Originally published on Lotus Magma (old site) August 2009
For centuries copyright has been given through legislation to authors and artists of all medias. However this legislation only applies to works that are in a concrete form, such as a manuscript, play script, written or recorded musical score, photographs, sculptures, collages 3D or 2D visual work of art, works of architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship (though most artistic works are protected irrespective of artistic quality). However, this is a requirement for works of architecture and artistic craftsmanship. Therefore these items need to be in a physical form that is capable of being copied, before the legislation applies automatic rights to prevent the piece being copied.
Ideas and concepts conveyed or connoted by or through original literary or artistic works are not protected by copyright law only the original forms of expression of them.
The first point in Chapter 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states:
"1 Copyright and copyright works
(1) Copyright is a property right which subsists in accordance with this Part in the following descriptions of work,
(a) original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works,
(b) sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes, and
(c) the typographical arrangement of published editions.
(2) In this Part "copyright work" means a work of any of those descriptions in which copyright subsists.
(3) Copyright does not subsist in a work unless the requirements of this Part with respect to qualification for copyright protection are met (see section 153 and the provisions referred to there)."
To see the full legislation go to this page of the Intellectual Property Office website.
Taking copyright into consideration can be precarious at times for artists especially if you display your draft pieces on a website for example. There is nothing stopping you from doing that but it does not hurt to take precautionary measures, like being careful how much information you display. If you show a draft on your site which is not to distant from the final piece also make sure it is signed and dated, the property details of scans and the uploading details from your content management system can also be noted but they are not secure enough, anyone could have been using your computer or scanner at the time and most copyright cases happen close to home!
Even if you have supplied all proof that you are the instigator of the piece, if it is still in draft form, this does not mean that your piece is immune those unimaginative types who are out to steal your piece.
IP law is still in its infancy as it is not one of the core subjects taught to lawyers at law school it is a very much learn on the job subject. To that extent if you visit the Patent Office website, you will be directed to a more personalised service known as the Design and Copyrights Agency (DACS). This organisation specifically deals with the copyright of artwork.
If you choose to become a freelance artist for example, and you try to find out this information through search engines, I will guarantee that after a few hours, your head will be spinning, and you will probably be more confused than when you first began (and this is coming from a law graduate!). Legislation whether unprecedented or not is precise, and so you will need to be precise if you choose to go it alone. There cannot be shortcuts with regards to the protection of your work, otherwise you could lose out.
The DACS website explains the copyright, moral and licensing issues easily, not only that if you become a member you will also get the opportunity to exhibit with them.
If you wish to find out more about DACS please visit http://www.dacs.org.uk/.
As any enthusiastic artist, you will want to shout out about your latest pieces, but my advice is to pick wisely what you say and what you display.