Copyright: How to Protect Your Visual Art
by Susan Basko, Esq.
Visual art is often copyright infringed these days, in large part because of online printing companies that allow art created by anyone, without properly vetting the source. There are several things you can do to help protect your visual art.
Examples of visual art protected by U.S. Copyright include (but are not limited to):
(visual / photography)
Artwork (2D, 3D)
Board Games (visual aspects)
(maps / globes)
Cartoons, Comic Strips, Comic Books
Catalogs (visual aspects)
Craft Kits Drawings
Labels (visual aspects)
Prints / Reproductions
HOW TO BEST PROTECT YOUR VISUAL ART:
1. Register Copyright with the U.S. Copyright office on each visual art work. In some instances, registering a group of works as a collection is more affordable. Registering each work separately and carefully providing a name that actually describes the content of the work, and giving solid contact information, goes a very long way in protecting copyright. While copyright theoretically exists on any work that is creative and original and set into tangible form, the only way to make use of Copyright protections is to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration before the work is infringed or shortly after it is created is the only method that brings the possibility of statutory damages and attorney fees in case of an infringement lawsuit. There is no substitute for Copyright registration. There is virtually no copyright protection on any work unless it is registered.
2. Put the Copyright sign onto the work. That's the copyright symbol ©, followed by the first year of publication, followed by the name of the copyright owner. © 2018 Susan Basko Having the copyright notice on your work gives notice and also removes any defense that the infringement was inadvertent.
3. Watermark the copyright symbol and name of the owner using a watermarking or tagging app, or by including it into the design itself.
4. License Information you provide must be crystal clear. "The work must not be altered. The artist's name must not be removed. No derivative works allowed without permission." Etc.
5. Periodically Check to see if your work is being infringed online, on social media, by online sellers, in stores, by art or photo licensing companies, by print-on-demand companies, elsewhere.
6. Send take down and removal notices. Learn how to do this. The most potent way to tell someone to take down your art work is by providing the registered copyright information. To be able to provide that, you need to first register copyright on the work.
7. Work closely with a lawyer who will help protect your copyrights.