Artist's Copyright Law

Artist's Copyright Law

hey will Terry here I'm gonna talk to you about copyright law today first off I am NOT a lawyer so this is a disclaimer you can't hold me accountable for any of the information that I'm about to give you um so what's it worth one of the misconceptions about copyright law is that you don't own your copyright unless you register it and that's just not true you actually own your copyright when you create the artwork so just by the fact of creating artwork you own the copyright to it and someone else in order to actually own that copyright would have to prove otherwise and that'd be really hard to do I mean they'd have to have sketches and they'd have to have you know maybe years of work and thank you here in my corner so yeah so you own the copyright and you don't need to put a little circle and a see in the corner of fact that kind of makes you look more amateurish so yeah don't do that so you by making a piece of artwork you own the copyright now also I'm gonna direct you to for more information to get questions answered the US Copyright Office has a really good website which surprised me really good help there if you go to copyright gov slash help and then go to the FAQ section they have like any questions did you ever have and they'll answer it there well I'm making this video for mostly is to give you my opinions on whether you should register or not register your copyright okay and so another thing that I did for this little video blog post or blog post is I pulled people on Facebook in a professional illustrators group and I polled about a hundred friends on my email list that are professional illustrators and of the 96 people that got back to me or that that commented on Facebook or sent me an email three of them have registered their copyright or have registered copyrights for art work it sounded like maybe only one of the three does it regularly so like everything that they produce they register with the Copyright Office and basically what you do what that means to register with the Copyright Office and I'm not going to get into details because again you can go to their website to get like all that but basically you take copies of your work like color copies digital copies whatever and you you can send them in electronically or you can send them in by mail and I believe that even if you do it electronically you're gonna have to send it make made it sound like you have to send a physical copy and eventually to finish that registration off if they're unpublished works you can do it in a group for 35 bucks so you can register a whole bunch of our work and if they are if but if they're published works then you're gonna have to do them individually and you have to fill out a form for each one and it can get expensive and it can get time-consuming and so there's that and then now for children's book illustrators your publisher will take care of the copyright so if you're doing work for for a book and it gets published you don't have to worry about it your publishers gonna take care of that if you're doing something for a book or an app on your own that's gonna be up to you to do that if you want to know I have personally never registered a copyright and I am so happy that I haven't because I've done over 2,000 different assignments for different companies in the last 20 years and I've never seen an infringement of my work so I've never had to pay $35 times however many times I would have had to register work but more importantly I think for me I haven't had to spend the time to fill out the paperwork to make copies to go get stamps get envelopes send the stuff in and then when I get my copyright back make sure that I'm filing it and making sure that I I know where it is in case now why if you already have a copyright when you when you create a piece of art why would you need to register the reason to register it is simply because it kind of gives you a better footing in a court of law so you can still defend your copyright in a court of law without registering it but if you register it it actually qualifies you to receive statutory damages from a judge so a judge could say you know you were damaged X amount of dollars and you might get an award for the actual copyright infringement in the first place but on top of that he could say you know for pain and suffering for whatever reason he decides or she decides it could be much more than that it could be a little bit more it might not be anything now one of the reasons why I don't register my copyright is simply because I feel that if someone wants to take my work they're not going to typically be a large publisher or a large company large companies didn't get large by stealing other people's stuff and large companies are the ones that have money so if I'm if I see my stuff infringed upon out there I mean if I've been fringed upon and by by someone else taking my stuff they're probably going to be a small company if there are small company they probably have any money if you're small it's very easy to hide from the courts and I'll tell you an example of that in a second but if they're a large company if they were a large company now they have a lot of money to defend themselves in court and I'm not gonna be able to compete that way it's just the way our system is it seems unfair sometimes and in another video on contracts that you might find down on my video channel or on my blog I talked about a friend who had that had a problem a friend from Russia who couldn't exercise his contract after spending $20,000 trying to trying to defend it in court even though he was completely in the right a black and white case gets it because the company decided on spending likewise I had a friend who is a as a landlord has been to court quite a few times and he has so many stories from himself and from other people that he knows in that business where they've received judgments he's gone to court receive the judgment the guy that he I mean like my friend won the case and on the way home was stopping at the bank to to put a lien on the guy's wages and and he had emptied out his bank account before he could get there so on the way home from court the the guy ran to his bank and emptied it out and if someone is self-employed if it's another artist you're trying to sue good luck because you can't attach their wages there's no way you can if they don't have a steady job you can't there's no way to get that money so even though you might receive a judgment in court good luck now for me I'm in this business to paint to make great pictures to have fun and the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time and effort going after what will probably end up being a little bit money now if I look at the amount of money that I've saved over the years the amount of time that I've saved the amount of headache and hassle I feel like I'm way up and if someone were to infringe upon me tomorrow I probably still be way up on time and money it's the same reason why I don't buy extended warranties I think it's funny that when you go into the store and you buy a really nice TV they go this is the best TV ever you should buy this and as soon as you get it they're like oh this is this thing might break it's it's horrible you know you're gonna need to get a warranty for that I don't buy any warranties and so I'm like self-insuring myself so that if I have a TV that goes bad or something I'm still up on my money because I didn't spend all the money to insure all the other things I bought so I have a lot of anyway it's the same kind of same kind of thing there I will read you real quick the thoughts from a fellow illustrator Justin Gerard he also contributes regularly to the muddy colors blog and he wrote let's see I have never registered anything of mine or gotten anything officially copyrighted I have always kind of meant to it's not really that hard I just never did see that's I got a lot of people that that wrote stuff like that back and which makes me think well there must not we as illustrators must not feel that there's much benefit or we would do it you know and everybody kind of feels that well I should do it but nobody does well only a few people so um and then he goes on to say and I have even had people steal my stuff before mostly it's just taking low res images off the internet and either altering them or printing them out some of them are funny some are not I had a guy last year from Romania who actually went through the trouble of erasing my signature and putting his on a piece then took all the step all the step-by-step images which were on my blog for that piece and posted them on his own blog as though he did them but then the art community got wind and people went crazy and he got a lot of angry letters from people familiar with my work and in the end he took it all down and apologized see we're living in a global marketplace right now so it's like are you gonna go and see somebody in Romania or in India or somewhere else I mean I do have a friend who didn't respond who I said this to who had his stuff infringed on in India what are you gonna do if someone infringes on you in India you've got a registered you copyright big deal what you gonna do you gonna go to India I mean yeah I don't know anything about money to go and fight somebody in another country and you know so it just seems it seems kind of silly mean and then the fact that yeah if if you're doing good work and people are infringing on you other people are gonna help you police it I think I think that's a great example right now he goes on and gives a bunch of other good ones a lot of people just said no flat-out no no I did have probably nine people I think I counted up that said that they do know the people in licensing regularly copyright their work because that's an area that gets infringed on a lot I don't do any licensing work so I'm not I'm not an expert on that one but it sounds like if you're in licensing it's a good idea to do that and you know end it I'm not saying it's a bad idea to copyright your work at all and for the people who have done it for the few people on this list that have copyrighted their work if it gives them peace of if they sleep better at night I say more power to you because you know getting a good night's sleep is a good thing I sleep fine without it let's see there's a few other things I wanted to say one other thing I want to report on is that of these 96 people that responded the people that did know someone that had been infringed on I find it interesting that none of them reported that any of them went to court and none of them received the judgment so to me it's like I've tapped into if I if I look at you know ninety five people and I have them tapping into all their friends we're probably talking you know maybe a few thousand illustrators that people know and no one has a story of anyone going to court and winning a judgement I think it's to me it's a waste of time


  • wahlooweegee 4smash says:

    Konquer Kopyright Klan empire
    fuck the copyright office

  • MetalHead 4x4 says:

    I just went through this with a guy. He created a logo (he says) and now companies all over creation are selling it. He never filed a copyright or trademarked it. He don't make them himself, he outsources, and he thinks because his car dealership name is an LLC that no one can make a decal that has that name. He's wrong. He's trying to go after people for using the logo but has no legal grounds.

  • Tre Tucker says:

    Thank u

  • Niall Byrne says:

    I feel if you have published a book or a comic you should . I have had my fan art stolen off tumblr and sold as tshirts on a 24 hour sale websites. The worst part is it was advertised on Facebook and I have no idea how people fell for it. I dmca them because I don't want people getting ripped off. I only upload low resolution images online for this reason.

  • Miri No says:

    If your work is stolen AND you have a REAL copyright that you paid to legally have, you could make more money on the infringement then you would with the actual work

  • Ralph Serpe says:

    Will , thank you so much for this information. I have been struggling for a while now on whether or not I should register and this video made everything so clear. Thanks again bro! Appreciate your time!

  • D'Andre Franklin says:

    thank you so much for explaining this!

  • gabez8 says:

    do you know if it's legal to buy and sell famous oil reproduction paintings of famous artwork if the artist is deceased? i've read that copyrights for famous paintings expire 70 years after the artist dies. is that true? 

  • Deadpool's real Dad says:

    Thank you. I have had my Artwork and character "Deadpool" infringed on by Marvel Comics. The editor left shortly after and the new one used my materials 4 years later an artist and editor claimed the character and changed nothing of my character or his written information. I have just discovered that these guys took credit for the material, however I do not want to have to fight the Mickey Corporation. What should I do? I can prove the character is mine. Should I go and make another book and let them come after me? I am also making videos about the character which is helping me. Any Ideas?

  • BloodyRedStar says:

    Thank you for this video! Now I know the true meaning for Artist Copyright laws. It doesn't sound so bad getting your original work Copyrighted by Congress though. Although I did hear some stories from other people that sending your copies of original art to Copyright of Congress can be a pain to deal with because, what if someone steals your mail and sees your artwork and decides to steal it? Would it be possible to arrest them for Copyright infringement?

  • ArtBy Valiant says:

    Thank You Will for this well thought out advice! May your customers have BIG budgets and loose lips!

  • Myselfsama says:

    Will I've been watching your videos all day and you have alot of great information and stuff to say. On this video in particular I have something I'd like to add that you touched on briefly. I think the reason you haven't been infringed upon in your copyright is because of the kind of work you do. I think its a lot harder to steal a whole book and call it yours than it is for example to take a stand alone piece or painting. I think its a definitely a judgment call when it comes down to should you register a piece or not, but lets throw out an example. Lets say you paint a really awesome stand alone piece/illustration. Suddenly you catch wind that its being sold by a T shirt company half way across the US, that $35 entitles likely entitles you to a much speedier court battle as well as damages as high as $150,000 dollars… That $35 bucks just multiplied itself a few times. This would fall under the part of licensing that you didn't want to mention. So like you said, not for everybody, but its good to be informed of when you should or shouldn't. If it can be sold like pancakes, license it.

  • TheNumberOneTraderKing David says:

    Can you please post a video on copy right law on the distribution of altered art please
    i value your opinion highly
    these laws are for the uk please

  • Will Terry says:

    You're welcome!

  • Will Terry says:


  • Will Terry says:

    Thank you up there 🙂

  • Cory says:

    Hi from Canada! Awesome information!

  • Will Terry says:

    You're very welcome! – down under 🙂

  • Burntcurry says:

    Thank you for this information 🙂 Hi from New Zealand!

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