This article gives information about copyright to assist the budding artist to decide what is right and what is not. It's an area which is often raised in art related forums at sometime or other when new 'creators' are finding their way into the arts. This article is not a legal interpretation of copyright law. For that, consult a lawyer.
Copyright law is there to protect anyone who produces a creative work such as a story, music, a photograph or a painting. It ensures that the creator has control over who has the right to copy that work or produce something from it.
Copyright is quite a complex area and there are no world wide agreements so the copyright laws in your own country may be different to those in another country.
A copyright breach is only provable in court. It's not usually a criminal prosecution but a prosecution initiated by the holder of the copyright where he/she believes that the offender has damaged the holders commercial ability or 'profited' from the original work. ('Profited' could have more than a financial meaning.)
Even though it is a complex area there are some easy ways of avoiding getting into bother:
When someone has created something original, it's reasonable to expect that creation to be protected in some way to ensure that the creator can reap the rewards of his work.
As an example, consider someone composing a song. Someone else hears the music, copies it, records it and sells it claiming it to be his own. No one would think that this was right. The original composer would have had his music, and any financial rewards taken from him - in effect, stolen. When an artist paints an original picture it's his or her 'music'. The artist has created an asset for potential gain whether through the painting or from a series of prints. The physical composition, tonal balance, colour and style etc. have been worked out or 'composed' by the artist with the same right to protection as the composer of the music.