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Illustration

© 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

Questions about Copyright Registration? Answers from the Copyright Office!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 10, 2016

Copyright Q&AEarlier this year, the Copyright Alliance solicited questions from creators on the copyright registration process. They’ve launched a Copyright Q&A column to roll out the questions and answers. Even better, the answers have come from the most reliable source you could hope for: Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the Copyright Office. The column covers a decent range of questions, from basic requests on which procedures to follow to expedite a registration, to more targeted questions on public domain images, derivative works, and specific terminology. 

The column is well worth scanning. It not only provides practical advice on the application process, it also corrects some common misunderstandings. For example, more than one question asked whether works registered as a group would be entitled to separate statutory damages. Kausic clarifies that the Copyright Office’s position is that only derivative works and compilations should be limited to one award of statutory damages; works otherwise registered as a group would be entitled to separate awards (a boon for prolific visual artists).
Other Q&As germane to illustrators cover works which incorporate public domain images, how much an image must be altered to be considered a derivative work, and what constitutes a publication date. (Here’s a hint: posting to Facebook does not count as a publication.) To read through the Copyright Q&A, visit the Alliance’s blog.

The Handbook Primer Series: Now in Android Flavor!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 03, 2016

Want to read our Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines on your tablet, but don’t have an iPad? Now you can – our digital Primer series has just been released for Android. The Primer series repackages our popular Handbook as three volumes, which can be separately purchased. Volume 1, Business Practice Essentials, covers the professional relationships illustrators and graphic designers develop and the ethical standards needed to maintain good working relationships with clients and other professionals. Volume 2, Professional Issues & Legal Rights for Graphic Artists, covers the often confusing issues, such as copyright terms, work-for-hire, sales tax, and work on spec, that both self-employed and staff graphic artists encounter. Volume 3, Trade Customs & Pricing Guidelines, explores customary professional practices and provides sample pricing tables and salaries for various disciplines within the graphic arts industry. 

The Android version of the Primer Series can be purchased from the Vital Source eTextbook platform. The Primer Series in iOS flavor can also be purchased from the iTunes store. Those who prefer to read in the bathtub and don’t want to risk dropping their electronic devices, can always buy the original Handbook in paperback from Amazon or any local bookstore.

Primer Series vol. 1 Business Practice EssentialsPrimer Series Vol. 2: Professional Issues & Legal RightsPrimer Series vol. 3: Trade Customs & Pricing

Adobe Design Achievement Awards Strive to Prepare Students for the Real World

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 12, 2016

ADAA 2016 logo image

Adobe’s annual contest of student work, the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, is in full swing, with students entering to meet the June 19 deadline. Adobe partners with ico-D, the International Association of Design, in producing a unique competition that strives to assist registrants in navigating the transition from student to full professional. A full slate of benefits and prizes reinforces the educational aspect of the competition:

  • All registrants are eligible to be chosen for a mentorship with a creative professional, and are subscribed to tips emails from 99U, as well as the 99U Quarterly print magazine.
  • Semifinalists are also invited to join the online ADAA community, attend for free an Adobe Career Bootcamp, have their entries appear in the ADAA live gallery, and can display ADAA online badge on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages.
  • Finalists additionally receive comments on their work from the judges, are invited to partnered events with local design firms, will be nominated for three years for an Adobe Creative Residency, receive a one-year subscription (or extension) to Adobe Creative Cloud, and have their work appear permanently in the ADAA Showcase.
  • Winners have their expenses (travel, hotel, and conference pass) paid for a trip to San Diego to attend Adobe MAX: The Creativity Conference, and receive a trophy.

The ico-D Mentorship Program is uniquely geared to assisting students in bridging the career gap. Mentors select students from all ADAA entrants for either a portfolio review or a mentorship. The mentorship is described as a 5-5-5 – five virtual meetings (online or by telephone), over five months, devised to address five predetermined goals that will either improve the student’s design skills, or assist the student in launching a career. Since mentors are pulled from ico-D and Adobe’s global networks, they represent a broad range of professional activity and locations.

Students are encouraged to enter up to three examples of existing work in different categories, from fine art, to commercial, to social impact. (That last category reflects ico-D and the design community’s concern with sustainability, and encompasses work created for social or environmental causes.) Entrants must be older than 18, and must be enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education. To accommodate larger scale projects, such as video work, groups may also submit entries, so long as one individual is listed as the team leader. (The competitions rules are posted online.)

While the final submission deadline is June 19, early bird semifinalists will be announced on May 24. Final semifinalists will be announced on July 18, with finalists and category winners projected to be announced in August and September.

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Taking your creative career to the next level means you need to be up on a myriad of topics. And as good as your art school education may have been, chances are there are gaps in your education. The Guild’s professional monthly webinar series, Webinar Wednesdays, can help take you to the next level.

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