We all know the word copyright and we all know the little c in the circle (©) stands for copyright but do we actually know what a copyright really is and what that little symbol really means? It seems like today with computers and with the internet copyright gets confused and often times misunderstood, if not simply forgotten. A good understanding of copyright is more important than ever.
The US Government defines copyright as the following: "Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works." What this means is that the instant an artist creates a work (visual, performance, or written) that work is copyrighted and is legally owned by the artist. If someone finds an illustration or picture they would like to use for a project they must pay, or get permission from, the artist or the person that owns the copyright to use the work. Only the artist can sell the rights to use or to purchase their work. The artist may sell their artwork, or the rights to use the work for a specific use or for a specific amount of time (or both).
If a person asks another artist to recreate a piece of artwork (or if they do it themselves) it is considered a copyright infringement. There is a fine line between inspired by and out-and-out stealing. If you can identify any piece of the new art as being derived from the original inspiration it could be considered a copyright infringement.
If you love a piece of artwork I encourage you to contact the original artist and work with them.
When working with royalty-free clip art or rights managed stock art and photography read the legal section to make sure the artwork is being used as it was licensed. All reputable stock art companies will have a legal section that will go over usage rights of purchased or downloaded art.
Copyright laws protect artists and help artists make a living! Please help keep artists working and successful! Thank you.
For more information on copyright laws visit www.copyright.gov.