Are You a Designer? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Laws!

As a designer, your creativity has its limits and there are times it’s necessary to refer to different sources for inspiration. 

It’s important that you understand the laws with regards to using another person’s art. Failure to do so could cause you to face legal repercussions if losing your reputation isn’t bad enough. 

Furthermore, understanding the basic legal framework can help you act on those that attempt to steal your own art, thus protecting it.

In this article, we’ll take a look at laws you need a grasp of so that you stay away from trouble. However, keep in mind that these are general knowledge and you should consult a certified legal advisor for specific advice. 

You Don’t Need to Register Your Work, but…

According to HeerLaw, you may be precluded from any monetary award due to damages if the defendant can prove that they were unaware that your work is copyrighted.

Basically, if the person you accuse of infringing on your artwork acts dumb and can prove that he was unaware that he was stealing your artwork, you might not get compensated. You can, however, ask them to put it down.

If You Created It, It’s Your Copyright

Whether you decide to register your artwork or not, take note that if you choose to publish it, you’re still the copyright holder. If you find it elsewhere without your consent, you have the right to pursue a legal battle.

However, this does not remain true if you are designing for an employer. Chances are, they will own the copyright to your work. It’s important that you read your employment contract thoroughly, including the fine prints.

More often than not, employers are willing to negotiate. Ask for shared rights so that you can still claim it as yours. In any event that they let you go, you still have a portfolio you can display to different people.

Things You Can’t Copyright

A red square can’t be copyrighted. So can’t the name of a movie. In fact, a lot of things can’t be copyrighted and it’s a headache to keep in mind when you are designing, especially as a beginner. You tend to feel that you have to tip-toe through it.

Therefore, I have prepared a list of things that can’t be copyrighted so that you can be on the good side of the law:

  1. Names and titles
  2. Ideas 
  3. Symbols
  4. Calendars
  5. U.S Federal Government Works (other countries may vary)
  6. Choreography (unless it’s been videotaped or notated)
  7. Typefaces
  8. Page designs

These aren’t all, but it’s a good start.

Creative Commons Licenses

If you really want to use somebody’s art, find their contact information, and ask nicely. If not, look for design work with Creative Commons Licenses. These are works where the author allows the public to use their artwork.

However, not all Creative Commons licenses are the same. There are six kinds, some allowing them to be used commercially while others have more restrictions. So be certain what sort of license a piece of artwork has before you use it.