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This article is the first in a series I am writing concerning copyright laws and what we, as artists, can do to protect ourselves and our work from art thieves. Granted, in this day and age, it has become harder to protect our work. We are not always aware of it being stolen and illegally posted. Consider it luck, if a friend or another Deviant stumbles upon it and informs us so that we may do something about it.
Art theft is not only a major concern among the artists here on DA, it is also a major problem. We have taken steps from adding the copyright symbol along with our name in the artist's comment box, to adding it to the images themselves, to putting watermarks the size of the image on the images; and still the thieves continue to steal art without a second thought to consequences.
What's worse, is the websites that permit this art to be posted even after they are made aware that the art is in fact stolen. Some sites do co-operate and remove both the work and the user who posted the work, to those sites I say "Thank you."
We need to get the message across to the sites who require a lengthy process to have the stolen works removed, that we will not put up with them hosting stolen art. In any form. A prime example, a dear friend and wonderful artist, had a piece stolen and posted on a site. She posted a journal entry about it and quite a few of her friends and watchers did as most of us do: went to the site and left comments regarding the stolen work. Of course the person responsible for stealing it responded with language similar to that of one not accustomed to dealing with civilized people and managed to do nothing but show her true colors as a very rude individual, who obviously sees nothing wrong with stealing art.
Artists, no matter what medium they use, put a lot of work into their art and a bit of themselves go into each and every creation. So, in my opinion, having a piece of work stolen would be similar to having a piece of my soul cut away, and for someone to show disdain and say that it is perfectly alright for this to happen just irritates me to no end.
Enough of that. The purpose of this series of articles is to provide every artist with a basic knowledge of the copyright laws, not just U.S Copyright laws, but those covering as many countries as I can find laws governing; as well as to provide a basic understanding of the law period.
I've read to many journal entries where people have come across art stolen from DA and this series of articles is meant to help anyone who may have questions. Though these articles are in no way a substitute for legal advice, I simply want to point artists in the correct direction. If I don't have the answers, I will provide them with information on where they may be able to get the answers they are seeking.
I will leave you with this one solid bit of information for today: As soon as work is completed in tangible form, it is Copyrighted whether or not the artist has filed for a copyright making it a matter of public record.
First of all, I've run into some good people and some rude ones, as I'm sure all of us have. I've come across those who fave pieces for whatever reason and then they disappear. Then there are those who are using DA as a popularity contest, or trying to anyway. The majority of us are here for the same reason: To share our work and view that of others; to offer advice, answer questions, etc. We don't care about the number of page views or the number of faves.
Then there are those who only seem to care about those very things. Not everyone is going to like every piece you turn out so suck it up and act like an adult. Don't keep submitting a piece that is supposed to be updated knowing full well you haven't updated anything in it. If you want to rework an older piece, then do it. But to keep submitting a piece just to try and get it faved by more people.
Face it, not everyone can be a Picasso, Van Gough, DaVinci, etc. You've got to work at becoming good and if it is in your future to be discovered as a great artist, it will be. DA is not here to play high school popularity contest to those with big egos -- to those who probably fave less than they are faved. You need patience and the faves and the page views will come. You don't sign up and within a week have over 10,000 hits. They come gradually and over time. You have to be active in the DA community -- giving comments, faving the work of others and so on. Answer those notes and emails where someone asks you a question, don't be rude and ignore it. Don't be ashamed of a bad critique and hide it, use it to improve your work, that is what they are posted for, you don't have to like every piece of work on DA and you don't have to comment on every piece of work that shows up under deviations.
Do you think its going to bother me or make me mad if more people hate this article than love it? Not in the least. Because I'm not here, nor are the friends I've made, for the popularity vote.
Have a nice day!
As soon as your work is completed in tangible form you want to place the copyright notice on it. I someone or several may be think that digital art is not a tangible form, right? Wrong! According to the Copyright Law, Section 102(a)...be right back, I am going to double check this *jeopardy theme plays in the background*...okay, it is time to continue, I had it right.
Section 102(a)this is verbatim: "Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." Then it lists the works of authorship categories.
I did run across it in one of the many books I have, that digital works are considered tangible form when they are stored on a disk and or printed on paper. I may have the wording wrong as it was rather late when I was reading up and making certain that I things correct for this article. The main idea here is to put that copyright on your work ASAP!
Admittedly, I do not put the copyright notice on all of my work and I do have a reason for this which may sound strange to some or all of you. The works that I do not put the notice on are the ones that I do not intend to put up as prints for sale. These are usually the works where I have used my idea and stock from wonderful stock artists to make the idea a reality. Why, you might ask? Because, the stock is not mine, I did not make it. If the stock artists had not had it in their galleries then the idea would have remained an idea until I found time to sketch it out on paper. Okay, so I have a very strange way of looking at things; on the other hand, it could not be more true. Besides that, I'm still learning and playing with the digital realms of art creation and once I feel I'm as good as some of the artists I watch, perhaps my way of looking at things will change.
Alright, enough goofing off, it is time to get down to business. I would like to introduce you to a form of copyright that you may or may not be aware of, it is a very simple and inexpensive form of copyright. Now, you're curious and probably wondering, "If it is so simple and inexpensive, I'll use it." Right?
Say hello to the "Poor Man's Copyright". With this copyright, all you have to do is get a legal document size manilla envelope, address it to yourself, put the contents pertaining to your original work inside, seal it and send it. When it arrives, put it in a safe place unopened. Simple, right? Sure it is. But it is advised that you DO NOT use this form of copyright. One reason: It is very hard to prove the validity of it in court; and a second reason: this type of copyright is easily forged. Oops! When I'd heard about the Poor Man's Copyright for the first time I did get excited, and started thinking "Great, I can protect my pieces!" Then I researched it, reading several different articles. Each article saying pretty much the same thing, that using this copyright is not advisable.
The Library of Congress website may be of some help to you as far as gaining basic information. If you choose to visit it, you want to look for Circular 1: Copyright Basics, Circular 2: Publications on Copyright, and Circular 96: Regulations Relevant to Visual Arts. If you are interested in doing so, you can also obtain a print copy of the full copyright law: Circular 92 for $28.50. It is also available free in PDF format. I believe all or most of the Circulars on the site are available in PDF format. They also used to offer a Copyright Information Kit, I am not sure if they still do this or not.
The Library of Congress: lcweb.loc.gov/copyright
Visual Artist Information Hotline: 1-800-232-2789
Mon-Fri 2PM-5PM EST. Referral Service providing details of programs and services available to artists.
Legal Guide for the Visual Artist by Tad Crawford
The Business of Being an Artist by Daniel Grant
Electronic Highway Robbery by Mary E. Carter
Making It Legal: Revised and Expanded by Martha Blue