Archive for September, 2011

What do I do when someone used my art or design without my permission?

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Minnesota, and the Twin Cities in particular have a thriving art scene with many talented artists, musicians, and designers. Often web designers or artists find their art is being used by other artists or companies without their permission.

The proper form of legal protection for art, music, and web design work is copyright law. Copyright protects artwork, written words, music, and designs as soon they have been written, created, or designed on a computer. Unlike other forms of intellectual property copyright does not protect the idea or concept behind the writing or art, only the words and designs as they exist when created.

An artist or designer can protect their work where it is copied exactly, or where it is “substantially similar” to the protected work. However, before any action for copyright infringement can begin, the owner has to register the copyright with the United States Copyright Office. This step is inexpensive and relatively fast and easy.
The most difficult element in a copyright matter is deciphering fair use. Anyone can use certain parts of copyrighted works in limited ways without infringing on the copyright holder’s rights. The most common example of this theme is sampling brief pieces of music within other songs. When examining questions of fair use 4 items must be considered:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

For many business, ideas are the mainstay of their trade. It is absolutely essential to do everything possible to protect your ideas and work from being used without your permission or compensation. We would be happy to answer any questions you have about copyright law and assist you in any way possible.