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Craft Marketer Newsletter
Arts & Crafts Business Help  
Issue Number 25, April 26, 2003

I get many questions about copyright for craft artists, so this
issue will help answer important questions you may not
have asked yet, but should.

Simply put, copyright is the legal exclusive right of the artist
of a creative work to control the copying of that work.

It’s highly recommend you register your designs. We live in a
litigious society. It can actually happen where you have not
registered your copyright; another artist steals your design;
they then register a copyright in their own name first, and then
sue you for infringement, even though you were the originator.

Here are five misconceptions regarding copyright about which
every craft artist needs to get clear to protect their designs.

#1 “Someone buys my original art and now has the right to
reproduce it.”

False. Even if you sell an original, you control the rights to reproduce
and sell or distribute copies, not the purchaser. The exception being
when they specifically buy the copyright from you, which you should
not do without careful consideration and large remuneration.

#2 “If a craft item doesn't show a copyright notice, it is not legally

False now but was true in the past. Almost everything created privately
and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether
the piece contains a notice or not. You should assume for other artist's
works that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you have
permission or you know otherwise. It is true that a notice strengthens the
protection, but it is not necessary. If it looks copyrighted, you should
assume it is. This applies to pictures, too. You may not scan pictures
from magazines and use them in your work without permission. You
must be careful about applying "fair use" in justifying copying other's work.

#3 “The work is in the public domain, so I don't have to get permission
to use it.”

Don’t count on it. Public domain refers to the lack of copyright protection.
A design or piece of work may have become trademarked or identified as
a logo for its originator. Works not registered or protected under copyright,
may enjoy protection by trademark or some other form of contract law.
Also, identifiable people such as celebrities may have rights as to the
manner in which their name or likeness is used.

#4 “If I don't make money from the sale, I'm not in violation of an artist's

False. Whether you ask money or not may affect the damages awarded
in a lawsuit, but it's still a violation if you take control of someone else’s
design and give it away. You may be found guilty of causing the originator
damages by hurting the commercial value of the piece.

#5 “The design / artwork I plan to copy was in an out-of-print book.
Therefore, the design is in the public domain and I don’t need permission.”

Don’t count on it. A book can go out-of-print while still being covered by
copyright. A book that is out-of-print is considered in a temporary state.
The copyrights usually go back to the author or illustrator, which means
the underlying copyright protection is still in effect.

The material above is excerpted from the Special Report called
12 Myths of Copyright for Artists and Craftpersons by James Dillehay.

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