9 Copyright Laws You Need To Know About

The world of graphic design can be cutthroat. With money and fame massively outweighing good ethics and morals, it’s becoming vital to fully understand the copyright laws that protect your work and yourself. Here are 9 things you should know about copyright law.

  1. You Can’t Copyright Everything
    The following things cannot be copyrighted: Titles, Slogans, Names, Measurement Charts, Calendars, Symbols, Variations in color or lettering.

    If you want to copyright something in the above list you will have to apply for a trademark. Of course you should use a Freelance Graphic Design contract as well.

  2. Registration
    The moment you create something, it is protected by copyright law. You do not have to register the ownership anywhere. However, if the time comes when you need to sue someone for a misuse of your work, in order for the courts to recognize the copyright you will have to have it registered. Use a copyright symbol to deter people from stealing your work.
  3. You Own Anything You Create
    This area gets a bit grey when it comes to freelance design. Nine times out of ten the client will own the final work, but you can still use it for a reference of portfolio piece though. Some employers and clients agree to a split owned copyright, but this is rare. Other than paid work, anything you design or create is your own copyrighted property.
  4. Copyright Infringement
    Infringement is the term given to the happenstance of someone stealing your work. Different places around the world have different standards for this, but normally this would be the part of the work that makes it your unique creation being stolen.
  5. Original Work
    This is another grey area. Basically original work has to be something entirely unique. Frustratingly, it is often more difficult to prove something is unique than the process of designing the original piece.
  6. How Can I Sue?
    In order to sue you will need to have concrete proof of your ownership of the original artwork. This is why it’s so important to have your copyrights registered. If someone steals your work and registers it before you, you will have to share the ownership or give it up entirely! Keep records and witnesses of your work whenever you can and always register things that can be stolen easily.
  7. Compensation
    If you feel like you should be compensated for the theft, you can do so. This involves filing for an injunction and prevents the other party from further use of your original content. Compensation can be based on many things so it’s always worth seeking proper legal counsel in this circumstance.
  8. Copyright In Other Countries
    Your copyright ownership will exist in every country who has signed the Berne Convention. The laws in these countries will vary from nation to nation, but the general understanding of copyright ownership remains the same.
  9. Creative Commons
    Creative Commons licenses allow a piece of work to be fully shared and redistributed so long as certain conditions are met. There are six different creative commons licenses available, and those conditions vary widely. Ranging from just an attribution all the way to noncommercial use.