This was an interesting, but certainly not the most thrilling lecture ever. Necessary though for the minefield of issues and legality caused by copyright in today’s creative industry, so it was good to clarify a few points.

Copyright is determined by the ‘Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988’ and protects the creator from having their work used, or copied by another person. It gives the creative holder the right to be ‘identified’ as the creator, and protects their skills, their labour and their time – however this only covers ‘original work’.

Copyright comes into force as soon as the original piece is created, you do not have to apply for it, and however my issue with this is that you need to be able to prove WHEN you created it, not just the fact that you did create it. There have been cases where people have designed something and it has been taken by some big company and they have produced it as their own, but the creator has found it hard to prove the date they created it and also when you are up against a big company that probably has a team of lawyers you either need a lot of luck or a large bank balance to be able to bring it to court and win.

 Myth 1 – that copyright can protect your ‘ideas’ – unfortunately no, as they are in your head, it HAS to be recorded. It has t be a tangible piece of work. It is a shame as someone recently took one of mine, that I had told him or her about, the lesson there has to be to keep quiet until you have actually done it or created it – not matter how trustworthy the person may ‘seem’.

Copyright can be so complicated as well; it does also give you ‘moral rights’, paternity rights, and the right to be identified, even if you do allow someone else to use it. It also gives you integrity rights as well – this can stop someone using your image in a negative way.

All work created AFTER 31st July 1989 is covered by the law mentioned above, the copyright for work before that date belongs to the person who commissioned it. (However even now, if you are EMPLOYED by someone to do some work, the copyright belongs to them, not to you as the employee. I came across this when I wrote courses for colleges whilst employed by them.

 Myth 2 – that if you send the work to yourself in a sealed envelope that can prove the date of creation. This will NOT stand up in court as you could have tampered with the envelope. It would count though if you sent it to a solicitor, but there would be a charge. My inclination would be to scan it or photograph it, and attach it to an email and send it to an alternative email address to prove its date of creation.

****something is copyright for the whole of your life plus 70 years after you die***

 Myth 3 – You can use 10% of somebody else’s work without it breaking copyright – the answer to this is NO, it depends on the quality of what you are using not the quantity, so if it is core work/material then you can’t – and I suppose if it wasn’t ‘core’ you wouldn’t want to use it in the first place would you?

 Myth 4 – everything on the internet is public domain and free to use.

The answer again is that no, it isn’t, and the same rules apply. The problem can be though that the internet can be a fantastic marketing tool and so sometimes we have to take the risk of people doing screen shots and copying work in order to get our names out there.

You can try to protect your work by creating ‘low res’ images or water marking your images – but to be honest I have a friend who told me that he could access any image and remove any water mark, on saying that though it does give people extra work to do!


How do we protect ourselves in the industry from having our work taken?

It is important to check the terms and conditions really carefully in contracts, as they can be very confusing. Janet gave us an example of someone that had illustrated a range of children’s books, and when she checked the contract carefully she could see that they wanted her to hand over the copyright to the publishers. At the time she was new to the industry and wanted to get her name known so she thought she would take the risk and agreed. Unfortunately though the company then went out of business, and of course her copyright had gone with them. It took her months to persuade the company to hand back her artwork and assign the copyright back to her so that she could get her work published by someone else.

Janet said that if you are going to sell the copyright the person buying it should pay a LOT for it!!

The BRIGHT AGENCY recommends that you never sell the copyright – there are different options _

 ‘Buy out –  – this is where the whole of the copyright goes from the illustrator to the company, and the company has total control over what it does with your images.

 ‘An exclusive all media license’ – this is where there is a ‘defined’ scope of usage for the images, that is decided by the 2 parties and there will also be a time limit to this license where after that all rights return to the illustrator.

 The Bright Agency recommends that you license your images for 3 – 5 years only.

Useful addresses  (licensing agency)   (association of illustrators)   (design of artists copyright society)