Copyright Basics For Artists | Art Advice
Copyright Basics For Artists | Art Advice

Hi guys and welcome to this week’s art advice
video. Today I’ll be talking about Copyright! I know it might not be the most exciting topic
in the world, but it’s an incredibly important one and affects EVERY artist, so I’ll try
and make it as interesting and simple as possible! In the next few weeks I’ll be making a Q&A
video about copyright, so if your questions haven’t been answered here in today’s
video, drop them down below and I’ll read them out and try to answer them in a future
video. Whilst I talk about this subject, I’ll be
completing this drawing of a ladybird in coloured pencil on light green pastelmat paper. I’ll also be doing a follow up bonus video
on the process of it, so I’ll leave a link to that in the cards and the description box
when it’s uploaded. Back on the topic of Copyright though. Just a disclaimer, I am by no means a copyright
lawyer, and I am just passing on information that I have found out for myself. So always be critical of your sources! And always look up the laws of your own country
and states. So first off,
What actually is Copyright? Copyright is international legal protection
given to any original work automatically upon creation of the work. Original work can be artwork, photographs,
text, video, audio- just about anything that can have a physical or reproducible form. Throughout this video I’ll be referring to
original work as photographs or images primarily. Intellectual property (or IP) is the intangible
form of this, which exists in the creator’s mind. Copyright protects the original work’s use
and distribution by anybody other than the copyright holder. The copyright remains active unless it is
given up by the creator… or if a certain length of time has passed since the copyright
holder’s death. But back to the land of the living- copyright
holders can choose to give up some of the rights while retaining the rest and adding
stipulations on its use. For example, somebody could allow other people
to use the image, but only non-commercially. Or another example would be that the image
could be used, but only if the original artist or photographer is credited. Additionally, it’s also possible to give up
all rights to the image so it becomes “copyright free”. And this means that anybody could use, modify
and distribute the image- even commercially. And just to be clear, commercial use doesn’t
necessarily just mean selling the original or prints of the image. Monetised YouTube videos would also be considered
commercial use of an image, and using an image in connection to your art business would also
be considered commercial use. A trademark is similar to copyright, but protects
work in a different way. Copyrights protect the expression of an idea,
whereas a trademark protects the design and what the brand stands for. It’s a bit difficult to explain without
lengthy examples, but I’ll leave links for extra reading on this subject in the description
box! Trademarks are something that you have to
explicitly apply for, unlike copyright. So… How does it affect me as an artist? Copyrights affect both the work you create,
and the references and inspiration that you work from. Any art that you make is copyrighted upon
creation, providing you are the original artist of the work. I’ll get more into the last part of that
later on, but essentially it means that you have legal power over anybody who distributes
or uses your work commercially or non-commercially, providing that you can prove that you’re
the original creator. But, in reality, it can be very difficult
to prevent people from spreading your work non-commercially on the internet, unless the
website they’re sharing it on has a strict policy and are active at removing infringing
posts. It’s slightly easier to stop your work from
being spread commercially though as you have more reason to pursue theives. Websites such as Etsy, RedBubble and DeviantArt
seem to take copyright infringement pretty seriously and are quite active at removing
stolen works that have then published on their site, so in a way they’ll help fight for you
if a thief is benefitting from their site. I think that copyright gets a lot of bad press
for stifling creative expression, but just imagine if copyright didn’t exist- or perhaps
if it only existed if you applied and paid for your licence. In these circumstances, if you weren’t able
to afford protection, your work could be constantly stolen and profited on. Perhaps if you were trying to sell your work,
another larger company could steal your work and produce it for cheaper, undercut you and
market to a larger audience- and earn more money from your design than you could. And there would be no way you could hold these
thieves accountable. It’s important to remember that copyright
is here to protect us smaller artists too, even if it often sounds like it’s large companies
going after smaller ones for copyright infringement. Copyright also limits what images you are
legally allowed to draw from. If you want to sell, display or publish your
work, you should use references that you have the right or a license to use. And remember- just because it’s on google
images doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs or public domain! How do I find copyright free images to draw
from? Well, the easiest way to know if you have
the rights over a reference image is to take the photo yourself. You can also ask to use the images that friends
or family have taken. But having their consent in writing can be
useful in the possible case you have to prove your usage rights. For most of my drawings, I use royalty free
reference images available online. Some sites I can recommend are pixabay, paint
my photo, morguefile, pexels and unsplash- and there are also bunch of facebook groups
where people share their photos for artistic use. You can also search for copyright free reference
images on google images, by hitting “settings” under the search bar, going into “advanced
search” and then choosing the option in the drop-down box next to usage rights that
says “free to use, share or modify, even commercially”. These images are often marked with a Creative
Commons attribution of CC0, which means copyright free or also known as “Public Domain”. Works also become Public Domain when the copyright
runs out, which is usually 70 years after the copyright holder has been deceased, but
this depends on the country. Some might have a different attribution, in
which case I urge you to click on it to find out more. This might mean that you have to credit the
photographer when using the image. I also recommend you to read the rules of
the group or website before using the photos on it, where it should be clear how you can
use the photographs and if there are any other stipulations for its use. When using a copyright free reference image,
I really recommend running it through a reverse image search to check to make sure that the
very first instance that it was published or uploaded was also free of Copyright. It’s uncommon, but sometimes people steal
images protected with Copyright and then share them with a CC0 licence. There are also sites where you can buy licenses
for photographs. The site “Wildlife Reference Photos” springs
to mind. And this has the benefit that you can draw
from a more exclusive photo, but also that you’re giving back to the photographer who
worked hard to get that beautiful shot. And finally, if you have found a brilliant
photograph that you’d love to draw from, but see that it’s not been given a Creative
Commons attribution- I really recommend trying to get in touch with the photographer! I have a fantastic story from a good friend
who wanted to draw the British Comedian Ricky Gervais. She found an excellent picture but it wasn’t
copyright free, so she got in contact with the photographer, who was very happy that
she had asked permission before using it. So she drew the portrait- and it looked excellent
by the way- and she posted it on social media. The photographer shared it after seeing it-
because I assume the photographer was credited- but that way Ricky himself saw the portrait,
and he shared it too! Good things come to those who wait- it can
be well worth it. And of course, respect the photographer’s
wishes- if they don’t want you to use their image, be polite and don’t! The same goes for drawing from another person’s
artwork- I really recommend that you ask the artist before copying their work and sharing
it to social media. So… Why should I follow international copyright
law? What are the risks if I don’t? I’m going to be really honest from the start
here. A lot of breaches in international copyright
law are ignored, especially fan-art, which is a grey area but we’ll get into that later
on. If you don’t want to display your artwork,
use it in a portfolio, sell it or post it online then there’s not much risk in being
caught for breaching copyright law. So, in these specific instances where no-one
is really going to see your work- perhaps apart from family members maybe, you can use
any photo you want really because nobody is really going to know that you’ve used it. However, ignoring copyright law and sharing
your work commercially or non-commercially could theoretically land you in hot water. And this is much more likely so if you’re
using your work commercially and earning a pretty penny off of it. The most likely negative result is that you
tarnish your reputation as an artist- especially if you draw from another artist’s artwork
or photograph without their permission or crediting them. And it’s hard to redeem a muddied reputation. If you’re known for flat-out stealing, copying
or being heavily influenced by other people’s work it can be really hard to change that,
but also difficult to build your own confidence to start drawing your own original pieces. The next possible outcome is that you get
a cease and desist notice from the copyright holder. And if you ignore that, you could end up in
court. So… I would really recommend ceasing-and-desisting
before you get to that stage though. Furthermore, using any material that you don’t
have rights to in a YouTube video could land you a copyright strike on your channel. This can have implications for your channel,
and your channel can be terminated if you get too many of these strikes. Moreover, some sites, such as Redbubble, are
strict about fanart and use of other’s IP as they don’t want to be held accountable
themselves for any possible copyright infringement. And a personal opinion about why you should
observe international copyright law- I think copyright for photographs is often overlooked. Most people accept the hard work that goes
into a piece of artwork and understand the meaning of copyright there, but many people
forget everything that can go into taking a beautiful photograph. Please consider that photographers also work
hard to hone their skill, they spend lots of money on expensive equipment and travel…
and might take hours waiting for that perfect shot. So in my opinion, stealing a photograph is
just as bad as stealing a piece of artwork! And this brings me on to the next segment,
which is: When do I have rights to use an image, and when and what rights passed down? This should be fairly straight forward. The rights that you own to an image are the
ones made clear on purchase or retrieval. If it doesn’t say that you’re allowed
to use, share or modify something, then you’re at risk for being in breach of copyright law
if you do. Additionally- If somebody buys a piece of
art, they are receiving the right to own that physical piece of artwork. They are not receiving the right to use or
share the image commercially or non-commercially- so they are not legally allowed to scan the
artwork and give away or sell prints of that art. So if you are creating a design (e.g. a CD
cover, a logo or a band t-shirt), you should charge more than just the cost of the artwork
alone, as you are also selling off the rights to duplicate and share the image. So in these circumstances, royalties might
also be arranged, but that’s another topic for another day! It’s also worth mentioning here that you
can’t accuse somebody of copyright infringement- or stealing your work- if it’s obvious that
you both used the same reference photo and that you both have the rights to it. However, if the way that you have expressed
the reference photo is unique and spontaneous, and the second person has copied these unique
differences too, then it could be judged as copyright infringement as the person has copied
your expression of the reference. But this is dependent on the severity and
will be very subjective of course, and would be up to a court to decide if it went as far
as a court case. So what about fanart then? Technically speaking, most fanart is copyright
or trademark infringement as it comes without explicit consent from the copyright holder. When creating or selling fan-art you should
understand the risks that come with it. Personally, I think it’s really important
to remain humble when profiting from fan-art- either financially or socially. Remember that no matter how skilled and beautiful
your piece is, you are ultimately gaining in some way from somebody else’s work, so
respect their decisions and the permissions that they give. Many copyright holders are happy about the
creation of fan-art, as it helps foster a thriving community. Therefore, fanart can be a benefit to the
content creator, and tolerated. If the copyright holder shares or responds
positively to fan-art on social media, you can infer that they are giving you permission
to create fan-art by the fact that they are supporting it. But be careful about negative depictions of
protected characters, trademarks and so on though, as defamation can give the IP holder
a reason to take down your fan-art. Some copyright holders have even verbally
confirmed the sale of fan-art under specific circumstances- Toby Fox, for example, the
creator of the indie game Undertale, springs to mind. I’ll leave a link to his statement in the
description if you’re interested. So when is it safe to be inspired by another
artist? If you are inspired by another artist, credit
them in your upload by tagging them. And unless they have given you permission
to do so, do not trace or copy their work. Most people would define theft as an uncanny
resemblance from one piece to another, but this of course is subjective. It’s ok to take an element from somebody else’s
work and incorporate it in your own piece, but do something to make it your own. And most importantly- credit the artist! It means you’re “paying back” a little
by giving them a sort of shout out. MOST artists find it an honour to see that
they’ve been a source of inspiration. And they might even give you a shout-out or
share in return- which can be huge if you’re a smaller artist taking inspiration from a
successful one. Missing this step can paint you in a bad light
if people recognise that you’ve been influenced by the artist, without giving them the credit
they deserve. It’s less about copyright law in these situations
and more about courtesy and the art community as a whole. This also applies to tutorials- if you’ve
followed somebody’s tutorial- tag them! Only sell works made from tutorials if the
tutor has given you permission to. Check to see if the image the tutor has used
is copyright and royalty free, and if it is you are free to sell work made using the tutorial
providing you don’t copy any additions or alterations from the reference that the tutor
includes in their work. If in doubt- ASK and credit them! And please PLEASE don’t just write “credit
to the artist” or “credit to the photographer” in your description- use the artist’s name
or social media handle. Use a reverse image search to find them if
you don’t know or can’t see a watermark or signature. There is a whole can of worms regarding derivative
works and fair use- where the use of a copyrighted image is perfectly legal because it’s been
adapted to serve a different purpose. However, this seems to be very complicated
and very much in the grey area, so I don’t feel confident on commenting on this. So if you’re at all unsure, just stick to
images you have the rights to. Conclusion
So in conclusion, copyright laws are here to protect us all- no matter what kind of
work you create or how far up you are in the corporate food-chain. Personally, I think it’s important to recognise
and observe copyright laws. For me it has importance for my integrity
as an artist, to be able to point to where I obtained my references. And I also believe that if I wish to be protected
by copyright laws, I should try to protect others by sticking to them. It’s also a lot easier to know where you stand
if you only use reference images that you have the rights to. Better safe than sorry- that’s what I believe
at least, and I think it’s the easiest advice to follow. And I personally find it worrying and off-putting
when I use images I don’t have the full rights to, as it’s something extra to keep track
of and think about when sharing the artwork made from them. But no matter what you think, I hope that
you found this video helpful and informative! If you did, please leave it a like and let
me know if you disagree with what I’ve said and why! I have a few links in the description box
that I’ve found to be really helpful and informative- particularly the video from the
Comic-con panel about fan-art and copyright law, I really recommend watching that if you
have the time. As I mentioned earlier, if you have any questions
feel free to ask them in the comment section and I’ll answer them in a follow-up Copyright
Q&A video- and the link to that video will be here in the top right once it’s live. And if you’re commenting at a later date
I’ll do my best to answer your questions through a comment. I’d also love to hear all your experiences
regarding the matter, as well as any copyright myths that you might’ve heard. If you happen to be a lawyer, or copyright
lawyer, I’d love to know what you think too- if you think I missed something out or made
a mistake please let me know! So here’s the finished piece! I’m happy with the outcome and really enjoyed
working on it, using colours in my coloured pencil collection that I don’t often get a
chance to use. As I said at the beginning I’ll be uploading
a little process or tutorial video of this piece so stay tuned for that one. Thank you very much for watching, I hope you
found the video interesting and helpful! Leave it a like if you did, and don’t forget
to subscribe if you’d like to stay tuned for more arty reviews, advice, tutorials and challenge
videos! I hope that you all have a lovely week and
I’ll see you in the next video!

16 thoughts on “Copyright Basics For Artists | Art Advice”

  1. Dexter Goffney says:

    Great advice & great art work also,

  2. Katy Vaughan Art says:

    I have learnt a lot about this since becoming a curator on Art Amino, as we have to deal with this daily! This was very useful! Also very pretty ladybird!

  3. K. L. Onassis says:

    Thank you for this video, you confirmed everything I thought about copyright. It's so important that you talk about this, because so many people really truly believe that using someone else's artwork (be it a photograph or anything else) without proper permission is ok. It's not, it's theft, plain and simple. We as artists should have no tolerance for theft, because like you said, copyright protects us and our work too.

    I'm like you, I use only royalty free and copyright free images when I do finished work, but sometimes I will use copyrighted images for sketches and studies, just for my own learning. But I do not ever share these studies online. I think I'm ok here, maybe you could help? If I learn stingray anatomy from sketching copyrighted images, can I use the knowledge I gain in a finished piece as long as I am not directly referencing those photos? Idk… If this is still wrong I'll stop but it seems like a grey area to me.

    Sorry for the novel, and thanks again for the video! I love the pretty beetle you drew 🐞🐞🐞

  4. Sylvie Dufour says:

    Thank You Claudia, i'm so Please you've take the time to explain what copyright is and i hope with your video everyones will respect the artwork of any Artist, using the Art of an Artist and get credit for it's Horrible. Every Artists worked so Hard and when gthey Kindly share thei colouring, Drawing ect. well i do copy the coloring with the tutorial but when i post a picture i always gave credit to the Artist who made the tutorial. Respect, Honnest, and be fair id the Key to recieved the best from the best Artists!

  5. Marion Wigzell says:

    Beautiful drawing Claudia. I recently came across two collage artists who had both done a series of works based on shoes. Their works were so alike. I think artists do conceptually arrive at similar points of topic. How would you know though whether copyright had been infringed or whether it was purely coincidental. I try and keep conceptual drawings and thoughts about images as they develop, but even this may not always be sufficient.? What are your thoughts about using purchased papers in collage? I often use and love fabrics and paper decoupage napkins in my work? Love to know what you think. Thanks as always. Marion

  6. Marion Wigzell says:

    Thank you for your response Claudia. Very insightful, and you are welcome to use whatever you would like from our discussion. 😊

  7. Marion Wigzell says:

    Hi Claudia. More on the subject of copyright breach. I stumbled across a blog by Mary on ( Here she states how (big name) companies have stolen her seascape works and removed her signature and replaced with their own. It's an eye opening read if anyone is interested. Also, I checked With Arts Law in Australia and the law around collages works seems very much the same. Thanks Marion

  8. Ramona D says:

    Very informative video. Thank you.

  9. Christina Pedersen says:

    Great video. You really know your topic!
    Unfortunately Ricky didn't share my drawing on Instagram, he just liked it. Still, I feel like we're buddies now! Haha

    By the way, why have you put tape (?) on the ends of some of your Polychromos pencils?

  10. Ladybug 333 says:

    I found a fabric pattern I like, what about using fabric as a reference point?

  11. claudiswelt says:

    Thank you for the Informations! And your Art is soo beautiful! I love it! : ) Greets from Germany Claudia

  12. Eric Taylor says:

    Beautiful video and artwork!!!! Great job!

  13. Kylie N says:

    Thank you! 12:23 answered my question!

  14. Donna Carraway says:

    Do you know if it is breaking copyright law if you use an actual page of a magazine in a homemade journal if you are going to sell it? Thank you so much!!

  15. Molly Nicole says:

    I wonder if anyone can help me out. I made a film… me taking people on a tour of historic places in my town… I want to use historic photos but I'm afraid the museum who owns them will say no. If they say no, would my artist friend be allowed to draw these old buildings in the photos that the museum owns? I can check out a book that has all these photos in it and my friend could draw the buildings in the photos. The museum did not take the photos but they own these historic photos.

  16. Big Mike says:

    Although I do agree that using copyright free images would be better, what you're saying doesn't seem to take fair use into account.

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