Get Smart about Design and Copyright Laws

woman designer working on the pen table

Today, we are one Google search away from any work, art piece, or design that has ever been published on the web. If you are a working artist, there is a good chance that you have advertised or sold your work over a website. With this mass public space that is available at our fingertips how do you, as an artist, keep your work yours? Is it even possible?

Today we want to talk about copyright laws, and what you as a designer or creator should be aware of, because they are your rights!

First, lets go over what cannot be copyrighted. Any work that doesn’t have enough originality to call your own cannot be copyrighted. The list includes: titles, names, short phrases or slogans, fonts, facts, ingredients, measurement charts, calendars, symbols, and variations of lettering or coloring.

Knowing this might answer some questions for you. Like, why you see the same color scheme used in several different “trendy” designs. Or why you may see companies with the same name, but different businesses entirely. You can, however, trademark works like these. Trademarking a name or mark gives it the right to be used in a certain style by the merchant that owns the trademark.

So, what can you as a designer or creative do to protect your work? Lets talk about a couple of options.

The work you create is yours, as long as it is arguably different enough from other works or similar design. It can become “gray area” when you are commissioned to do work for someone or a company. They can be considered a co owner of the product depending on your agreement. You need to make sure you keep your rights when you design, so that even when the finished product is given to the client, you can legally claim it is your creation.

One thing that is smart to always do when creating work is to keep records! Dates, revisions, witnesses, and drafts are all great records to keep. Initial and date old versions of work, keep an external hard drive with revisions, whatever works best for you. These records can come in handy if you ever need to prove that you are the parent to your creation!

These laws vary in different countries, so make sure you are aware of registration and copyright law in your area. In the United States, for example, your work is protected for 70 years after your death.

Remember to protect your work, and to respect other artists as you create work. If you intend to use someone else’s work in the creation of your own, inform the artist and request permission. And keep these facts in mind to protect your own work, so you don’t have to worry about it and you can get back to creating!