Friday, October 23, 2009

Notes on Copyright for Artists (from the VAE BOBAA lecture series)

The lectures were awesome last night! The Visual Art Exchange really is a valuable resource for local artists, and I'm excited that I'm finally on their mailing list (if interested, you can sign up here).

As promised, notes from the talk by Anthony Biller, intellectual property lawyer, Coats & Bennett PLLC -
"Copyright Law for Artists"
  1. Copyright protects a particular way someone expresses themselves - it does not protect an idea or a process.

  2. A copyright transfers only through written agreement, except in work-for-hire situations.
    i.e. the only way a copyright leaves you is if you sign a paper saying so. Which means that freelance work is still copyright to the person who "made the expression" (the artist) and not the person who had the idea (the customer) unless you sign something that says otherwise.

  3. A copyright is not a monopoly right.
    If someone makes something identical to yours without having ever seen yours, then you both get copyrights on that. Copyright is not novel, just original to you.

  4. Don't copy.

  5. If you're asking "what is the percentage of the original I need to change to be legal" you're already starting down the wrong path.

  6. Aside from Fair Use, do everything you can to get permission from the original copyright holder.

  7. Copyright does not involve things that are common design elements or themes.

  8. If you created the design, act like the creator.

  9. Put copyright notices on your works. For example, paintings - write on the back "© #yourfullname #year" .

  10. Register your work with the Library of Congress.

  11. Fair Use is not an exception to copyright infringement, it is a legal copy.
    Be forewarned, there is a lot of ambiguity and subjectivity in precedence of Fair Use.

One of the problem he pointed out that whatever process you follow to make something Fair Use in a legal case, the entire thing will be decided by judge and jury. Which means you can't predict the outcome.

He also brought up the Shepard Fairey case, stating the he thought it was an obvious case of Fair Use, but "Mr. Fairey is not a perfect client" now.

I'll probably type up all of my notes and make them available next week, but those were his eleven primary talking points. ALSO! The VAE is going to make their notes available sometime in the coming weeks at (I'll be sure to alert you when it happens and post the link again).

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