Sunday, June 05, 2011

Understanding Copyright

To some copyright can be a scary thing when the legal department is knocking on their door demanding payment of some sorts due to a violation  To others it just is a legal, mumbo-jumbo word that doesn’t mean anything to them. 

So what exactly is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection to the authors or creators of original creations.  Copyright protects both published and unpublished creations.  A copyright gives the owner of the creation exclusive rights to (1) reproduce their work, (2) create creations that derived from their original creations,  (3) distribute copies of their work by sale, rent, transfer, lease or lending, (4) perform publically if applicable (5) display work publically if applicable. 
It is illegal for anyone who does not own the copyright of that creation to violate any of those clauses

It is important for you to learn and understand what copyright allows and doesn't allow before creating a digital product or project.  That's right folks, even with our scrapbooking, we need to be diligent in making sure we are not violating copyright laws when we put together our layouts!
Now when you are creating an element, you have to be careful not to steal someone’s creation that is protected under copyright laws.  Take for example Prima’s flowers; they are protected under copyright laws.  If you go to your local Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s, etc  and pick up one of these flower packs you’ll notice a little note saying “copyright” on the package.  That means, you cannot purchase one of these flowers, scan them in to your computer, extract them image and use them in your product.  That is violating Prima’s copyright and you will get some sort of a punishment should Prima catch up with you and your designs.   Before you think about being sneaky and doing this be warned that Prima has caught up with a couple digital designers a few years ago who were using Prima's flowers in their own products as well as selling them for Commercial Use!
That is just one little example of copyright for one little element, which if abused can cause a whole lot of trouble for you as the designer who violated that company's copyright of said product.
It is very important for you as the designer to know the laws, know what is protected and what you can/cannot legally use in your digital creations.  You cannot go into your local Hobby Lobby, JoAnn's, etc and purchase $100 dollars worth of scrapbooking products, photogragh or scan the products in to the computer, extract the image and use it in your creations, let alone turn it in to a Commercial Use product if those things are protected by copyright laws!  It is plain and simple. 
Scrapbook paper is another thing that is copyrighted.  Just think, digital designers are asked to create paper lines that sell in stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.  If you scanned in that paper and use it for your own creations, it would be no different than you downloading their digital product and reusing it as your own.  Its wrong and something that needs to be avoided to save you the headache and hassle of finding a lawyer and dealing with your consequences.
In a nutshell, learn and understand copyright laws and how they can protect you as well as keep you out of trouble when learning how to design.  If you don't know if the product is under copyright seek legal advice from a lawyer who specifically deals with this issue.