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The Great Copyright Question!

There are a great deal of question marks hanging over the subject of Copyright. It clearly is a small, grey minefield. However according to a Computer Arts survey 50% of designers claim they are familiar with copyright, but if this is true why does it have such a hazy and mystifying aura, especially within the online (MySpace) and digital realm? 

Copyrights protect your creative property and falls into five basic categories: (1) reproduction rights (2) derivative rights, the right to create adaptations of an original work (3) distribution rights, the right to sell a work (4) display rights, and (5) performance rights. For designers and illustrators, reproduction and derivative rights are the most important copyright rights.

Graphic designers often face a problem of copyright theft. Many graphic designers spend much time, thought and energy creating material to be submitted with proposals to corporate clients. It has been known for the client to receive the graphic designs, and have them developed with a cheaper competitor and give no compensation to the author of the graphic designs.
When you create a work you automatically own the copyright to that work for your lifetime. You don’t have to publish the work or register it to own the copyright. You can write “cease and desist” letters telling someone to stop using your copyrighted work even if the work has not been registered. You can file for a copyright at any time, but you cannot legally file an infringement of copyright action unless you have registered the work in question.

It’s a very good idea to register all the work you will make public. You don’t have to register every piece you create, but you should file copyright registration on any piece that will be seen by a large number of people or one that’s used frequently. Always put a copyright notice on your work. Every design, every disk and every digital file needs a copyright notice: “© Your Name Here 2001.” If it’s marked with a copyright, no one can claim innocent infringement.

Copyright comes down to honesty, it is a very different thing to draw inspiration from a piece of artwork than to out right copy and mass reproduce it. In the case of using the © mark and registering you work copyright law seems quite simple, however we are now in an international digital age, where things don’t seem as clear as what you might think. Let’s take a look at copyright in the MySpace realm. 

Did you spot MySpace’s outrageous proprietary rights assertions in its terms of use? I certainly didn’t, it was only from reading my daily dose of Computer Arts that I realised how ridiculous their terms and conditions are. By posting virtually any content on MySpace, such as images, illustrations and music, you are granting News Corporation MySpace’s owners – “a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sub-licence through unlimited levels of sub-licencees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such content.” That was taken from MySpace’s terms, and hands over the copyright for anything hosted on the MySpace servers to MySpace. This means they can take your content and do anything they like with it, even if you deleted your content and closed down your account, MySpace retains the rights to anything found in its back ups.

These types of clauses are common and are often found throughout networking sites and competitions, hiding them in the terms and conditions knowing full well that people simply won’t read them. However these clauses aren’t legally binding and are invented by the site owner and could be overthrown, but I doubt enough of us know about them to act. I mentioned earlier that a Computer Arts survey revealed that 50% of designers are aware of copyright. However as I peruse over the thousands of online portfolios MySpace hosts I’d be surprised if they truly are.

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007 at 8:11 am
Posted In Freelancing, Graphic Design | Tags: , ,

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