Know your (copy)rights

I’d like to talk about something which, I think, is an aspect people often overlook when developing work within the creative industry: copyright.

So I know it’s not the most exciting topic under the sun and I’m sure there are plenty of others things you would prefer to be reading about BUT, have you ever actually thought about it? What does it mean? What is the actual point of it? Does it even matter?? The short answer, is yes.

In case it’s been a while since you last educated yourself about the wonderful world of copyright and need a refresher I’ll start with the basics:

What is copyright and why does it exist?

I’m glad you asked!

Copyright is a form of protection for creative artists, giving them legal ownership of what they create. Copyright gives artists and creators the right to sell or license their creations to other people. Without it, people would be free to copy, distribute and alter other people’s work without needing permission, and the author or creative artist would not likely get the recognition for their work that they deserve.

The Kylie Jenner example

Quite recently, one of the younger members of the Kardashian clan have come under the spotlight after British artist Sara Pope sued her for copyright infringement. She claims that Jenner, E! Entertainment and Universal (who were promoting Jenner’s show containing the copyrighted image) had ‘knowingly copied her 2015 artwork without permission’ (source). Now I have to play devil’s advocate here, but how can you prove someone knowingly copied someone else’s work or idea? What if it was just a coincidence? This is where it gets tricky and only exemplifies the importance of being aware of the content you are creating and using.

It is possible that you could be completely oblivious and unaware of the fact that someone else has already developed an idea that is awfully similar to your own, which is why it pays to do some research and suss that out from the get-go to try and create a point of difference in your own work. If, however, you did know about a similar idea that already existed but chose to ignore that fact or hope that no one would notice, good luck to you. Getting sued for copyright infringement doesn’t seem like a particularly joyful journey.

On the flip side, how can an author, artist or creative maintain a sense of ‘control’ of what happens to their work, and monitor it to ensure that no one is stealing their ideas? Some food for thought.

Fair use

There is also a lovely little thing called Fair Use. ‘In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.’ (Source) 

This is one way people can use the work of others within reason and not infringe copyright.

Creative Commons 

‘Creative Commons is an international non-profit organisation that provides free licences and tools that copyright owners can use to allow others to share, reuse and remix their material, legally. Releasing material under a CC licence makes it clear to users what they can or cannot do with the material. The six standardised CC licences each allow material to be used in a different way.’ (Source) 

Creative Commons is not the same as copyright, however. ‘Creative Commons is actually a license that is applied to a work that is protected by copyright. It’s not separate from copyright, but instead is a way of easily sharing copyrighted work.’ (Source) 

For a further look into the topic of Creative Commons, click here to check out a Prezi presentation I made especially!

What would happen if copyright laws were abolished?

Would a creative system without copyright be a viable option in the creative industries? How would that work? Would new rules eventually be re-written? By who? Some people argue that copyright laws are unnecessary, but it’s important to consider what could happen to people’s work and livelihood if their ideas and creations weren’t technically considered their own or protected.


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