Ten things you might not know

about copyright

March 12, 2013 in General, News

Our man Rob Murray attended a recent talk by Silvia Baumgart of Own-it, based at the University of the Arts London (UAL). Own-it advises creative practitioners and small businesses on intellectual property matters.

Over to Rob:

The session focused in particular on copyright and the increasing need for artists and illustrators to protect their work in the online era.

Listed here are ten key facts about copyright that might either be news to you, or a useful refresher.

  1. Copyright is automatic – it does not need to be applied for or registered – and protects a creative work until 70 years after the creator’s year of death.
  2. You cannot copyright an idea – only the way in which that idea is expressed.

    © Rob Murray @ Procartoonists.org

  3. Moral rights, which come with copyright and give the creator the right to be credited as the author of a work, cannot be assigned to another party. But the creator can waive moral rights in writing. If assigning (selling) copyright to someone else, a creator should assert their moral rights.
  4. If a magazine “buys” a cartoon to appear in its pages, unless otherwise stated in writing it is buying a licence to be the first to publish it. This does not prevent the cartoonist selling the cartoon elsewhere at a later date, or using it for any other purpose.

    Matthew_Buck_Hack_Copyright_ARTWORK @ procartoonists.org

    © Matthew Buck Hack Cartoons @ Procartoonists.org

  5. When a freelancer is commissioned to produce a cartoon or illustration, he or she automatically holds the copyright unless otherwise agreed in writing.
  6. By contrast, if work is created during the course of your employment, your employer holds the copyright and you have no moral rights over the work.
  7. Design work is treated differently, and falls under design right rather than copyright. When a designer is commissioned to develop or create a product, the commissioner owns the unregistered design right in the UK — which protects the appearance of the product (excluding surface decoration) for 15 years from creation or ten years from first sale. As with copyright, it is automatic.

    Ideas cartoon by Royston Robertson

    © Royston Robertson @ Procartoonists.org

  8. An image being easily accessible — for example on the internet — is often taken to mean that it is in the public domain, but this is often not the case, even when the creator’s name is missing. An artwork is only “public domain” if the creator (or copyright holder) has declared so, or if the copyright has expired.
  9. Selling a physical object you have created (for example, the original artwork for a cartoon) does not mean you are permitting reproduction or dissemination. Unless formally agreed, the buyer does not have the right to reproduce or distribute the image (with the exception of advertising the resale of the artwork).
  10. As a general rule, the decision to assign all rights to a client should not be taken lightly, and the creator should agree a substantially larger fee than they would for granting a licence. Once intellectual property rights are sold, they cannot be taken back and the creator will never again be able to profit from licensing that piece of work.

Own-it offers free legal advice to help artists solve intellectual property issues. Visit the blog again soon for a look at some of Silvia’s recommendations for how to protect your work online and elsewhere.

7 responses to Ten things you might not know

about copyright

  1. That’s both helpful and reassuring; especially to a relative newcomer, like me, who hasn’t a scooby about this sort of stuff.

    Thanks very much for putting it up there.

  2. You’re welcome Jonesy! Hopefully it’s useful information for cartoonists and commissioners alike.

  3. We’re so glad you’re helping the creative community learn more about copyright and how to manage copyright.  It can be a tough subject to wrap one’s head around. Thanks for doing your part to make the world safe for creativity.  We’re doing our part @Kunvay to make it easy for creativity to change hands so you can own your work and own your future.  The more people understand copyright – the better off the world will be. 

  4. I think many are probably confused between copyright and patent.  Whilst a cartoon is a creative idea, it’s not the same as a newly invented, unique, creative idea which leads to a new method of, say, cooling a refrigerator, which would require patent protection. 

  5. Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment.
    I think you are right about that and identifying what you make is key to understanding your rights (as above).
  6. Very useful summary, I’ve posted a link to this on the blog of the course I teach on. FdA Digital Visualisation at Truro College. It covers most of the points I try to get across to my students in their Professional Practice Module…http://digitalvisualisation.tumblr.com/

  7. Most informative !

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