If Apple can amass nearly $200 billion in cash and still face lawsuit after lawsuit claiming copyright violation, it’s safe to say no “little guy” is immune.
Instead, today’s artists and designers have no choice but to study the concepts of copyright in addition to those of design. It’s for this reason we’ve outlined some of the key principles for avoiding legal confrontations both in court and online—so that artists can focus on what they do best: mastering the art of design, not the art of rights or liabilities.
In itself, just using royalty-free graphics is certainly a strategy for avoiding drama. However, the best protection ultimately comes from pairing these resources with a working knowledge of the best practices surrounding copyright law.
An Introduction to Copyright for Designers
As a very general rule, you own the sole rights to works of art that you create. Just as strangers don’t have the right to enter your home and randomly take possession of your paintings, they are generally prohibited from taking possession of your digital artwork by posting it to websites, using it to advertise their products, or selling it as their own—even if they’ve reworked it first by adding their own adjustments and modifications.
Of course, the reverse also holds true. Use the product of someone else’s work in a project without permission, and they’ll have the right to claim damages from you.
This applies not just to actual artwork, but to the mere “likeness” of artwork—meaning you can still face litigation for tracing someone else’s work and adding your own spin, regardless of whether or not you’ve drawn a profit from doing so.
This is part of the allure behind using royalty-free graphics for your design projects, as you’re free to use them in virtually any way you choose after you’ve downloaded them.
Options for Protecting Your Design Work
Many artists find it isn’t necessary to register the copyrights of their design work, as works of art are automatically protected by copyright from the moment they’re created. Registering a copyright just makes that creation and ownership easier to prove—and litigate—as it generates a public record.
You can register a piece of artwork through an attorney or through the U.S. Copyright Office for as low as $35. However, you’ll want to save yourself the postage by ignoring any advice to beat the system with what’s often called a “poor man’s copyright.” Mailing yourself a copy of your work by way of certified mail isn’t likely to hold up in court, regardless of how tightly you seal your envelope.
Finding Resources With No Strings Attached
Using images from our library isn’t nearly as complex. Members can download graphics, photos, templates, and more from our Member library or Marketplace and use them worry-free without expiration dates or limitations on print runs.
Every graphic in our library comes with the right to keep using it forever, whether it was downloaded as a part of our subscription plan or a trial—regardless of your current membership status.
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