For most people in the creative industries the main focus of their time and energy is their work. For a musician, writer, actor or visual artist, creating their opus and developing their creative genius is a priority, and quite rightly so.
Next up in the list of importance is getting the work out to the public, i.e. securing an exhibition, concert, book or record deal.
If you are lucky enough to have that step in place, often enough other factors such as legal, financial and practical matters fade into a fuzzy buzz that fall into the categories of “not that important” and “will sort itself out”. After all, that’s what your manager/gallerist/mum is there for, right?
Well, unfortunately, your manager or gallerist also has a business to run and may sometimes arrange things to their own advantage, not necessarily yours (although we hope your mum will always be on your side).
It’s very worthwhile to get your head around a few important matters, because although being a starving artist always sounds attractive, you’ll be kicking yourself if you lose out on money that was rightfully yours. Copyright law is one of them.
What does copyright apply to?
Copyright applies to materialised ideas. If you talked about an idea you had while at the pub, but you never actualised it, and then your mate went ahead and created it – they’re not the greatest mate you could have, but they’re not in breach of copyright.
Give me an example?
Copyright can be applied to intellectual property from any creative field. This includes:
- Visual arts: sculpture, paintings, photographs, architecture and less traditional mediums like graphic design and integrated design.
- Written word: poems, novels, short stories, blogs and website copy.
- poems, novels, short stories.
- Audiovisual works: films, TV shows and music videos.
- Dramatic works including music.
How do you protect your work with copyright?
Once your painting is painted, album recorded or story written, it’s automatically copyrighted. It really helps, in terms of proving you made it, if other people see it too – for example, not just a story secretly written in your notebook, but published on your blog. If you have concerns about this, you can register the work for a small fee with a company such as the UK Copyright Service which will provide independent proof of ownership.
What are the benefits of copyright?
With your copyrighted work, you will be the only person who has the right to copy distribute, display or perform it in public, or make a derivative work (a sequel or offshoot). You can also give or lease your permission for someone else to do this.
Copyright is a nuanced business, so if you need more details, have a look at the Government’s Copyright page. Got a good idea of how it works now? Try this copyright quiz from legal expert Lawbite to see if you’re ready to impress your artistic colleagues with your newfound expertise.