Imagine for a moment you have been working hard on your writing all morning.
You stomach is empty and your eyes are aching.
You step out for a break at the local coffee shop.
You have thirty five dollars in your wallet. You can almost taste the confections displayed in the glass case and you can smell the fresh coffee brewing on the bar.
Suddenly a threatening stranger demands that you turn the contents of your wallet over to him.
Would you quietly do as you are told only to go hungry and watch as he spends your money on a stack of tasty snacks?
Web content mills demand that freelance writers hand over their Intellectual Property, their copyrights, for free.
When a writer signs either electronically or on paper a “Writer’s Agreement” or similar so-called “contract” agreeing to submit work acting as an independent contractor or freelancer and that agreement includes a clause that requires that the writer upon submission release all copyright interests he has in his work regardless of subsequent approval and payment he falls prey to the content mill’s copyright high-jacking scam.
He routinely works with clients on an independent contractor basis.
Mark decided to work on a particular client’s project without a written agreement or contract stating the terms of the association.
The client later refused to pay Mark for his work.
The client then began to freely use Mark’s work claiming (1) there was no written or verbal contract for services and no “course of dealing understanding” between them and (2) and that based on the lack of any formal agreement Mark retained no copyright ownership interest or rights in the work he contributed to the project.
Mark feels the client not only ripped off his creative input and artwork but he seems to have been able to misappropriate the copyright interest in his work. Mark has proof his client is using his artwork.
It seems like every time you meet up with friends you are greeted with the news that one of them is releasing of some sort of book.
And it each time it happens your thoughts are pulled to that garret space about the garage where you have spent almost the last decade working on the next great American novel.
Lately you’ve been noticing that the neighbors keep checking up on you when they see the lights still on at three in the morning.
It’s probably to make sure you haven’t inadvertently left that old car running again with an oily rag or something stuffed in its exhaust pipe.
You’ve edited your creation again and again and then you edited it just once or maybe twice more in case you might have missed something somewhere.
You’ve researched every historical reference for accuracy, followed every story line to a resolution, assured story continuity with each character’s motivation leading to the achievement of a goal and allowed for a surprising and satisfying resolution of all of the conflicts including one or two of emotional epiphanies.
You figure your family will never recognize themselves in characters which they have inspired and even if they do you’ve prepared a response involving a convenient accusation that they are nursing some sort of narcissistic personality disorder.
You’ve never been more ready. You’re afraid of nothing and nobody. And then, a cold chill runs down your spine as you remember that you still have no literary agent and no publisher.
Your awareness switches focus to the coyotes howling under the summer moonlight and that bottomless pit in your stomach starts to churn and roll with horror as you recognize the fact that as of this moment you are just another unknown and unpublished genius.
Protecting an Unpublished Work
You comfort yourself with thoughts of how your literary hero, James Joyce, got countless rejection letters from publishers all over the world who couldn’t relate to the potential marketability of Ulysses.
The manuscript alone must have weighed three hundred pounds. Can you imagine the “synopsis letter” for that one?
And it is true that the first publishers of Ulysses were arrested and fined for their trouble. Mais avoir le courage, Aloysius, surely your work of art will inspire a far more warm and friendly reception. Right? It will, won’t it?
With the increased ability to share creative ideas and art, graphic designers everywhere are finding more lucrative opportunities to profit from their work.
T-shirt designing is a fashionable possibility but very little has been published to give guidance to the budding artists who are providing the designs that make today’s t-shirts so popular.
As the industry flourishes, copyright challenges and questions seem to grow almost as quickly.
Copyright ownership lines are often blurred and it’s a challenge to keep up with the laws and understand who owns what and who can do what to whom! The maze of legal issues can be overwhelming and distract you from what’s really important – selling your work for profit.
Therefore, if you really want to monetize your graphic design work in the t-shirt world, you’ve got to know your legal rights and understand the copyright laws surrounding this industry. That way you can move forward knowing that your work is being distributed in a way that you’re comfortable with, without the stress of wondering if you’re losing money or control over your designs.
What is Copyright?
Before I go any further, let’s start with a basic definition of ‘copyright’ and what it means to t-shirt designers.
Copyright is the ownership over a piece of work or art and the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, commercially exploit, and otherwise profit from it.
So, for those of you designing art for t-shirts and other products, copyright generally refers to ownership and control over the art and designs you’re creating for third parties and their products.
The #1 Question T-Shirt Designers Ask Is . . .
Over and over we hear, ‘When my work is printed on a t-shirt, who owns the copyrights?’
Artists are incredibly creative and brilliantly innovative people.
They can pull ideas and forms out of the nether world and translate their insights into the material world with expertise through their respective medium and talent.
Their music fills our concert halls, their visual innovations greet us every day on everything from soup cans to ads on the Internet and authors of every genre help us to learn and grow by sculpting words into a content that informs and inspires.
Why would they need copyright protection?
Why do jewelers lock up their diamonds inside their own shop? Obviously, it is because valuable things get stolen.
A copyright is a sort of “locked jewel case” that federal law provides for authors to protect their “intangible jewels” or their legal rights in the original works of art they create. “