’s a tough balance for artists, who want to share their work with the public.

“I want to make things. I don’t want to spend my whole week policing the internet to see who’s stealing things,” she said.