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Copyright Clarification

This is more of an advice post, since this community seems to have a wealth of copyright knowledge.

Years ago, I did an image for a forum I used to visit, which ended up being used on their front page. Recently, I found out that it was used without proper credit or permission in a magazine (without their knowledge until it was in print). Upon finding this out, and looking back to the forum, I found posts stating that the situation was being handled, though 4 days had passed and nobody had bothered contacting me.

My understanding is that, since the image was done free of cost, without prompting or organization, and without contract, the copyright is fully and completely mine. I of course posted the image on the forum stating that it was for their use on the front page. While it was years ago and I cannot clarify details (login no longer works), I know that nothing was legally or formally worked out, it was simply made as a gift for usage on the forum. If I understand copyright laws correctly, I retain my full copyright in doing so, while extending non-exclusive usage to the forum for the specified intent only. While they call this image their "logo" and it has the forum's initials in the background, I assume that without a contract specifying otherwise, rights stay with me and they do not "own" this image in any way.

If the above is true, this means that if a magazine printed my image, nobody should be"handling" it but me. Not that I mind their involvement... I understand that it may have some emotional significance to them, and for me, its old art that I care little about. What I do care about is that I feel I'm constantly battling people ignorant of copyright laws, assuming they own things that I own. I feel like a selfish jerk for having to explain this to them, but I also feel like I've had two parties step on my toes and try to claim my copyright, instead of just the one, which is incredibly frustrating.

So, are there any legal flaw in the above?

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Comments

( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
loganberrybunny
Feb. 23rd, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
Could you please say where the magazine was published? I don't know whether it would make a difference in your specific case, but for all I know it might be important whether it's the US or not. Thank you!
myenia
Feb. 23rd, 2012 02:17 am (UTC)
Looking at their website, the magazine looks UK based, but I'm 99.9% sure that THEIR location has nothing to do with my rights to my property.
loganberrybunny
Feb. 23rd, 2012 02:25 am (UTC)
Thank you. Oh, I don't doubt you for a moment regarding your rights. It just might affect how easy it is for you actually to do anything about it.
arcticious
Feb. 23rd, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
I think what Loganberry was asking about is where it was from since their location, if I remember correctly, can affect what laws they need to abide by.. Unfortunately, the fact that this has happened through the net means there could be difficulties enforcing the laws of one country, if they're in another with different sets of rules... Either way, I would be very upset as well, especially if they were making money off of it. I hope it works out for you.
(no subject) - slyminera - Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arcticious - Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - slyminera - Feb. 23rd, 2012 04:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arcticious - Feb. 23rd, 2012 04:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - myenia - Feb. 23rd, 2012 05:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arcticious - Feb. 23rd, 2012 05:37 am (UTC) - Expand
badkittyamy
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:11 am (UTC)
It actually can, the Bahamas for example can legally sell bootleg copies of movies, same as with some other countries, so where they're located can have an impact on what you can do about it.
(no subject) - wolf_goat - Feb. 23rd, 2012 08:33 am (UTC) - Expand
celarania
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:44 am (UTC)
This may be a stupid question, but does the website A) know how to contact you B) consider their problem because the image was lifted from their website/is their identity? The problem is, let's say I design the banner for a community called New Neighbors, with the initials in the logo (as you do). I still own the copyright, and I can sue anyone in the US for using it without permission. However, if let's say... Neo_nazis starts using it. New Neighbors may have an interest in not being confused with that group, or it may give the appearance that New Neighbors somehow endorses what the other group says.
myenia
Feb. 23rd, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
Assuming they keep history/backups of their forum, I'd assume they could have easily contacted me. Additionally, several of their members watch me on DA, where I can also be easily contacted.

Like I said in the OP, I understand why they'd want to be involved. What I don't understand is why nobody felt that I needed to be included.
celarania
Feb. 23rd, 2012 06:27 am (UTC)
Assuming they keep history/backups of their forum, I'd assume they could have easily contacted me.

That's a really big assumption considering you were just discussing how you couldn't access the board. Even if they had contact info for you, it may be out of date.

What I don't understand is why nobody felt that I needed to be included.

Because you're not active in that board anymore? I understand why you're upset why you weren't involved, but I might not get someone involved with a dispute after they've moved on from a board. Heck, even on this community original artists are rarely involved with tracing posts.

You seem more bothered with the board that didn't involve you than the magazine that published it!

If it really bothers you that much, revoke permission. There was no exchange, so you can revoke permission whenever you want. Figure out if you're going to take any action and do it. Frankly, I'm not sure why you're posting this here. If you're mad at them for not notifying you, take it up with them, whether or not they would be legally obligated or not.
(no subject) - thaily - Feb. 23rd, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 23rd, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Feb. 24th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 24th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Feb. 24th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 24th, 2012 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - myenia - Feb. 24th, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 24th, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - myenia - Feb. 25th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 25th, 2012 05:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - myenia - Feb. 25th, 2012 06:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 25th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Feb. 24th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
mialattia
Feb. 23rd, 2012 06:11 am (UTC)
Yeah it's yours, and you have full rights to dispute it. I'd say don't bother with the forum owners if they're being unhelpful, but go straight to the magazine, contact their art director/editor, and succinctly state that the art was used without your permission, and you still retain all rights to that image.

It will be more difficult if they decide to brush you off because the burden of proof will rest on you and if you don't have a copyright document, you'll have to show it with original files or whatever... y'know.

BUT it sounds like you don't want to pursue it to the ends of the earth-- it depends on what you want the magazine to do. Remove it from their site? Issue a credit line in the next issue or on their site? I don't know what the magazine is, but you could also demand payment.

And yeah the site doesn't own the image, so ignore them in this issue because they are essentially the middleman that became the vehicle for the magazine to use your work unpaid.
mialattia
Feb. 23rd, 2012 06:12 am (UTC)
Gosh this was terribly worded. Very tired. Anyway, we had a discussion in Illustration today re: copyright, artist's rights, reproduction and so on. Your instincts are correct.
fionacat
Feb. 23rd, 2012 07:28 am (UTC)
It's quite likely it will take more then a week to be handled correctly, just now they are (hopefully, assuming not scummy) investigating your claims and authenticating your statements to be true.

Usually this should happen between 21-30 days at which point they'll probably get back to you with an apologetic letter and at least an explination of how this happened.

I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on television but, "While they call this image their "logo" and it has the forum's initials in the background, I assume that without a contract specifying otherwise, rights stay with me and they do not "own" this image in any way."

This is correct, as you created the original work you retain copyright over it and nobody else can or should be using it without your permission.
thaily
Feb. 23rd, 2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
Freelance work = creator owns all the rights by default, unless specified otherwise by the customer.
A commission is NOT work for hire, which some people will try and argue. Getting a contract with Disney, keeping business hours, going into their studio to work, getting health care etc. is work for hire.
A single commission is not.

If you told them "You can use X for Y." then that is the only rights they have.
ariakitty
Feb. 23rd, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
Maybe the reason the board admins didn't contact you is because they didn't think it was your problem and didn't want to bother you because they think the image belongs to them?

I think if some ground rules had been set, or a contract signed, the admins may have thought "Well this is Myenia's problem" and contacted you about it. They are probably just ignorant of copyright laws and think the image belongs to them because you gifted it to them.

If you do something like this again just make a contract and be sure they are aware that while they can use the image it still belongs to you. :3
myenia
Feb. 24th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
Sorry, but I have a ToS and copyright laws so that I don't have to write out a contract for every little thing I draw. Contracts are written out for the exceptions to my rules and the laws, otherwise my art sticks to the established rules. Your post implies that its perfectly reasonable for people to think they own things they don't. I realize WHY they thought they didn't have to contact me. My frustration is because of it. My frustration is AT ignorance of the basic copyright laws- you don't own things unless you buy them or are otherwise formally given them through contract.
ariakitty
Feb. 24th, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
No, my post does not imply that it's perfectly reasonable for people to think they own things they don't. What my post does imply is that this seems like a simple misunderstanding on their part. When you initially did the image did you have a TOS available? Did you even suggest they read it?

You can't expect everyone out there to be knowledgeable of copyright laws and, as we've seen many times on A_B, not everyone will read an artist's TOS.

I understand your frustration, I really do. But being frustrated at ignorant people isn't going to get you anything but a headache. As an artist, it certainly isn't part of your job to educate these people on copyright laws, but it is your job to protect your property. If it really bugs you so much just contact the board and let them know that you'd like to handle it?
(no subject) - myenia - Feb. 25th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ariakitty - Feb. 25th, 2012 04:27 am (UTC) - Expand
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )

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