Copyright is defined as having the exclusive right to control reproduction and commercial exploitation of your work. In a world where truly inspirational art has taken a backseat to fame and fortune it is important to make sure your true creations remain yours in the eyes of the law. For aspiring designers, it is especially important to get your signature on every original piece you produce unless contracted or compensated to not do so. It is also important to properly cite borrowed graphics that you use to avoid any potential legal trouble.
Most art schools and major graphic institutes offer good Adobe Training that teach you how to properly cite your work and share it with others. The problem is we usually get so lost in creating a masterful piece we forget to seal it when we are done. Here are 10 copyright laws that every designer should know and practice to help preserve what honesty is left in the world of creative design.
What You Need to Know About Copyright Laws
1. Save Yourself Time and Understand What CAN’T be Copyrighted by Designers
Here is a list of things designers can’t copyright:
- Measurement Charts
- Variations of lettering or coloring
Many of these things can only be protected by trademarks. The difference between copyrighting and trademarking is that copyrighting is simply the act of using the trademarked item in written text to market, advertise, or convey a viewpoint and citing that text as your own. Trademarking is a means of identification to distinguish a name, symbol, figure, or word as unique to that merchant or manufacturer. Even if a name is trademarked it can still be used in a design or written work as long as it isn’t manufactured under that name.
2. Copyright Registration
Registration is not required for your work to be copyrighted since it really was copyrighted when you put it in print. However, you need to register if you want to be able to sue somebody for statutory damages. That little copyright symbol represents your claim to it and lets people legally know they can’t claim it as their own or plead dumb under the innocent infringer rule. Using the copyright symbol itself in the image is not required but notice needs to be given with the image that it is registered in order for you to be able to sue for damages.
3. Your Creation, Your Copyright
So is the copyright automatically mine if I create it? Yes and no. An exception would be if you are designing something for an employer then more often than not they will own part of the copyright as well. Most companies will want your work for them to be solely theirs but it’s good to get shared rights so you can claim it for solid reference. Usually these agreements prohibit you from using the image anywhere else but you still claim it as your creation. Other than that, yes, any original work you create is yours.
4. Defining Infringement
Infringement is when someone takes a substantial part of your design without your authority. Exact standards vary from nation to nation but generally the substance is considered the part that defines your work as unique and truly gives it originality.