Member Resources

Copyright is currently governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. The moment an image is created, it is protected by copyright; as the creator, you are the only person who is entitled to make copies of it. If someone else makes a copy without your permission, they are infringing your copyright and can be whacked round the head with a wet fish.

There is no requirement either for registration, or to use the sign ©, but the latter will emphasise that the image is protected by copyright.

Copyright protects the physical content of drawings, but it cannot prevent the idea from being used elsewhere. This is particularly pertinent to members who feel that their ideas have been ‘ripped off’; if the image has been traced and/or a direct transcript of the text used, there may be a case of copyright infringement – but not if the same concept appears in someone else’s work, provided it is treated differently. If your gag has been redrawn without directly copying it, and the caption has been rephrased… galling as it is, there’s no comeback in law.

You can grant permission to individuals or companies to reproduce a cartoon, known as granting a licence. A license should be in writing and clearly set out the use that can be made of an image, together with any restrictions around duration and territory. Separate licences should be granted for each use, e.g. a licence for a greetings card would be distinct from one for use on a t-shirt.

Copyright can be sold, which means that you have no further right of reproduction in your work. This is known as an assignment but will only be effective if it’s put in writing. Unless stated otherwise, the original artwork remains the property of the cartoonist – which can also be sold without granting permission for it to be reproduced.

More comprehensive information about copyright, other than the injunction ‘Don’t Copy – Right?’ can be found under the appropriate button to the right.

Another difficult area is that of parody and pastiche; the law on this one changed in June 2014. It’s more difficult to get into deep doo-doo now than it used to be, which is a Good Thing perhaps. The bad news is, it’s now the decision of a judge as to whether something is funny or not. Again, more info can be found under ‘Parody’.

Hopefully, none of you will need this – but ideas on how to proceed should you find your copyright’s been infringed are contained under ‘Infringed?’