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Art Lessons: How to Protect Your Work

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[MUSIC]
What's up everybody?
I've been promising business class forever
because
everybody who's an artist needs this.
I went to the, prestigious Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena and
I got one class for the entire four years.
That's it.
So what do we need to do as artists?
We need to protect ourselves.
Luckily enough, you guys are here with
D.C., Darren Chavis, who's not only my
business partner, but an undergrad of UCLA
and, of course,
he got his law degree from Columbia, New
York City represent, that's me.
So the first question that I'm actually
gonna defer most everything to this guy.
So the first question is, how do we
protect our work?
How do we protect our work?
I mean if I do a painting and I sign it
that alone, is that alone protection?
>> It depends because we’re talking about
two different types of protection.
Protection of an original work or the
protection of a copied work, so
protecting your work generally everybody’s
heard of the term copyright.
A lot of times, people mistake copyright
for trademark.
One of the most annoying questions I ever
get from people when they call me up is
they say hey, I need to trademark my work.
Okay now, you don't trademark a work, you
trademark a brand name.
You trademark something that is literally
in trade, in commerce.
So you think about Coca-Cola, that's a
trademark because it's a brand name.
Now copyrighting is a whole different type
of intellectual property.
Copyrighting is really about taking your
idea and affixing it to a tangible medium.
That means, you cannot copyright just an
idea.
So if I'm sitting with you, we're in a
coffee shop I said, Darren,
I have this great idea for this TV show,
right?
>> Which I do all the time, by the way.
>> And usually Art does have very good
ideas, but we can't copyright that.
What he needs to do is take that idea and
then fix it by pen,
by computer, whatever, to a tangible
medium.
Meaning, that piece of paper, that hard
drive, something of that nature.
Now of course in the art world that means
literally you get the idea of
what you wanna do as your subject and you
start with a composition.
A sort of the would be a sketch, whatever
it is.
Right as soon as you do that, you have
something that's copyright protectable.
Now there are two types of copyright
protection.
There's just the copyright protection that
we have at common law, which means
that as soon as you write that down into
that fixed medium, it's protectable.
Right?
So somebody can't steal that idea.
Now it's hard to prove, right?
Which is a difference, which is why a lot
of people register the copyright.
Now registering a copyright means you
really go to the Library of Congress, and
you could do this online, and you register
the copyright.
So you go through the whole process, you
do your form VA,
which Is a visual arts form, and you fill
it all up.
When you complete it, and you submit it
for copyright with a small filing fee, and
about three to six months later, you'll
get a copyright registration.
Usually comes to you in the email or they
can send it to you as
well in the hard copy but you have pay a
little bit more for that.
Now the difference is once you actually
register your copyright
you now have different legal rights.
And the two critical legal rights that you
have are one, and attorney's love this, we
get to collect attorney's fees if we sue
somebody who infringes on your copyright.
Number two you get a minimum statutory
damages
which could be about a $100,000 in each
instance, in each instance,
in each instance that somebody willingly
steals your idea.
All right, so now the reason the attorneys
fees is really important is because
good luck finding a case out there where
an attorneys gonna take on, whatever your
infringement is, unless he or she believes
that they can get some fees out of it too.
All right?
Second thing is, of course, when somebody
takes your copy and they steal it.
So let's say you did some great piece of
work and
you submitted it to an advertising agency
for their consideration.
All of a sudden, three months later,
you see it on billboards all throughout
the city.
Now you get to look at each one of those
instances and say wow,
100,000 here 100,000 there, another
100,000.
It becomes so much better and more
compelling case, at least for
the ad agency or the company that has the
product to settle with you, and
to pay you out what you're owed.
>> Now, if,
someone does a painting, just by virtue of
the fact that they signed their name.
>> Hm.
>> Isn't that enough of a copyright isn't
that copyright protectable unto itself?
Just because if I do a painting, I sign it
Bua it's out there in the world
is that enough or do you, would you
recommend always registering it?
A lot of people don't have the money to
register it even though it's only what,
$25, every time I do it.
So what's your opinion on that?
>> Well I, I think that its best if you're
doing something that is not just for
your own portfolio, but
a piece of work that you really wanna put
out to the general public.
You want people to notice it, you maybe
want to sell the rights to it or
license the rights which we'll get into a
little bit later.
It's always best if you sign the work,
complete the authorship, and
then go on and register the copyright.
Now the other important thing about when
you register the copyright is of course,
a lot of artists have, like you, thousands
of protectable images.
You have to be able to, to log that.
So make sure that you've got your
spreadsheet together.
You know the name, the date that you filed
the copyright, copyright registration
number, all those things that you can look
up pretty quickly.
Now, getting to the signature part of it,
so you want your attribution right,
you're proud of your work that doesn't
necessarily mean
that that's a copyright protection of
course, because think about all the people
who have knocked you off for example and
then signed their own name.
So just because you sign your name to
something doesn't mean that that by some
law makes it yours.
You could still steal somebody's idea and
sign your name to it.
Doesn't matter, it's still copyright
infringement.
>> So it's, the end result here is, do as
much as you can do to copyright your work,
to protect yourself.
Even though it is and I know from personal
experiences, ladies and
gentlemen, very difficult to protect your
work.
But when it is necessary to really protect
it,
it is invaluable that you get it
registered.
It is invaluable that you sign your name.
And it is invaluable that you register it
with the Library of Congress.
Yeah and you don't have to necessarily go
to a lawyer to do this.
I mean it's a pretty straight-forward
form, if you follow the instructions at
the copyright office you can figure it out
pretty quickly.
If you do make some mistakes on the form
and you don't fill it out appropriately
the copyright office will reject it and
send it back to you.
Now what is important.
Is that you’re honest in the registration,
which a lot of artists aren’t.
So for example if an artist works with
somebody else and
that one artist, artist A hires artist B
to help him on a project, and
artist A registers the whole work in their
own name.
That could be problematic because artist B
could also say,
wait a second I contributed to that work
so I also have a claim.
So within those forms, it always says how
many, you know, what artist
completed the work, was it a work for
hire, what was the date of completion.
Make sure you fill that information out
accurately because if you don't,
then your copyright registration can be
invalidated and you can also get some
fraud charges pushed against you too which
we don't want of course.
>> Copyright your work.
End of story.
Bottom line.
[MUSIC]