Tuesday, May 5, 2009

copyright stuff ... or, much ado about nothing

there has been some talk about “copyright infringement” relating to art lately ... which is an interesting subject in itself ... but it's also something that can unnecessarily divide people ...

i’ve never been accused of copying someone else’s style … i’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but for the most part I think my work is unique/weird enough that it’s never been an issue ... and probably for the same reason, i’ve never really run across anyone who was trying to emulate my style ... but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had ... because ...

here’s the thing ...

... no one can copyright or trademark a subject or even a style ...

if someone copies someone's style, including my own, i can think you're unoriginal and uninspired ... but I can’t come after you with an attorney screaming copyright infringement ... actually, i can get an attorney to come after you with a cease and desist letter, but it’s meaningless and wouldn’t hold up in court ...

so what is copyright infringement? ... & what is copyright? ... each individual art work anyone creates is automatically protected by copyright law from the moment of its creation, regardless of whether it's ever registered ... there’s implied protection … this applies to music, and writing as well ... it’s easier to defend a copyright if it has been registered officially, but the protection still exists even if it’s not registered ... so, every painting anyone does, and exact copies, are covered by that copyright protection ...

(btw, if you sell an original painting to someone, you still retain the copyright to that work and the right to make and sell copies… and you keep that right until you expressly assign it to someone else ... in part or in whole)

here’s what i can’t do ... i can't take someone’s paintings and copy their image files and send them to the printer and then sell those as prints ... i can’t take pieces of their image files and try to sell them ~ that's absolutely copyright infringement ... but, if i wanted to, i could look at their work and then paint something inspired by it, or even something that was pretty much the same (excluding a direct forgery) ... that's NOT any kind of copyright infringement ...

i also can’t paint something and claim it was painted by someone else and try to profit from that ...

as for faces, which i really don’t include much in my paintings unless it’s specifically a portrait ... there is a very narrow set of measurements and dimensions that we will look at and recognize as human ... so there are only so many ways one can make a human face ... even if it’s stylized ... no one can copyright eyes or faces or a technique or whatever ... you can copyright a painting of lips, for example, but copyright protection only applies to that one painting of lips ... it doesn’t extend to all paintings of lips you may make ... (although each painting of lips, or whatever subject, has its own copyright protection as an individual work) ... and it can’t prevent anyone else from making a painting of lips ...

aside from actual copyright law, i personally believe there is something about truly original art that comes from a person’s own heart and experience that will make it something special ... there’s a certain deadness to work that someone has simply copied ... even if it’s almost exactly the same, it’s just not the same ...

the important part is missing ...

it’s a corpse, the soul isn’t there ... as well, work can be very, very similar and still be an authentic and original and alive expression ...

here’s my opinion and unsolicited advice, don't worry about copyright ... yours or that of anyone else (as long as you're not stealing the actual image and trying to sell it) ...i worked in publishing for years (mostly written work and photography, not visual arts so much), and the only people i ever heard seriously worrying about copyright were very new ... with a little experience, they calmed down about the whole thing ...

paint what you want to paint ... paint because you have something to say ~ and we all have something to say … tell me YOUR story with your art … because no one is going to do it exactly the same way ... and YOUR right to paint (or draw or write or ) whatever you want is also protected ...

xoxo

10 comments:

Artistic Accents by Darla said...

So well said, thanks! I'm such a huge fan of your artwork♥
Darla

Julie-ann said...

Oh, thank you Lisa for writing about this, it just allows artists to be free to express their own idea's and develop from inspiration. So right. Art is dead if copying to much, but when something clicks and you have found your voice in art it sparks some life into it.
I am so pleased no-one can copyright eyes and lips etc. I was getting so paranoid, I thought I wasn't allowed to paint black eyes etc. So filed my progress with a copyright company to help me if someone sent me to court.
I just sat in front of my latest angel broken hearted, I thought that was it, I was not allowed to paint her anymore. You can imagine the relief when I knew. I love the one line on her nose the straightness of it and her colour of her face, the black hair filled with flowers and the shabby chic look. I am so looking forward to placing chunky Picasso style bodies to her in future art. Oh I can grow and move on. Thank you, Thank you and Thank you for sharing this to confirm what I just found a little about this morning.
I can say, My heart is flying in heaven right now and I feel lifted!

Luv and hugs!

Julie-ann

sMacThoughts said...

It so happens that a few days ago I was informed by someone I 'know' through Flickr that one of my photos was stolen by an artist who made it into a pendant and sold it. Years ago. Devastating. To be on the bad end of this stick sucks. Not the first time for me, and probably not the last.

By the way, I had heard another artist say that you CAN copyright a style...or was it trademark? Hmm...now I have to see about this...

lisa cole said...

sMac ... to take someone's image and use it unaltered is very much copyright infringement ... i'm sorry that happened to you ... it can be more or less upsetting depending on how you feel about it ... as well, there's not a whole lot you can gain by pursuing the issue if it's over, say, one pendant ... but it always stings

i haven't had my style copied exactly but i've had my images used, let's say, in ways that would be considered infringing ... you're right, it's not a good feeling ...

as far as trademark ... a very specific character can be trademarked ...

for example, snoopy is a character that is trademarked ... mickey mouse ... garfield ... and yes, any artist can trademark a specific character if it's unique enough to them ... but, while snoopy is trademarked, that doesn't prevent someone else from making white beagles with black ears ... they just can't be recognizable as snoopy ...

what can't be trademarked is a style ... a little girl with big eyes and a really long neck, for example ... anyone can make that if they want ... but if i make the same little girl with big eyes and a really long neck over and over again and it can be recognized as mine, AND if i was the first to make it ... then it can be trademarked ...

also, words and images that are sufficiently unique to someone have what's called common law trademark protection even if they haven't been officially trademarked ... it's simply easier to defend if it's been registered ...

i think it's easy to look at art as being 100% creative, but, as you know, there's a business side to it as well ... and all kinds of considerations and decisions to be made if one makes any kind of art ...

xoxo

Anne said...

Hi, Lisa! I think your comments are very thoughtful and well-said. And timely. Kudos to you for being brave enough and kind enough to share this message. :-)

sMacThoughts said...

Hmm...gosh, I definitely need to read up on this. And yes, I know; not worth going after someone over the use of my photo for a pendant. And yes, it stings.

nollyposh said...

It's mostly much ado about nothing me-thinks because as far as i can tell in history ALL the great painters learned their trade by copying their teachers work (and even 'helping' their teacher paint their larger works)and then if one was talented and devoted enough, then their art 'evolved' into it's own identity ...and i so agree there is something that ~sings~ about art from the heart ...Like yours <3

Cindy said...

Well said - I have been following Julie Ann because I am such a big fan of her art, and arrived at your post through her...thank you so much for your well thought out and kind posting on this subject! I am just now looking through your art work...but just got sidetracked with your wonderful home! I live in a big old Victorian House and would love to make over the garage into an art studio!!!

Blessings on your day!

Cindy

Cindy said...

Ooops, forgot to say this, I so agree with you that the inner person gets reflected in our art - and an exact copy would be lifeless, but I believe one of the reasons some people's art is more "popular" than other's of the same style is the obvious heart of love and kindness that gets reflected (no matter if it is angels or as you called yours wierd/unique!!! LOL)

Blessings again!

Hayley Egan said...

THANKYOU! So sick of the "big fish" throwing their weight about in regards to this. It's all about money and insecurity in my opinion. I wanted to write a post about this a while back but bit my tongue as it was too soon after a big spat someone has posted on their blog about the injustice of "stolen colour schemes". Thankyou for articulating this so well.... I agree that unless you invented those colours you have no legal right to them!