COPYRIGHT: Steal or not to Steal

So I decided to do this post on the topic “COPYRIGHT”. If you are an artist, then it is a big deal for you or anyone who has to bicker on the subject for your work related purpose. It is important to know all the ins and outs on the subject because in the end, it’s your work that you care about.

“Good artist copy, great artist steal” – Pablo Picasso

It’s hard to imagine someone as original as Picasso would say something like that or at least many believe that he did. But what do you think he meant if he did say that? I do not think he meant copy or steal anyone’s work to profit or claim it as your own at all. What I think Picasso meant or this quote is quite different and I have my interpretation. I think the word “copy” or “steal” in his quote has rather different definition than its original meaning. As an artist, we all get our inspiration from something or someone. We look at other people’s work and get an idea from which we make our own version of it, that would be the “copy” part of his quote. Sometimes you see some work and it merely has any existence or not many people know about it. You take the idea, give your touch, twist, shed some light on the subject and if your work is more powerful than the other, the light will shine on it, that is the “steal” part of his quote. I think Facebook is a great example. We all have seen or at least used one social networking site before like Friendster, Hi5, MySpace and etc but non had as much impact as Mark Zuckerberg’s version, Facebook.

Well let’s get started with the actual copyright subject. I will just touch on the basic and won’t get into the whole affair but I will give the link to where you can find out more on the topic. This is my opinion and explanation and it differs from person to person how they deal with copyrighting their work. Some artist are more strict about how their work can or cannot be shared or used, I am more laid back on the topic but of course given the fact that you do not disrespect my rules.

Here are the basics of copyright:

What is copyright?

Copyright is basically a legal right and protection under most government, United States and by International Law (not all countries) given to the creator for their original work. You have the exclusive rights to your work and hold all rights on how your work can be used or expressed in any way.

How to copyright?
You may not know this but your work is automatically copyrighted from the minute it is created. You don’t necessarily have to register and it is voluntary. However if in the event that your work is infringed, you do have to register before you can file a lawsuit but you need evidence to prove that you are the rightful Metadatacreator of the work. With digital files it’s very easy to prove since everything is attached with the original file. For instance in photographs, every photo has something called “Metadata” and “Exif” attached to its original file which can be viewed in many photo application or if you right-click, go to Properties and under General you can view the date Created, Modified and Accessed. It is a good practice to never overwrite on the original file though it still contains the original date created information but just in case. Get in the habit of having a back-up of your original files, multiple copies if possible. So that’s one form of proof.

There is also an old fashion way which is called a “poor man’s copyright” but it is not supported by the copyright law. Basically what you do is have your work mail back to your self and leave the envelope/package unopened. The proof is the stamped date on the mail. Now many people in the past have done this because it is the cheapest method to have a dated proof of their work but I personally can’t tell you how strong this stands in the court.

Above reasons are all fine but what happens if someone copies the original file from your computer, well this is the reason it is important to register. Because now both of you are holding original files and it can go either way. So in the end it’s up to you how you want to tackle the situation. Things have gotten a lot easier than before especially now with publishing work. For example the minute I publish this post publicly, I hold all the rights to this. I don’t even have to write “Copyright” or put the symbol ©. In essence this is just the basics but you should really find out all about it because it’s important. Click on this link Copyright to find out more.

When I first started sharing my photography online, I used to have a banner and my name across all my photos because I didn’t want anyone to use it or if they did at least I have my name on it. However, now I eased up on the fear of my photographs being used. I mean after all what more can you do with my small 72dpi resolution photograph? Now days you can even do a reverse search with images using Google Image, you click on the camera icon inside the text area and it gives you the option to upload your photo to do a search. There is also TinEye that works pretty much the same way. I have not tried it but I know many photographers who do to check if their photos are being used anywhere else (on the web). It is just my opinion, you can stamp watermark on the center of your image or however you like but I personally think it takes the beauty away from my photographs so I stopped doing it. I now have my logo outside of my photos and the copyright information on the description area. The symbol © alone should be enough not to use your work but if someone can’t respect that than they will step on your property even if you have the “Beware of Dog” sign. Picture below is an example how I had it before and how I have it now.

Click For Larger View

So in conclusion this is what I have to say, be mindful, have respect for the work and rightful creator it belongs to. When you use someone else’s work without their consent, you are just asking for trouble. If you like my work and want to use it, ask me. Want to print my photo on your t-shirt or mug or whatever, don’t use that lousy 72dpi picture from Facebook ask me I will be more than glad to oblige to your request and send you a better quality. You are free to share my work in any way fit, as long as it is not being used improperly or for profit. Just remember a nice gesture can go a long way.


8 Responses to “COPYRIGHT: Steal or not to Steal”

  1. Olin Southam

    I like reading through and I believe this website got some genuinely useful stuff on it!


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