The Media File that Could: Why Obtaining Full Copyright and Intellectual Property Ownership Matters

Your mother may have told you that sharing is caring, but sharing isn’t always caring when it comes to copyright and intellectual property law.

With the growing popularity of social media platforms, people are sharing images more than ever.

Unfortunately for the creators of the shared media files, few people understand that they are violating copyright law when they upload and post creative work without the authorization of the creator.

Sharing Isn’t Always Caring

One needs only log into Pinterest to find numerous copyrighted images that others have “pinned” or uploaded to the Pinterest website without permission from the image’s owner.

Innocent though it may seem, every time an image is shared without the creator’s permission, a blogger, artist, photographer or graphic designer loses credit for her work and possible income that she could have generated from that work.

This proliferation of copyright infringement can understandably leave a creative feeling a bit down and discouraged.

After experiencing infringement of her work, a freelancer may even wonder whether she can continue to make a profit when her time and hard work easily become mute at the hands of copyright infringers.

After all, a creative can easily put in hours, if not weeks, of thought, work, and editing into a single creative work.

That photo, logo, or written content represents the freelancer’s professional image, work ethic, and indeed, livelihood. Nobody knows better than a freelancer that the widespread violation of an artist’s work equates to theft.

Creating the Media File that Could: How to Protect Your Work

Creatives may feel like they are constantly fighting an uphill battle against technology and social media. But Continue reading The Media File that Could: Why Obtaining Full Copyright and Intellectual Property Ownership Matters

3 Ways to Protect Copyright to Your Brand and Work as a Creative or Freelancer

Part of being a professional creative is protecting your brand – for most of us, this means slapping a copyright notice on the bottom our manuscript pages or stamping a watermark over images we post online.

After all, copyright is implicit in your work from the moment you’ve put pen to paper or raised the viewfinder to your eye.

But putting a copyright symbol on your work doesn’t do a great deal in terms of providing actual protection for your work or your brand – it’s a bit like pushing the lock button on an older car without an alarm system, it’ll keep the honest thieves out but anyone who really wants to steal the car that day is going to pop the lock and drive away with it.

So what can you do about it?

Start by Marking Your Turf

Adding a copyright notice, embedding a watermark and including author information in a digital file are all adequate means of establishing the fact that YOU created something and YOU intend on keeping control over it.

None of these are going to stop a determined copyright violator, especially in a world where the internet encourages the sharing and free exchange of ideas.

But there is a difference between “sharing” and “stealing” – so your job as a creative professional has to include embedding your brand on your work to the highest possible degree. Continue reading 3 Ways to Protect Copyright to Your Brand and Work as a Creative or Freelancer

What Every Freelancer and Graphic Designer Needs to Know About Copyright

Before computers became the main instrument of design, graphic design was a labor-intensive process involving scalpel blades, spray mount, toxic chemicals and hours spent in dark rooms.

Post-digital, a few keyboard strokes enables the process of design to print and be completed in a matter of minutes.

For both designers and freelancers, the creative process has moved on and graphic design is now a broad term covering all ends of the creative spectrum from package design to multimedia development.

Unfortunately, copyright law has struggled to keep up with the new technologies and things do not always appear to be black and white. Here are some pointers:

What is Copyright?

Copyright gives the owner of original, creative works the exclusive right to copy, publish, distribute and adapt their works.

Essentially, this gives the owner the right to stop others copying, adapting, publishing and distributing their work without permission.

When does Copyright begin?

Copyright begins as soon as Continue reading What Every Freelancer and Graphic Designer Needs to Know About Copyright

What Apple vs Samsung Means for Creatives and Designers: Imitation vs Inspiration in the Spotlight

The verdict in Apple vs Samsung has brought the patent system sharply into focus.

Some argue the complexity of patent law is unworkable because, arguably, designers, engineers and techies need not only the requisite skills in their own areas of expertise, but also advanced skills at recognizing that a product does not infringe existing patents.

So, what does the verdict actually mean for creatives and designers, and does it matter?

A Monopoly Over Rectangles with Rounded Corners in Question

At this point it is worth looking at what the actual infringements are deemed to be. Samsung’s statement after the verdict ‘that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners’ was rather unfortunate.

Although, the court did find that Samsung had infringed a number of Apple’s patents, rounded corners was not one of them.

The infringements covered the software patents enabling ‘bounce back’, ‘pinch and zoom’ and ‘double tap to zoom’, and the design patents for the front face, the back and icon design.

It can be argued that some of these software patents could be seen as new standard forms in the industry, so why has Apple won a patent case based on some of these features?

Without going into the legal intricacies and without over-simplifying the issue, the key point in the verdict is the ‘willful copying’ of these aspects of Apple’s patents.

Apple Designer’s Choice of Sunflower for Icon Used Against Samsung

Mac Iconographer Susan Kare’s testimony in the witness stand illustrates this, pointing out that her sunflower design for the photograph icon was an Continue reading What Apple vs Samsung Means for Creatives and Designers: Imitation vs Inspiration in the Spotlight

Copyright Theft vs Fair Use: How to Determine if Your Work Has Been Stolen or Adopted for Fair Use with a 4-Part Test

One of the misunderstood characters in the world of copyright and intellectual property is the concept of fair use.

For some, it’s used as a proverbial get out of jail free card – for others, it’s an important part of effective teaching, reporting and expression.

But what exactly is “fair use”, who decides what’s fair and why does it matter to you as a photographer, writer or designer looking to sell your wares in the ever-expanding online marketplace?

Comment, Criticism and Parody

Fair use is what keeps the wheels of praise, criticism and review freely spinning. Without the ability to quote a portion of a play, reproduce an element of a gallery display or passage from a novel, artists would be in an awkward position.

On the one hand, able to stave off harsh or uninvited criticism; but on the other, those good reviews that encourage people to visit unheard of attractions and commentary included in local color segments on the evening news would likely be close to nonexistent.

The other key component to the concept of fair use is parody.

While it is often said that mockery is the highest form of flattery, it can be hard for a creative to swallow seeing their photograph, painting or song aped in any media.

Again, we’re faced with the difference between generating buzz for our product and tolerating someone else making a living off of our own hard graft.

Unfortunately, the notion of fair use isn’t determined by dollar signs – if it was, the creative world would be a very different place.

The Four Factors

So what’s a photographer, writer, singer, artist or other creative supposed to do when they find their work has been effectively hijacked by someone else? First, you’ll want to Continue reading Copyright Theft vs Fair Use: How to Determine if Your Work Has Been Stolen or Adopted for Fair Use with a 4-Part Test