Be in the Know - Copyright Law

For many people, they have a business idea and run with it. That's great! BUT there are a few legalities that you need to know about and ensure that you comply with. Copyright law being one of them.

What is Copyright law?

Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

This is a law in place that protects original works from creators by preventing the misuse of, republishing or copying of, without your permission.

It is an automatic intellectual property right meaning that you are not required to apply for protection of you own creative work.

What is included?

Copyright covers a wide range of

Designs - artwork, logos, photography, characters, gaming

Literary Works & Publications - articles, books, manuals, web content

Performances - video footage, music, songs, film & television

How to avoid infringement?

Create your own content - this has never been easier with all of the programmes and apps available. Create all of your content in house, then you own your own work and designs.

Ensure yourself, and any other staff members are aware of the law.

Put a process in place to ensure that permissions have been obtained before using any work from outside of your business.

Create a contract if you are working with freelancers, such as photographers, detailing the ownership of the work produced.

What happens if my business infringes the Copyright law?

You can face legal action, even if it was unintentional.

Depending on the severity of the infringement, you could be fined or face a jail sentence.

What if I want to use a popular character, etc. on my work?

If we're being completely honest, it is better to steer clear. Create your own characters and own them.

If however, you do wish to use any sort of copyrighted material such as Disney characters, you are required to approach the owner directly to request a licence, which, if approved, would act as a contract determining how you can use the copyrighted content and how much you will need to p[ay for your licence.

Do NOT use popular characters, designs, logos (trademarks), music icons, etc., on work you are selling, without permission, or agreed licencing. We see so many people doing it, even on the likes of Etsy where it is meant to be policed, but honestly, you have to think about whether it's worth the risk - and if you imagine a large corporation coming at your solo run business, it's not.

What should I do if someone is using images of my work as their own?

This is one of the many issues with social media and selling online. As business owners ourselves, we are 100% against taking other people's works and selling them as their own and sadly, we see it happening a lot, often with little assistance from the website provider.

We would advise you to politely contact the account misusing your products/images/designs and ask for them to remove your copyright from their page and inform them of the issues they might face should they be found using other's work.

If you don't get anywhere with this, report the account/shop to the website provider & quote them on their policy (make sure you’ve read it).

If this doesn’t work, and you believe they are receiving financial gain from the use of your work, seek advise from an IP professional if deemed necessary. (If you are UK based, in the useful links at the bottom is a link to the UK Gov website IP Help & Advise).

If you've not already, whether this has happened to you or not, read up on the policies from the sites you use (see bottom of the article) and regularly do some housekeeping to ensure you're staying in line with the law and are aware of any updates.

To avoid your work being used this way, add your logo as a watermark. I know, it is not always the prettiest look for your aesthetic, but it will make it more difficult for others to use without credit.

Please note: Copyright cannot protect ideas, if you want to own your idea, you would have to look into applying for a patent. If somebody or another business created work based off your work, as annoying as it can be, you don't have any rights over this. Obviously if they are using your images, etc., then this is something you can take further under the copyright law, but otherwise try to take it as a compliment and let it be a kick up the bum to just keep on smashing your goals and don't let it get you down.

I've got annoyed in the past over things being 'copied', but realistically I won't have been the first to do it, and I won't be the last. So the best advice I can give is to just stay true to yourself and be happy with what you're doing. Don't concern yourself with what others are doing, for the sake of your own peace.


Useful links & further reading:

Etsy's Intellectual Property Policy

Amazon's Intellectual Property Policy

eBay's Intellectual Property Policy

UK Government IP Help & Advice

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