Tips To Legally Protect Your Artwork

All you want to do as an artist is create, create and create, right? However, in these days of social media and the web, your work can be easily spread about without your knowledge and worse, without you being credited. So, even if you're only interested in going about with your work, you also have to take the necessary steps to ensure that everything you’ve created is protected.

Natalia Davis, Conference 2

Natalia Davis, Conference 2

Here are some tips to legally protect your artwork:

Learn the basics 

Don't just call a lawyer when your work gets ripped off. Educate yourself on intellectual property as well. As an artist, you need to take responsibility and communicate to the world how your work should be used.

It is a common misconception that you have to “get your work copyrighted.” In fact, you automatically get copyright when you create your work. Having it registered though is how you protect it against those who steal your creation.

Copyright also refers to any medium. Meaning, works you publish over the internet are covered.
 

Copyright overseas

 Your work is protected by copyright in other countries too. This is made possible through international agreements like the Berne Convention, which the UK is a part of. Under this agreement, your work is automatically afforded protection.

Most countries protect copyright for a minimum of life plus 50 years for most artistic works.
 

Copyright ends

The type of work you produce determines how long copyright lasts. For artistic work, your work is protected for 70 years after your death. Once a copyright has expired, anyone can make use of your work.
 

Help with copyright law

 Should you have questions about copyright law, you can get in touch with the IPO Information Centre.
 

Mark your work

The most basic thing you can do is to mark your work with the © symbol, the name of the copyright owner and the year in which the work was created. This is also the most sensible thing you can do when you make your work available online.

Again, you are not required to give a copyright notice since your work is automatically subject to copyright protection. What a notice does is it:

  • informs others that your work is subject to copyright
  • provides a means of identifying you as the owner
  • deters copyright infringement or plagiarism

Above all things, this shows that you take infringements on your work seriously.
 

Register your work

In case your work is infringed or your claim to copyright is disputed, evidence is needed to prove that you really own the work in question. One of the best proofs of ownership is having your work registered with a copyright registration service.

It's always in your best interested to have your work registered because it is concrete proof that you really own the creation, especially in a court of law. In short, it's burden of proof as registered art counts as sufficient evidence.
 

Keep supporting evidence

There are two categories in which this falls into:

  • Evolution of ideas

Keep all documents that show a progression of a certain project or creation. This shows that you really spent time with it rather than copying it from someone else.

  • Footprints

This refers to evidence intentionally inserted into your work. For example, you can put deliberate mistakes to prove that the work is truly yours.
 

As an artist, the desire to create is insatiable. However, you have to take the necessary steps to protect what you've worked so hard for.