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Copyright in design


Copyright provisions establish the links between the designer and his client. These are not always fully understood, although it would be best for you to know exactly what you are selling and how you can obtain maximum of profit from it.

Potentially, there are thousands of permutations of the copyright and the additional contract. For example, a photo portrait artist will sell his photographs but not the negatives. Thus he can gain more money for other copies. Also, by keeping his copyright, he can prevent you from distributing or publish the photos that you've just bought.

Usually, journalists and writers sell their copyright for a single publication; this means that the editor can use their product only once and then the copyright belongs to the initial beneficiary. Another type of contract can be settled on a certain period, let's say six months, after which the copyright returns to the creator. The contracts may stipulate also geographical restrictions.

One can sell the copyright for one country or for a group of countries. How do we register the copyright? Well, we don't. The act of creating something assures automatically the possession of the copyright. But this possession doesn't imply that you'll never need to demonstrate your authorship. During a legal confrontation - that may happen once in a while - your personal statement that you are the designer of some images is not enough.A simple measure of security is to mail the images back to you as soon as they're ready. When you receive the envelope, keep it sealed or better, stick the stamp over the place where you stick the envelope. You may keep the envelope safely or give it to your lawyer. It's obvious you needn't do this operation for any kind of image but only for major projects or "dubious" clients.

Protecting Images There are other ways of checking that may prove useful in difficult cases: conversations with colleagues, e-mails, dated correspondence and so on. The designers must consider also the advantages of the protection technology. A famous problem on the Internet is the violation of the copyright. Photoshop 4 and 5 are some of the various programs that may ensure the watermark protection system.

The Digimark plug-in makes possible for you to add copyright information to a material and additional contact information in case clients would like to obtain the permission to use the image. The Digimark system is powerful enough. The information is encoded as "noise" on the image, it is invisible and practically impossible to dispose of. We say "practically" because it cannot resist to large-scale image editing, of course.

The watermark system doesn't provide protection against small-scale amateurs and Web pirates. You must first find them and even then it's quite difficult to sue them. Most of the amateurs will willingly give up any image that violates the copyright of the creator if they're asked to and this is a good fact but only if you can detect them.

Nevertheless, the system in question is extremely efficient against large-scale multiplication and commerce with stolen images. In these cases, even a lawsuit can be profitable. A notorious case was when a designer recognized his creation in a set of images made for the movie Batman and he successfully sued Warner Bros. You may reduce the text above to the following lines:

  1. Everything is copyright. Some companies may annul it for certain images, some individuals annul it for they want their images to be used by everybody but in general there is no thing like "free art".
  2. You may sell or buy the copyright for a limited period, with validity on a certain geographical area or observing certain using conditions. If you sell it -surprise! - You won't have it, except the cases when the copyright comes back to you, let's say, after a period of time.
  3. Licenses can be bought or sold. The owner of the copyright keeps his right intact and you buy the right of using the images. The usage conditions will be settled in the contract. This happens when you buy software or you use an image company.


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