Three copyright questions relevant to creatives answered

The School of Continuing Education and Professional Development launches new Art & Business workshops beginning this month.

First up in the workshop series is Copyright - What You Need to Know, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting Tuesday, November 19 until Thursday, November 28, 2019.

Copyright can be pretty baffling, so to get you started, we reached out to AUArts resident copyright expert, René Martin, Director Learning Services, to get the answers to three copyright questions relevant to creatives. 

AUArts: Can I incorporate someone else's photograph into my artwork or design? 

René Martin​: As with most copyright scenarios, it depends 

Copyright allowances are different if your purpose is commercial or non-commercial. If you are profiting from your work, you should get permission and provide payment to the creator or copyright owner (these may not be the same entity) of the work you are using in your creation. If your work is intended for non-commercial purposes, you might be able to use a photograph without permission or payment that is if there is no effect on the existing or potential market of the original (i.e., you are not impacting potential sales of the original work).  However, you should acknowledge the source, where possible and if the work is going to be included in exhibition materials, such as catalogues or promotional materials, permission is required. If in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of getting permission and offering compensation if necessary. Alternatively, use stock images that you obtained from royalty-free sites or search creative commons sites for images but even those sometimes have defined purposes and limitations so make sure to read the fine print.  

AUArts: How do I protect or license my original work, so it is not replicated, used or shared in a way I don't want it to be? 

René​In Canada, copyright is automatically assigned to the creator of a work. There is no need to register it but it's a good idea to mark your work. You can, however, transfer your copyright to someone else. Typically, this involves a contract. If you are selling your work, or are being commissioned/employed to create something, you may not end up being the copyright holder. You should always clarify what the terms of employment/contract include around the assignment of copyright of your work. 

AUArts: If I create a graphic, ad campaign, illustration or take a photograph for an organization, can I include it in my portfolio or on my website?  

René​: As long as you are showing the images as examples of your work, and not misrepresenting your relationship to the company who hired you to design the work, you should be able to include it in your portfolio or on your website. If the employment contract includes, “Exclusive rights of distribution”, you may not be able to use the image for your own promotional purposes. Make sure to search for this terminology in your contract prior to signing if being able to reuse your own work is important to you as a creator. Con Ed is also hosting a workshop on contracts that you may want to check out. 

>>> Find out more about the Continuing Education workshops.