5 Important Facts You Need to Know about Graphic Design, Copyright & IP that Design School Didn’t Teach You

Photo Credit: 5 Mosaic by Leo Reynolds used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo Credit: 5 Mosaic by Leo Reynolds used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For most graphics designers, it’s hard enough juggling the rigors of running a business or staying on top of a hectic freelance schedule.

Add to that the mountain of confusing information surrounding intellectual property (IP) rights, and a vast sea of frustration, and even borderline apathy, might quickly ensue.

However, graphic designers have good reason to get to know the specifics about their IP rights.

Once work is created and made available to the public, the chances of someone claiming the work as their own or reproducing it without giving proper credit can skyrocket in today’s technologically advanced, share-friendly culture. Nothing is more infuriating than discovering that your creative ability is being exploited by someone who has neither the permission nor the right to do so.

Quality Work Needs Quality Protection

Getting the facts about intellectual property laws and how they affect your design work is something that simply cannot be put off.

That’s because just about all the work that designers produce falls under the category of intellectual property, and the wisest thing to do with intellectual property is to protect it.

Remember, just because there is no tangible product involved in your creative process does not mean your work deserves any less protection, or compensation, than other valuable business assets.

Graphics designers also must be prepared to go beyond simply protecting their own work. They also need to make sure they don’t end up infringing someone else’s work as well.

In the design field, as in any other, it’s considered extremely disrespectful and ethically inconsiderate to use someone else design without permission.

It’s imperative that designers stay abreast of what is and is not allowed when it comes to using the images, photos and design elements of other artists and creators.

Fact 1. The Difference Between a Copyright and a Trademark is Use

Several types of intellectual property rule the graphics design world.

There are differences here that are essential to know for interactions with clients as well as for protecting your ideas and creative work.

The two most important IP rights for graphics designers are copyrights and trademarks.

Copyright. A copyright protects any completed graphic element whether registered or not. Even though you Continue reading 5 Important Facts You Need to Know about Graphic Design, Copyright & IP that Design School Didn’t Teach You

Why You Don’t Own Your Wedding Photos: How to Own Your Wedding Day & Copyrights to Your Wedding Day Photos

Wedding Photos Copyright - Photo Credit: iStock PhotoPsssst.

Did you know that few people really own their own wedding photos?

It’s a little known fact that most people are shocked to discover.

However, after reading this post you’ll understand why wedding photos are the most expensive photos of a lifetime that most people don’t own and more importantly, how you can avoid this common wedding-day fail and own your wedding day AND your wedding photos.

A wedding is such a personal matter. Many automatically assume full ownership of wedding photos belongs to the happy, new couple.

They figure the wedding photographer is merely someone paid to render a service, and never imagine that, in actuality, ownership belongs solely to the photographer.

It’s a matter of copyright right law, and a finicky one at that.

Owning Your Wedding Day, Doesn’t Mean You Own Your Wedding Day Photos

Here’s the scenario: With the wedding only weeks away, the future Mr. and Mrs. Nuptial are planning their wedding photos.

They’ve hired the magnificent Mr. Flash, a very popular wedding photographer whose reputation precedes him.

The Nuptials, having seen his work, are thrilled to have him on board. In a brief meeting, Mr. Flash describes the details of the pre-wedding photo shoot as well as the arrangements for wedding day pics.

Trusting his experience and reputation the Nuptials agree. Everything is set.

After the wedding, the Nuptials are back from their honeymoon and excited to see the lovely photos of their beautiful day. More importantly they want copies to share with friends and family.

They dial up Mr. Flash and speak with his assistant. She quickly informs the couple, to their utter dismay, in order to take any photos home, they’ll have to pay a whopping expense for each extra print.

Doesn’t seem fair, right? Or, does it? Continue reading Why You Don’t Own Your Wedding Photos: How to Own Your Wedding Day & Copyrights to Your Wedding Day Photos

How Mismanaging Your Copyright & IP Rights is Ruining Your Career as a Creative or Freelancer (And How to Fix It!)

Photo Credit: Money Down the Drain by Images Money used under CC BY 2.0
Photo Credit: Money Down the Drain by Images Money used under CC BY 2.0

As a freelancer, your work is your livelihood.

It’s your product, service and brand, all rolled into one.

And without a big business to hide behind, it’s just you and your creations on display for all the world to see.

This is both the burden and the blessing of being self-employed.

Managing and protecting your work, then, is critical to your progress, especially when it comes to ownership and copyrights.

If you’re not controlling ownership of your work, you could be missing out on big clients, big paychecks and big opportunities.

Unfortunately, many freelancers and creatives are unnecessarily–and sometimes unknowingly–stifling their careers simply because they don’t understand copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws.

Grasping the rules of ownership could make or break your freelance salary. So if you’re serious about your career, you need to recognize where you’re throwing money away, and then work to fix it!

I’ve identified the 3 most common copyright & IP errors, in no particular order, that lead to suppressed freelance careers and salaries.

1) Accepting Royalty Payments

First of all, you should never accept royalties as payment. I know, it sounds tempting, especially for those of you still trying to make your first mark.

But hear me now; royalties are a rip-off. You should never make your income dependent on what the client does with the work after-the-fact. Continue reading How Mismanaging Your Copyright & IP Rights is Ruining Your Career as a Creative or Freelancer (And How to Fix It!)

Copyright 101 for eBook Self-Publishing: What You Need to Know about Copyright & Intellectual Property Before You Self Publish

Photo Credit: To lay this book in my lap by Marina Noordegraaf used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo Credit: To lay this book in my lap by Marina Noordegraaf used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Bundle of Rights: Traditional Publishing vs Self Publishing

The Copyright Act of 1976 grants to the author of a copyrightable work a “bundle of rights.”

This “bundle of rights” as provided by federal copyright law invests the creator of a work with exclusive rights to control the reproduction, adaptation, publication, performance and display of his work.

Historically authors would transfer their “bundle of rights” to a publisher under some sort of contract in order to allow that publisher to “publish” or to reproduce and distribute the copyrighted material.

Today authors are able to retain their bundle of rights and full control of the publication of their work by opting to “self publish.” Self publication allows the author to regulate all aspects of the reproduction, marketing and distribution of his creative work.

How to Navigate the Copyright Minefield

It is important that a self publishing author fully understand Continue reading Copyright 101 for eBook Self-Publishing: What You Need to Know about Copyright & Intellectual Property Before You Self Publish

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