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The Power of the © Notice

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 15, 2016

Leslie Burns copyright noticeIn June, we reported on attorney Leslie Burns’ article on CMI: copyright management information. Burns advised visual artists to put a visible copyright notice on  work they post online, since doing so provides the artists with additional tools to bring to bear, should the work be infringed. In her follow-up article, “Your © is More Than CMI,” Burns goes into greater detail on how to effectively use the copyright notice, and why doing so is such a good practice.

First, Burns explains that the copyright notice must include the copyright symbol, the date of publication, and the copyright owner’s name. (For those confused on what the date of publication is, she goes into a bit of detail.) She then explains that if an infringer uses a work that had a copyright notice removed, the infringer can’t claim “innocent infringement” – even if the infringer got the artwork from another source, and had no idea that a copyright notice had been removed. Burns cites two copyright cases that support this rule: BMG Music v. Gonzalez and Maverick Recording v. Harper
Infringers who have used works from which the copyright notice of watermark was removed have violated §1202 of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Burns calculates that the infringer could be looking at a minimum of $3,250 in damages ($750 for the infringement, and $2,500 for the DMCA violation), and possibly attorney’s fees.

Of course, none of this will apply if the visual artist hasn’t first registered his or her work with the copyright office. Remember, a work must be registered before an artist can sue for copyright infringement.While an artist can register work after detecting that it's been infringed, damages are limited if the work is registered after the infringement occurs. WIth a background in business and marketing management for a photography studio and a design firm, Burns is huge advocate for visual artists. Her website, Burns the Attorney, features a steady stream of articles on legal issues creative types need to be on top of.

AIGA’s “Get Out the Vote” Poster Campaign 2016 Resonates

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 29, 2016

In every election year since 2004, AIGA has conducted a "Get Out the Vote" poster campaign. The campaign solicits designs from AIGA members for posters urging citizens to vote. The posters are then made available to the public for free download and printing under a Creative Commons license. None of the submissions reference a political party or candidate, and AIGA’s submission guidelines stipulate that the posters must be non-partisan. In a fraught election year characterized by negative campaign messages, the belief in “the power of design to motivate the American public to register and turn out to vote” is heartening.

The submitted posters cover a wide range of messages, styles, and imagery. Several designers equated non-voters with sheep, while others illustrated American theater critic George Jean Nathan’s quote, "Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." While the designs adhere to AIGA's non-partisan standard, some recurring themes do reference this year’s election campaigns. A number of the designs mention women's suffrage, or the 96th anniversary of women's right to vote — no doubt inspired by the first woman nominee of a major political party. Other posters play off reports of the increase in Americans Googling "move to Canada" after Trump won the Republican nomination. A number of design luminaries, such as Milton Glaser and Debbie Millman, have contributed their own creations.

The “Get Out the Vote” campaign is conducted by AIGA in partnership with the League of Women Voters. The project falls under AIGA's Design for Democracy initiative, which strives to use design tools to make interactions between government and citizens more transparent and trustworthy. AIGA designers are invited to submit designs through November 8, and a curated exhibit of the posters will be presented during AIGA's annual conference this October. Members of the public are encouraged to download, print, and display the posters.

Below: Poster designs by AIGA members Ozan Karakoc, Ann Willoughby, and Christine Sheller.

An Open Letter to Political Candidates on Copyright

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 03, 2016

Copyright Alliance logoThe Copyright Alliance has published an open letter to the 2016 political candidates, advocating for a strong copyright system and a safe and secure Internet. The letter asserts that strong copyrights protect free speech by “...preserv[ing] the value and integrity of what one creates,” and that protecting copyright is complementary to Internet freedom. The letter also warns that entities claiming to be pro-creator are funded by online platforms and have worked to block efforts to protect creative content from infringement and piracy.

The letter stresses that stronger copyright protection is a non-partisan issue: “The creative community stands united in support of a copyright system that will continue to make the United States the global leader in the creative arts and the global paradigm for free expression.” Individual creators are encouraged to show their support for the letter by signing a petition on the Copyright Alliance's website.

© Watermark: A Tool to Protect Your Work Under the DMCA

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 29, 2016

Think putting a watermark with your name and copyright symbol detracts from your illustration? You may want to reconsider doing without it. In “CMI and the DMCA,” attorney Leslie Burns explains how including such information, called Copyright Management Information, gives you an additional, powerful tool to protect your copyrights online.

“Copyright Management Information” is defined by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act as “information conveyed in connection with” copies, displays, phonorecords, or performances of a work. The information is broadly defined, and can include the name of the work, the name of the author or copyright holder, identifying numbers or symbols, etc. That means a simple “© 2016 Your Name” inserted into the corner of your illustration or design qualifies as CMI.

As Burns elucidates, including your watermark on your image confers two tools you can use in addressing infringement. First, according to the DMCA, if an infringer removes your © watermark and reposts your image, the infringer has committed one to two violations of the law – each carrying statutory damages of at least $2,500 – whether or not you registered the work. Additionally, the removal of your watermark shows that the infringement was willful. That means if you did register your work, the statutory damages could go up to $150,000. (The minimum stays at $750.) It goes without saying that you should register the copyrights on any work you publish online!

Burns states that the notice needn’t be large – just legible – and recommends that the notice include the copyright symbol ©, the year of publication, and your name. She also points out that including the CMI increases the chance for damages to be awarded  – which would make a lawyer far more inclined to take the case on a contingency basis.

Leslie Burns is a California-based lawyer specializing in copyrights, contracts, and business law. Her background makes her a unique advocate for visual artists – for years, she was the studio and marketing manager for photo illustrator Stephen Webster. Her articles are both entertaining and informative; her article “More Monkey Business” (published on her Burns Auto Parts blog) was one of the most amusing takes on the monkey selfie dispute in 2014.

Below: Burns' copyright notice on her photograph (snapped while in law school) isn't large, but clearly imparts her information. (Used with permission.)

Life as a Law Student, photo © Leslie Burns

Compare and Contrast: Artists’ Rights and the Two Princes

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 18, 2016

Sarah Howes knows a thing or two about artists’ rights. As the Director of Legal Affairs at The Copyright Alliance, and a newly minted intellectual property lawyer (who studied under none other than Tad Crawford), she’s been advocating for artists for a while now. So when the musician Prince passed away a couple of months ago, Sarah was inspired to pay homage to him and his support of other artists – and to compare him to his opposite, appropriation artist Richard Prince (RP).

It’s an indication of how controversial Richard Prince’s career has been that he’s been covered so often in the Guild news blog. The first time was when the Guild signed on to an amicus brief in support of the photographer Cariou, whose photographs RP nabbed and plastered with crude drawings. Other articles covered the controversy raised by his “New Portraits” Instagram series – printouts of Instagram posts RP tacked a bit of text onto and sold for tens of thousands. As Howes writes in her article, “his entire career hinges on him redefining ‘the concepts of authorship [and] ownership.’ Which he is of course neither: the author nor the owner of much of his work.

The contrast to Prince the musician couldn’t be more striking. Howe points out that Prince the musician produced hundreds of works, playing up to 27 instruments on one track alone. It’s hard to find that level of skill, let alone discipline, in the work of Richard Prince: “All we really know of him are his infamous face masks and collaging, which tell us little about his actual skill level.” As Howe describes it, while a few of his creations could be deemed art, in that some expression can be found in overpainting and collage, much of his work shows minimal manipulation of others’ work: “After all, to RP finding the artwork is basically the entire creative process, equating it to ‘sort of like beachcombing.’

Howe also relates the myriad other ways Prince the musician gave back: by supporting Minneapolis’ creative community, promoting female musicians, and crediting his success to the legacy of previous generations of recording artists. Perhaps Prince’s most important contribution to artists was the example of his fight to own, and protect, his own copyrights. As Howe concludes, “We can only hope there will be more Princes in future generations, not just a bunch of RP appropriators not worthy for the throne.

Read Sarah Howes’ full article, “Prince Fought for Artists, Richard Prince Steals from Them,” on Medium.

Below: Sarah Howes’ photo of a streetside memorial to Prince in Minneapolis. © Sarah Howes, used with permission.

Sarah Howe's photo of Prince memorial in Minneapolis

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