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Copyright Office Publishes Fair Use Index

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 30, 2015

Copyright Office logoIn response to widely recognized confusion regarding the doctrine of fair use, the Copyright Office has published the Fair Use Index. The index publishes cases searchable by jurisdiction and category, including type of work, such as Painting/Drawing/Graphic, etc., and use, such as Parody/Satire, News reporting, etc. Selecting search features pulls a grid of cases, with year, court, jurisdiction, category, and outcome listed. The case names link to a PDF with details of the case, including an outline of the background, and a breakdown of the highest court ruling on the case.

The index is a valuable resource for artists and academics hoping to get a better grasp of how the fair use doctrine has been applied.  For example, searching under Painting/Drawing/Graphic pulls up a wide range of cases covering all sorts of graphic use, such as Bouchat v. Balt Ravens (logo infringement), Cariou v. Prince (appropriation of photography – see the Guild’s amicus brief on this case), and Setzer v. Green Day (illustration infringement).

The index was developed support in of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, the proposal released by Victoria Espinel, the White House’s former Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. The Office intends to keep adding key rulings to the database.

Apple Sued by Artist for Trade Dress Infringement

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 20, 2015

It’s a case that puts a twist on the familiar David vs Goliath, artist-suing-major-corporation-for-copyright-infringement story. As has been widely reported, Miami-based Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto is suing Apple, Inc. and the designers known as Craig & Karl for trade dress infringement and unfair competition. At issue is a brightly patterned piece of artwork created by Craig & Karl, and featured prominently on Apple’s “Start Something New” webpage, as well as in Apple stores. The “Start Something New” campaign features works created by well-known artists using Apple products; the offering by Craig & Karl is purported to have been made on an iPad Air 2 with iOS apps.

Romero’s lawsuit is unusual, in that he’s not making the common charge of copyright infringement. An excellent article by Steve Schlackman in Art Law Journal points out that the offending image does not appear to be derived from an existing Britto work. Instead, Britto is claiming infringement of trade dress, the distinctive visual appearance of a product or packaging (such as Britto’s use of brightly colored geometric patterns and heavy black outlines). According to Schlackman, to prevail Britto must establish both that his work is distinctive, and that consumers are likely to be confuse the Craig & Karl work with his.

According to the complaint filed by Britto, such confusion has already occurred; Britto’s business partners and collectors confused the Craig & Karl artwork with his. According to the Miami Herald, Britto’s own lawyer, Robert Zarco, first saw the artwork at an Apple store in China and assumed it was Britto’s. However, Britto appears to have a steep slope to climb in proving infringement; bright patterns and thick outlines have been utilized by numerous artists (Keith Haring and Walter De Morais come to mind). As Schlackman states, the true test of whether Britto’s work merits trade dress protection may occur should he ever submit it to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Below: Screenshots from the Britto’s gallery (top) and the Apple “Start Something New” webpage.

Romero Britto screenshotApple Start Something New screenshot

Typetester Online Tool Permits Comparison of 2,000+ Webfonts

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 09, 2015

For the past decade, Typetester has been an online resource for website designers. Users could compare up to three fonts at a time, and customize size, line height, alignment, color, and spacing. As versatile as the tool was, the limited number of fonts available made it of limited value; only websafe, Windows default, Mac default, and Google fonts were selectable. That changed earlier this year, when Typetester partnered with Adobe Typekit. The result is a robust library of over 2,200 fonts, including Typekit and Adobe Edge fonts.

Typetester also debuted Inspritation Gallery, a selection of staff picked web typography. Both the sampled fonts on Typetester’s homepage and the Inspiration Gallery examples are linked to the font’s webpage, permitting the user to easily purchase and/or download the font.

Typetester was first developed by the Croatian design firm Creative Nights, which built the site in HTML 5, with heavy-duty CSS and JavaScript. (Note that the site will not run properly if JavaScript has been disabled.) The firm has plans to develop TypeTester further, and invites users to subscribe to subscribe to their newsletter to be eligible to preview and provide feedback on upcoming features.

Below: Typestester's interface permits users to compare up to three different webfonts from Google fonts, Adobe Edge, and Typekit.

Typetester screenshot

Copyright and Creators: Addressing Anti-Copyright Sentiments

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 30, 2015

John DegenJohn Degen, novelist and Executive Director of The Writers Union of Canada, recently engaged in a back-and-forth of the value of copyrights to creators. The discussion was precipitated by a question Degen had been asked on developments in Canadian copyright law. As described on The Writing Platform, “In Canada, a small tweak to copyright legislation resulted in a large loss of income for many writers when the principle of ‘fair dealing’ was extended to include education and interpreted by educational institutions to mean unlimited copying of relatively large portions of works.’ Degen summarized the importance of copyright to creative professionals as, “If you create it, you own it. If someone wants to use what you own, there needs to be a discussion.” He later elaborated on his point in a series of tweets, including one that compared an attack on copyright as a land grab.

This lead to a response from an academic in Finland, who asked whether copyright, as other legal concepts, should “develop and evolve” – a point of view that Degen describes as, “I'm not attacking your rights; I'm merely questioning whether or not they actually need to exist.” In the resulting Twitter exchange, Degen referenced the change in “fair dealing,” describing how a push by academics in Canada led to the elimination of collective licensing of written works for education, and resulting in a loss of income for writers. In the meantime, the price of the educational materials and tuition – ostensibly the reason for the law change – continued to rise. The result, Degen wrote, was “an attack on workers’ rights, creative livelihoods, on academic freedom, on students.”

Degen’s full article can be read on his blog.

Photo of John Degen used with permission.

Keep Your Art Director Happy: 10 Mistakes Illustrators Make

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 24, 2015

Guiseppe CastellanoArt director Giuseppe Castellano has compiled a list of 10 common mistakes illustrators make in delivering their artwork. The advice covers basic errors in file delivery that are guaranteed to sour a working relationship. Much of the advice covers basics, such as file type, color space, specs, and cropping. However, Castellano also provides insight into what makes art directors sing when he asks illustrators to push beyond the obvious in selecting their color palette, and in considering composition and point of view.

His strongest advice is to avoid springing nasty surprises on the client – by producing something unexpected, being late, or being unprofessional. He reminds that art directors have a hierarchy to answer to, and often have the training and experience to work with illustrators who are struggling with an assignment. Castellano encourages illustrators to keep their art directors abreast of any difficulties they’re having with meeting the terms of an assignment: “As long as you stay communicative, you and your client can work through any issue together.”

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