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Copyrights and the Graphic Designer

The Law and You 

Copyright law protects the works of graphic designers and other creative artists and writers, and ensures they will be paid fairly for their original works. It allows designers to say when and where their material can be used, or if at all. Especially worrisome for designers is the era of the internet, as graphic design works can easily be copied and manipulated by anyone. 
However, getting a copyright is not always a cut and dried routine. Stories abound from designers whose design works are rejected by the US Copyright Office because they are 2D layouts, not artwork under the strict definition. Some designers choose to register their works as compilation pieces to pass the copyright registration. For full explanation of the copyright process, visit
What is a copyright notice? How do I put a copyright notice on my work?

A copyright notice is an identifier placed on copies of the work to inform the world of copyright ownership that generally consists of the symbol or word "copyright (or copr.),- the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, e.g., ©2008 John Doe. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional. Use of the notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office.
Copyright Registration
In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration. Among these advantages are the following:
  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
  • If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  • If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
By Adam Herschkowitz
Get Graphic Design Jobs, Contributing Editor

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