All images on this blog site are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any manner without the written permssion of the artist, Memory Roth

Friday, July 9, 2010

What is a Copyright?

I never knew there were so many things to learn, besides how to paint, when you want to become an artist. It isn’t enough to learn about primary, secondary and tertiary colors, ground, support, mediums, soft edges, hard edges, values, shadows, light, impasto, photo realism, contemporary realism, romanticism, abstract, acrylic, oil, colored pencils (not pencil crayons as I would like to call them), composition, canvas, brushes, conte, glazing, organic shapes, easels…………now “copyright”!

Copyright is an important term for all artists and it gives protection to their creations. The term copyright means – the right to copy….or….the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).

In Canada the Copyright Act was first passed in 1921. It has been amended a few times since it’s inception but for the most part it has remained the same. Basically, if you create a literary, musical or artistic work, you as the artist own the copyright unless you sell the copyright or make clear declaration not to assert copyright. In the latter case it becomes know as “public domain”. The copyright of a piece of art remains with the artist or his/her heirs for the artist's entire life plus 50 years after artist's death, even if the piece of art has been sold to someone else. In the case of the USA it is 70 years after artist's death, then it becomes public domain; generally speaking.

As with most rules there are always exceptions. In Canada we have something called “Fair Dealing”. This means you can use some copyright material for educational research, private study, criticism and review but there are considerations you need to follow. It is a little bit different from the USA’s exception which is called “Fair Use”; meaning to be used in teaching or making multiple copies for classroom use.

I’m very glad that there are copyright laws for my artwork, but I know understanding how it all works can be confusing. The best thing to do if you want to copy someone else’s work, and that would include downloading a picture from the internet, is to ask the copyright owner for permission and if you get it, it’s best to get it in writing, and make sure to give credit to copyright owner whenever possible regarding the work. Don’t ever assume the owner has given up copyright if you don’t see something regarding it, always assume you need permission.

When I use other people’s photos for my work I have them sign a contract which gives me license to use and profit from the work I created using their photos. As a digital photographer you own the copyright of all photos taken from your camera; even if you didn’t actually take the photo yourself. When it comes to photos made from negatives, the photographer owns the copyright.

Copyrights are very important and shouldn’t be taken lightly by artists or consumers. Understanding them and following the law will keep both parties happy and out of the law courts. ©

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