Be Creative! Do Not Copy – Copyrights in Artistic Works

Looking up something! Type in your query in the search bar and within seconds, a million responses to your query will pop up. During my school days my teacher would collect drawings and paintings from various places to show me and ask me to practice. As they say ‘No one is born knowing it all. We have to see, learn or experience it to know better.’ That task in today’s world can be done from the comfort of our homes with just a click of the button. Very little effort or almost nil compared to earlier days. Then again there is a universal truth that no one likes to be copied – not even someone who themselves copied. I have read the ‘Do not Copy’ disclaimer on pages of Artists who have otherwise copied Artworks of other Artists.

Well then, is it possible for everyone to draw from their mind? Are they really inventing and innovating something totally new each time? All these arguments happen. They ask me ‘So are you really for or against Copyrights?’ I would say both. And the Copyright Law was also works like that. It means a person who has put in their hard work, time and money into creating something must receive their due credits for it. Nevertheless people must be encouraged to learn from one another to build on something existing for the development of the society as well. Hence certain permitted use of copyrighted works.

The Berne Convention is the International Agreement governing Copyrights and 179 nations are Parties to it. It formally mandates the details of the Copyright Law. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act intended as anti-piracy law also needs to be read alongside the Copyright Laws. If I continue talking in the formal tone or legal language, not many people will understand. I wanted to simplify it so that even a person who is not from the field can easily understand.

Here is what I learnt studying The Copyright Law :

It is not necessary to register your work, although registration makes it easy to prove your right in the Artwork. Reading up a little about Copyrights can definitely help – to protect yours and to avoid infringing someone else’s. Website of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) shares a lot of information for public awareness about all Intellectual Property Rights. The symbol for copyrights is © followed by the year the artwork was created in.

So if you like someone’s Artwork, appreciate it and like it. Do not call it yours! That is stealing. Of course like any other kind of stealing it is a wrong doing. The law is to protect the creators from such theft. Every Artist has the right to be called the creator for their work and no matter what rights they license or surrender, this right stays with them.

If you imitate an artist, dedicate it to them, credit your references. Always remember you will be known as an imitation and an original is always worth more. The only time it is ok to imitate is when you are learning. That comes under Fair Use. However if your account states ‘artwork for sale’ or ‘open to collaborations’ or ‘artist – do not copy’ then your intentions are clear. It is not considered Fair Use. If it is fan art or a parody, it has to be mentioned clearly. The purpose, nature, amount and the monetary effect are all considered to know the intention.

Copycat- Mindless Act of Copying

If you were inspired by someone’s Art. And you used your creativity to create something different but similar. This is determined by substantial similarity test. So if the work looks very similar to be mistaken as one for another it might be considered copied. The new image search technology is so good that works with substantial copying are shown in the ‘works similar to yours’ search results right away.

One important thing to understand is Copyrights is about protecting the right of the creator so that he earns his rightful due from his work – in monetary terms. So if you are selling and making money by copying other people’s work, it may land you in trouble. I really don’t know if you wish to put your business at stake by doing something like that.

Social Media have a ‘Report Copyright Infringement Button’ where one can report if they feel their rights have been infringed. You would have to prove your rights in the Artwork. Digital image scanning with technology like Google Lens makes it easy to spot copied artworks. There are apps and softwares for these kind of searches. Companies have full time professionals dedicated to each of these tasks. The Media and Entertainment Industry is one of the major Industries across the Globe. Their works are protected under Copyrights. I think among all the other Acts of Intellectual Property Rights the Copyright Act is very well drafted and very adaptive to the changes.

Always repost with credits. If an Artwork has a watermark or a logo, it means it was to discourage from copying. That doesn’t mean works without watermarks do not have Copyrights. Copyrights are valid up to 70yrs after the death of the author, after which artworks fall into the public domain. After extensive lobbying by Disney ‘The Mickey Mouse Protection Act’ came into effect thereby protecting works of corporate authorship till 120yrs of creation or 95yrs of publication whichever is earlier.

Last but not the least, there is a school of thought that believes in sharing their works by giving some access and rights, so that others can use their works. Creative Commons let users use their works for free to build other new works. I think these have helped many creations and innovations. Some really amazing ones.

There is also something called Open Licenses where a standardised license with pre-determined conditions is used to license Artworks. By clicking the ‘I agree button’ we agree to their Terms & Conditions. Whether the Copyrights Model works or not, whether such protection is necessary or not – I don’t know. All I know is there is something called Copyrights. So be creative and do not copy!

Have an Arty Weekend!

Published by #artistniralimehta

Nirali is an Artist doing Art and Illustrations both hand drawn as well as digital. She is a trained professional with good work experience in her field. She masters various art styles and has shops on Etsy, Redbubble, Society6 all three by the same name ‘NMartworks’

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