Protect Your work: Copyright Infringement
My hometown of Keene, NH holds a huge Pumpkin Festival every year around Halloween. It’s become pretty famous, with over 25,000 jack-o-lanterns lighting up Main Street. So, if you’re ever in the area at this time of year, be sure to take a visit (and bring a pumpkin or two).
Anyway, this year as I was stuffing myself with maple cotton candy and pumpkin ice cream, a poster caught my eye. It was for a booth that was selling pumpkin carving patterns and equipment, and pictured jack-o-lanterns with different patterns on them. One of them looked awfully familiar.
The image had a striking resemblance to a small illustration I made last year of the Grim Reaper. I shocked to see it on a pumpkin. It was an overall very bizarre experience.
The company had the pattern available for download on their website. I compared it to the original image, and there was no mistaking that this character was mine.
How I Dealt With the Problem
My agent ended up calling the company, and they kindly acknowledged their mistake. By the end of the day, the pattern was taken off the website and we were informed that the posters would be destroyed. It was a shame, because besides the copyright mess, it was fun seeing my image on a pumpkin.
But I couldn’t just brush it aside and let it go. I own the copyright to this image, and under copyright law, this company would have to pay for the right to use the pattern to sell and promote their products. As an illustrator, this is how I make a living, after all.
Copyright Law: What You Need to Know
With this incident, I thought it would be a good time to review some copyright basics, for both you fellow artists out there and for the people who want to use our images.
(Please note that I’m not an expert on the subject, this is just my understanding of what I know. You can read more about copyright law on the official website.
Copyright is automatic.
Artists – whether they are illustrators, designers, writers, musicians, etc. – own the copyright for their creation as soon as it is created. You do not need to register a work with the copyright office to make it so.