Living in the age of the internet can be a wonderful thing. Everything you could ever want or need is just a few clicks or a google search away. For creatives, the internet is both an abundant resource and a source of inspiration. It is also a powerful tool when it comes to visibility, allowing artists and creatives to share their work with the world with just a few clicks. However, despite its obvious benefits, all of this exposure also means that artists become vulnerable to having their work copied or stolen.
Copyright and creatives
Basically, once something unique is created: an artwork, a photograph, a piece of writing or music, etc, it is instantly recognised as the work of the creator under copyright law. There is no need to register the work, the copyright applies automatically. This means that in order to use any of these things without breaking the law, the you must have the permission of the creator. Artists may choose to place a copyright label on their content, which can be useful as a deterrent, however whether or not this is used, the law remains the same.
Inspiration vs Copyright infringement
Artists and creatives are constantly using the internet and social media platforms as a source of inspiration. In these times, you’d be hard pushed to find a young creative person that doesn’t, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Where things get tricky is when the word ‘Inspiration’ is stretched beyond its meaning. To see an artist’s work and to be inspired by certain aspects of it - a colour used perhaps, or the overall feel of the work - is totally fine. However, recreating some or all of an artwork and passing it off as your own, or creating art that is indistinguishable from that artists work is copyright infringement. Yes, even if it’s changed by ten percent. Which brings us to to our next point…
The ten percent myth
Unfortunately, the ten percent myth is thrown around a lot these days, and the problem is that many people still believe it. The myth being that if you take another person’s work and change it by at least ten percent, this is enough to legally claim it as your own. This is completely false. In fact, the artwork would have to be changed beyond all recognition in order to claim it as your own, rendering the entire endeavour pointless. Basically, what we're saying here is just don’t do it.
What to do about it
There are a number of ways to respond in the case of copyright infringement, and the severity of the action taken is often linked to the way in which the material is being used. Should you see someone using your work, it’s important to take action right away, and to put it in writing. You can find out more about what to do on the Australian Copyright Council website.
And finally, it’s really important that creatives look out for one another. If you see another artist’s work being used without permission, it’s always a great idea to let the artist know. The more of us that are fighting the good fight against copyright infringement, the better.
(Instagram post by Rachel Sarra, header image by Shayna Douglas)