For many artists, there is a tremendous concern around how to copyright artwork. There is an ancient artist fear that quivers at the idea of art being stolen. You can see this in various forms across every kind of art medium.
Nobody wants to live a life where their work is stolen and passed off as someone else’s. Art requires pouring someone’s time, energy, and spirit into creating something. This is why many people are curious about how to copyright artwork.
There are very few artists who would be happy to see someone else’s name on their work. It isn’t about ego, but rather recognition. Creating artwork is a painstaking process that requires people to give a lot.
Since art is a highly competitive field, the idea of someone capitalizing on your art is nearly unimaginable. The only thing worse than someone not liking your art is something stealing it and getting famous.
Though the chances of this are honestly quite low, it is a tangible fear. Art is competitive and making money off of art requires more than good art.
It requires marketing and other important approaches to get your art in front of an audience. However, in the digital age, it is incredibly easy to steal someone’s work. The last thing that you want is someone to steal your art and make money off of your traffic.
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Why Copyrighting Artwork Is Important
Copyrighting your artwork is an important part of your creative process if you want to protect your art. In the digital age, people are quick to post everything online. This means that it is easier than ever for your work to get stolen. All that it takes is a quick screenshot or to download the work and then repost it.
This is a popular issue online. You will see “curator” accounts that take art from other artists and post them. People will follow this curator to see all kinds of cool art, but they might not follow you.
For the curator, this is a great thing. They can use your hard work to draw traffic to their social media account. Social media accounts that draw a lot of traffic are becoming a surprisingly good way to make money.
In the modern world, followers are becoming a form of currency and it pays. This is an excellent way to get endorsements and advertising money. Companies will pay these popular accounts to promote them.
Copyrighting artwork means making a public record of the fact that you own it. It is the way that you can tell the law that you own the work, and anything associated with it.
This can help you to navigate tricky legal situations if someone steals your work. Beyond merely keeping your rights, copyrighting artwork is important for maintaining the integrity of your brand.
Do I Own the Copyright to My Art?
According to copyright law, you own the copyright to your art the moment that it is protected. This simple truth makes perfect sense. It means that the second you create a drawing, you own the rights to it.
It means that your art legally belongs to you upon creation, which is exactly how it should be. In a perfect world, we should all own the things that we create. However, this law is a little tricky to navigate in reality.
While automatically getting the rights to your art sounds ideal, it isn’t exactly foolproof. This entire process is dependent on people knowing that you made the art if it were to go to court. A distinction like this can be a major problem for some creators.
If someone were to steal your art while you relied on this, it would be up to you to prove your case. You would have to have a way to show without a doubt that the artwork as your own. If you do end up in court, it becomes your word against theirs.
The best way to manage this is to keep an actual record of the art itself. This means that you need to be able to show someone that you created it and own the rights. It can be done using a timestamp on a digital drawing or by the fact that you own the original copy.
The importance of having proof that you made your art first is built around winning if someone says you are lying. We have all seen copyright debates where someone creates something that is a mimicry of someone else’s. It does happen, so you need to be prepared to prove you thought of it first.
What Is the Copyright Application?
The copyright application is an actual filing that you can do online. This digital application allows you to legally register your copyright with the government.
Using this process provides a legal record that you own your arts. Copyrighting artwork is an excellent step to protecting your artistic legacy. If you have your artwork registered, you can fall back on this record in court if you need to. Think about it as a way to tell the government that your artwork is undoubtedly yours.
Using the copyright application is as easy as answering some questions and providing copies of your work. The process, as far as we know, is relatively painless. You go through several pages of questions that help provide detail on your copyright.
This will include a combination of personal information and information about what you are submitting. At the end of the application, you will be asked to pay for your copyright. The price can change, but is generally less than sixty dollars.
After the application has been completed, your application will be sent for review. This means that a government copyright official will check over it to make sure that it is valid. There are certain things that you can copyright and others that you can’t.
While you can copyright an image or character, you can’t copyright something like style. The reviewer will make sure that everything is in line and approve or deny your application.
If you attempt to copyright artwork is approved, you will receive confirmation in the mail. The government will send you actual documentation that declares you are the owner of the work. This is something that you will want to keep for your records. As a bonus, the government will keep a record that can be pulled on an as-needed basis.
What Does A Copyright Actually Mean?
In the eyes of the law, you can copyright artwork to protect it. This means that the artwork belongs to you. The implication of this is that if anyone takes it or monetizes it, it is considered theft.
Deciding on copyright artwork is an excellent way to keep your artwork safe from thieves and criminals. With this in your pocket, you are prepared to take legal action.
Choosing to copyright artwork means that if someone were to steal your art, you are legally entitled to repayment. There are no guarantees regarding what that payment might be. However, if the other person made any money off of your creation, it rightfully belongs to you. This is great because it means that people can’t just take your money and run. While you do need to catch them, you have the grounds to take legal action.
While it can be a grueling process to take on someone copyrighting your material, it is possible. The reality is that this process becomes much easier if you take the time to fill out the application and register it.
This will give your lawyer an easy record to reference in the courts. Having this in your pocket can help you to get the issue of theft handled. It can be done more efficiently because there will be very little debate within the court. The government will be on your side.
What If Someone Steals My Work?
If someone steals your artwork, there are a few things you can do. If you notice that the person is just using it, you can send a cease and desist letter. This is a legal document that demands that the person remove your work from their site or page.
Taking this approach is a good step if your work hasn’t been monetized. If the person refuses to take it down or doesn’t reply, you can consider taking full legal action against them.
If you notice that someone has stolen your work and is making money off of it, that is a different story. When you learn someone is selling your work, you can take that to court for damages. This means that you will work with a lawyer to make a formal copyright complaint.
By law, the money that they made should go to you. You might even be able to request extra money if the person did damage to your brand or to cover court costs. However, we are not lawyers, and nothing is guaranteed. You will want to contact a legal representative for a consultation to see if you have a valid case.
One unique way to combat your work being stolen by curators is actually to work with them. While this might sound odd, you can always ask a site to credit you on their page. This can be an effective way to increase views to your site. Assuming that you are comfortable working with them, this can be a beneficial process.
How Can I Protect Myself from Art Theft?
Many horrible things come with having your art stolen. Fortunately, there are preventative steps that you can take to make it more difficult to steal your work. In addition to deciding on copyright artwork, you can take other steps.
A quick and easy step is to watermark your work. While this might alter the image to some extent, it makes it more difficult to steal your work. Watermarks are a traceable image that is placed over a picture.
Unfortunately, you might need to cover up a significant portion of the work for it to be effective. If you put it in a corner, thieves can just crop your work and steal it. However, this can be a good way to at least attempt to deter them.
If you’re curious about finding out if your art has been stolen, you can always try to research this as well. An effective way to do this is to try to reverse image search your work. This will likely pull up any websites that are using your artwork on their page. Using this tactic can help you find people who might be stealing your stuff for one purpose or another.
Protecting your artwork should always be a top priority when you are an artist. While it is unlikely that someone will creep into your house to steal a painting, the internet is different. If you are posting your artwork online, chances are someone will see it.
The more people who can easily access your images, the more likely it is they will be stolen. Unfortunately, the more popular an artist is, the more their work seems to be stolen. At the end of the day, choosing to copyright artwork can save you some major headaches. Take the time to protect your legacy.
Do you have any concerns with copyrighting your work?
Vivian B Manderville
Friday 16th of July 2021
I need info on the process
Friday 16th of July 2021
I recommend going to consulting a copyright specialist in your area. The process may be different for each different municipality. You might also try searching your local municipality government site.