Maria Williams-Russell Art Blog
What Is A Copyright The main purpose of a copyright is to make sure that others do not use your artwork without your knowledge or consent for their own needs, whether it be an outright theft of an image for reproduction and sale or if it is to use on other publications such as a website, brochure, or film. Legally, it is the responsibility of the other party to contact you and ask your permission to use the art as well as to comply with any conditional terms you might have regarding that use. !IMAGE122! How Does A Copyright Work As an artist, you technically hold the copyright to your work at the time you have completed it. You put down the brush, the pencil, or whatever you used to make your art, and you behold your finished creation. At that moment, it is copyrighted, which means from that point forward, somewhat like its guardian, you have the right to lead, shape, and protect its public life in whatever way you see fit. By understanding the rights associated with your copyright ownership, you will be more able to make decisions regarding the sale and distribution of your work. !IMAGE123! Under copyright law, you may sell the original work of art to a buyer for an agreed upon price. What you have sold is a single object, not the rights to do with that image what the buyer wants. Regardless of physical ownership, you still hold the rights to its image, and the image is what people will want to reproduce. Therefore, you can give or not give permission to others to reproduce that image. You also have the right to determine how and when it is reproduced if you do decide to give permission. In addition, as the holder of the copyright, you have the right to profits made from the sale of any reproductions of that image. In short, your copyright makes it illegal for someone to reproduce your original image and/or profit from it without your permission and guidance.
Protecting Your Copyright This is great! You made this piece of art and without any further action you can exercise your rights to it. As with most things, copyright ownership rights are not so cut and dry. There are many reasons why it may be difficult at some point to prove your ownership if the need arises, and just because you own the copyrights doesn__™t mean you are going to know if someone is violating them. So, while the rights to your artwork are intrinsic to you as the artist upon completion of the work, it may be worth your while to take all the steps you can to protect your artwork from art predators.
One way to begin is by registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. While not necessary, a registered copyright may be the right thing for your work. The fees for copyrighting were raised last year to $45 for each filing. The U.S. Copyright Office gives the following reasons as advantages for registering your copyright:
___ Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
___ Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
___ If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate. !IMAGE126!
___ If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
___ Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies. For additional information, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and click on Intellectual Property Rights. Whether you have registered your copyright or not, it is always a good idea to affix a Copyright Notice on your artwork if possible. A Copyright Notice is a written notification of the copyright held, to whom, and at what date it began. You__™ve probably seen them before on books and record labels, even websites - the copyright symbol with your name and the date the piece was copyrighted. For two-dimensional art, placing the notice on the back frame or writing it directly on the paper or canvas will probably work. But for three-dimensional work, such as sculpture, it might not be so easy. The Copyright Office suggests, in that case, tagging the piece with a removable notice prior to selling. The idea is that these notices imply a trail or watcher of the piece and may help deter someone from using the image, but it is no guarantee.
In this "Information Age" it is difficult if not impossible to track every piece of art you have created. But, there are small ways in which you can deter infringement. !IMAGE124! When posting your work online for example, make sure that you use low-resolution images that are fine for the Internet, but that will not reproduce in print. Usually an image in 72 dpi will be low enough. Consider creating a Copyright Notice or even a watermark on your digital images, which will make it more difficult for thieves to reproduce your work.
If you are particularly concerned for one reason or another and wish to know exactly where your work is at all times and how it is being used, there are companies that will track your art and manage your copyright permissions and earnings for you. The Artists Rights Society provides a service like this at arsny.com.
The lovely florals displayed throughout this article are by Susan Edwards.