Help on Copyright





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.)


Easy ways of avoiding getting into bother

Even though it is a complex area there are some easy ways of avoiding getting into bother:

  • Don't use someone else's photo to do a painting from that you intend to display publicly or sell unless you have their permission.
  • Don't copy another artists painting and sell it or exhibit it as your own work.
  • Assume that all web images, text and diagrams are protected by copyright unless it is clearly stated that they can be freely used. A copyright declaration is not required for a work to be protected.
  • Don't take an artists' or photographers' image and use it on a web site without their permission
  • If you want to display your copy of someone else's painting from instruction material it's best to ask the artist or publisher first. Mostly, they will agree provided you credit them as the source.
  • Paintings from artists' instructional material in: books, videos, CD's, web sites etc. are provided to copy in order to learn how to paint. These copies should be only for your own personal use and education. Some artists don't mind these being sold but you should not do this without the artists permission and any acknowledgements that they request should be shown on the work.
  • If you display your own painted copies of artists teaching material on a web site, always provide a conspicuous note of where the material came from and include a link to the artists' site if they have one. That way you are advertising and promoting them and it's unlikely, even if you have been unable to contact the artist, that you will get into trouble.


Why is copyright important:

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.


Links to more information on Copyright