Our IG Live chat with Ingrid from Dec + Dash (a lawyer who works with small businesses), covered everything you need to know about copyright in the UK.
We previously spoke to Ingrid about copyright, trademarking and copyrighting products, which you can read about here.
Copyright differs for different countries, but we’re discussing everything you need to know about copyright in Britain, right now.
3 things you need to know about copyright:
- As soon as you create a product or item, it becomes subject to copyright – you don’t need to do anything else, just create it!
- Copyright lasts for the life of the artist + 70 years.
- Copyright attaches to the actual creation of an item, product or work – not your ideas. If you think of an idea or imagine something, it is not subject to copyright. It must be a physical product or item.
How do you copyright a product?
Unlike trademarking, which lives on a database, copyright is not subject to any third parties. Creators need to keep track of what they’re making so they can verify anything copied. As soon a something is created physically, it is subject to copyright.
Take pictures and sketches of your creative process, and once it’s online, keep an audit trail of your creative process so you can prove when and where you created a piece.
Most smartphones time and date images automatically, so if you put images of your work in a specific folder on your phone or laptop you’ll automatically be collecting proof as you create.
It’s possible someone could re-create a similar product to yours without ever having seen or even heard of a piece you make – however, this way you can prove who created it first.
What can you do if you think someone has copied you?
- Process your feelings
It’s natural to be upset at the thought of somebody copying your hard work. Before taking action, calm down and process those feelings. Don’t act emotionally – which is easier said than done, but you need to be calm to act rationally. Talk to friends and family and get their opinion on how similar the products are too, and process your feelings.
2. Decide what your ideal outcome is
Be clear about your objectives. Do you want the person copying you to stop production? Do you want them to pull all photos of their products from social media? Are you seeking an apology? Decide specifically what you want the end outcome to be before you convey further information to the person that is potentially copying.
3. Contact the person that you think has copied you
Start by letting them know. In most situations, people don’t know about copyright, how they’re breaking it, or the differences between ‘being inspired’ by someone and directly copying their work – and are hugely apologetic and embarrassed once they realise. Before sending a ‘cease and desist’ letter or taking formal action, it’s always best to open up the conversation, and then you can assess where you stand and how to act from there.
Be assertive. State that you have created certain work / content and that they have launched something similar. If they follow you on social media then point this out, as that’s where they may have taken influence from.
Most issues can be resolved simply by having a conversation – most people don’t even realise they are copying, and are keen to resolve the issue once they do.
If it’s too emotional for you, by all means contact a lawyer for advice, but legal action can be costly and most people would prefer to avoid this where possible.
4. Seek legal advice
If you have contacted the person copying and have not reached a resolution (or if you want to seek legal advice at first instance), Ingrid is a professional lawyer and Dec + Dash offer micro-businesses and small businesses expert advice on matters such as copyright issues.
How do you know it’s a copy?
If you’re inspired by a work of art and put your own spin / style / colours on it (as we do with much classical art, for example), that won’t generally be considered as copyright infringement. However, the waters are more muddied if there are direct similarities between works, such as an attempt to replicate something in a similar style or if a specific product idea has been emulated.
When certain materials are available commercially (such as shop bought stamps or decals), it is not copyright infringement if more than one maker uses it in their work.
How much responsibility do retailers have?
If a retailer is selling products that may infringe copyright of your products, it can be difficult to source the actual maker who is copying you. Retailers usually have a supplier agreement which includes an intellectual property clause, so if they have bought their products from certain makers or wholesalers, it is those makers who have a responsibility to not infringe copyright laws, not the retailer themselves.
If there is a retailer you feel is selling work which infringes on copyright laws or your work, you can seek legal advice from Dec + Dash.
Can I use song lyrics and quotes in my work?
Be very careful of this! Many people use iconic references in their work, however, the more famous these companies are, the more likely they are to have a huge legal team to sort out any copyright infringement!
Song lyrics are subject to copyright, as are many literary works, so be very careful of using quotes and lyrics in your work.
David Bowie’s lawyer’s often come down hard on anyone imitating his iconic Lighting Bolt make-up, and Disney famously catch many businesses trying to use Disney quotes, symbols and icons with their large legal team. Even Apple have been in many disputes with companies trying to use different fruits!
Many small businesses think big companies won’t notice them – but it’s really not worth the risk. Do your research and find out what’s available for use.
Can I post images of other people’s work on my social media?
You can share others’ work – BUT you must credit them. Passing it off as your own is illegal, and if it is pointed out to you that you have not sufficiently credited a person it’s advisable to do your utmost to rectify this.
If you share images or post them on your Instagram grid, always tag the source/maker where possible and be sure to give them full credit – never pass the image off as your own.
Want to know more?
Something else you want to know about copyright? You can watch the full IG Live chat over on our IGTV Channel: