You want to know what’s good? Making a living through your craft. You want to know what’s not good? Going to jail. (Obvs.)
Today, we’re chatting with my friend Christina who’s going to help keep you out of jail* while you bring in that $$$ from your work (*chances are you won’t ever face jail time from your art… but at the very least, you’ll learn a few tips that should keep you from accumulating some pretty hefty fines!).
If you’re a photographer, a graphic designer, a calligrapher, or just someone who makes and creates, you definitely need to watch this one.
We’re talking about Copyright for creatives.
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What you need to know about trademarks and copyrights
Copyright laws can be a scary thing for creative entrepreneurs and “winging it” will only get you so far when it comes to the legal side of your business.
The good news is there are ways you can protect yourself from infringement AND from (even accidentally) infringing on another artist’s work. There’s a fine line between “inspiration” and downright intellectual theft and a simple scroll through Instagram or Etsy will prove me right (and we will touch on this again below). So if you’re a little weary of copyright laws, namely what you can and cannot do (letter, post, sell…), Christina will clear a few things right up in a totally approachable non-scary, “you’re not going to jail” kind of way.
So first up. Who is this Christina Scalera chick?
Christina is a fellow creative and the attorney and founder behind The Contract Shop, a contract template store for creative entrepreneurs, wedding professionals, and coaches.
Three years ago she found herself dreaming of a life outside of her in-house attorney gig, so she quit to pursue everything from teaching yoga to calligraphy to freelance graphic design. Once she started networking with other creatives in an effort to grow her baby business… she realized just how many legal issues artists like us face and set out to fix it.
*KEEP IN MIND: If you’re in need of specific legal advice, get yo’self a lawyer! The following is just some advice to get you on the right track to protecting yourself. Christina practices in the United States and has many Canadian clients, so she is familiar with the laws within those two countries. If you reside outside of the U.S. or Canada, things may be different and you should be proactive in checking out your individual country’s laws and regulations!*
Now- what’s the difference between a copyright and a trademark?
One thing I know I found hard to understand in the beginning was the difference between a copyright and a trademark. Straight up, anytime you CREATE something, (may it be a photo, a blog post, a print for yourself OR a client) it is considered a “work” and automatically copyrighted to you, the creator. A trademark is something unique to you; an identifier to you/your business such as a logo, a phrase or a tagline — its purpose is to distinguish you from others.
To give you all an example you might (hopefully) be familiar with, the “Show Me Your Drills” workbooks are copyrighted to me as their original creator. The phrase “show me your drills” is trademarked as my product line, I OWN it and it cannot be used by another individual. (So if you ever see someone passing either off as their own, let your girl know ?)
Other legal-ish to worry about as an artist and creative
Now, the interview is definitely the next step in better educating yourself on this topic. Christina gives some pretty common scenarios that happen ALL.THE.TIME. to creative entrepreneurs.
Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if I know of specific people who have been burned in the same way as every one of her examples. I’m talking creatives who have had their work shared without permission (without AND with credit), calligraphers who’ve had their products copied by another artist in the same field, graphic designers whose concepts were stolen by big time corporations, and even the blurry lines where someone sells a Disney character print or movie quote on Etsy and receives a nasty email requiring them to remove their listing right away.
Just in case you’re short on time, here are a few points I feel are VERY important:
- Reposting another artist’s work without permission IS copyright infringement even if you tag and credit them. Legally, you need to ask for permission before sharing someone else’s work. Even though the image is publicly found, that does NOT give you the right to post their work — same can be said if YOUR work is posted without permission. (And yes, you have the right to ask them to remove your image!)
- Yes, you can draw a famous cartoon character on your 5 year old cousins birthday card without fear! (Just don’t sell it!) Keep in mind, however, that this does open the doors of being asked to do OTHER characters for clients if you choose to post the card online…if you don’t want to open the floodgates, don’t post it!
- “Inspiration” can easily cross over to downright copying. If you want to be inspired by someone’s work, be sure to change it as much as possible to make it YOUR OWN!
Other great resources
Christina has also provided us with an amazing tool that I know will totally help many of you: a flow-chart of what you can and cannot legally use/recreate/letter/post/copy ?, and what you CAN do as an alternative! It’s a great referral tool, and available here.
And, if you don’t have a contract (hint: you should!), you’ll want to snag this Calligraphy one. It’s the very one I use in my own business- and it has saved my butt multiple times! Since Christina knows the in’s and out’s of this world, she’s already crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s for you. You literally just have to fill ‘er in.
I really hope you enjoyed this interview! Make sure you’re subscribed to The Happy Ever Crafter TV to catch the rest in the series! And one last HUGE thank you to Christina!
Interested in more of these interviews? You can also join the Facebook group, where these Q&A’s are hosted LIVE, and submit your own questions for future guests.