Looking after & protecting your work is as important as creating it in the first place, so make sure you understand your copyright knowledge.
1. KNOW THE BASICS
Copyright is essentially the right yo stop other people using your work without your permission. You automatically own the copyright on your work unless you sign it away, so there’s no need to post your design work back to yourself: it’s yours to own, keep and do with as you wish, without the need to take any further course of action.
2. DON’T ASSUME INFRINGEMENT
To copyright work it must be original and creative.’Originality’ means the designer created the work and didn’t copy it from someone else, ‘ideas‘ and ‘styles‘ can’t e copyrighted, just how they are expressed. So it’s ok for someone to look at how you work and create their own version, so long as they don’t ‘use‘ any of your elements.
3. ‘I DIDN’T NOW’ WON’T CUT IT
Don’t fall into the trap of using images, photos, diagrams, illustrations or fonts that you don’t own outright or have permission to use. You can Google an image to gather inspiration, but don’t drag and drop things onto your desktop to use in a design.
4. RESEARCH ANY CLIENTS
Don’t blindly agree to undertake every project without a little background research. Who is the client? Do they have a track record in commissioning design, and are they reputable in how they choose to use it? Do they pay on time, and well they understand your terms and conditions on the use of any work you create for them? If not, walk away.
5. USE CONTRACTS
Be clear that you’re creating work for the client right from the start. They can buy a license to use and reproduce it, but unless agreed by you – and paid for by the client – any work is automatically copyright protected.
6. MAKE SURE YOU GET CREDIT
Ensure that with every published project you have a printed credit, where possible. This is fine when creating an image for a magazine, say, but less likely for a company logo that you deisgn or an image created for an advertising campaign, for instance.
7. USE THE COPYRIGHT SYMBOL
An extra form of protection is the copyright symbol – ©. By creating the work, you own the copyright, but adding the notice next to your credit ensures that everybody knows that it’s yours and not up for grabs. This is only a deterrent, but it could help legally if it came to the crunch by preventing claims of innocent infringement.
8. YOU CAN REGISTER YOUR WORK
There’s an entire industry of legal types offering quick and easy online copyright registration. Should a legal case arise, you’ll have a reliable source that can confirm the date your designs were registered.