What is Copyright?

copyright-clip-art-1FROM THE ARTIST’S STUDIO
If you remember though Booker T. Washington High school would like sculptor Bridgette Mongeon to recreate the sculpture at Tuskegee we must first find out if there would be copyright infringement.  Let’s learn a little about copyright.

Here is a bit from the artists book 3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft: Exploring 3D Printing, Scanning, Sculpting, and Milling on the subject of copyright.

Intellectual property or IP refers to many different aspects of law that governments put into place to protect literature, artworks, music, discoveries, inventions, etc. Though many countries recognize IP rights, there are some differences between countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) tries “to promote innovation and creativity for the economic, social and cultural development of all countries, through a balanced and effective international intellectual property system.”

There are several different kinds of intellectual property rights; copyright is one of
them. Sparked by the invention of the printing press, copyrights were invented to
protect those making creative works. A creative person, whether they are a
musician, a writer or an artist, owns the rights to the work that they have created for
a designated amount of time.

In the United States copyright began in 1790, the total duration of protection was
only for 14 years, and individuals needed to apply for a copyright. After a copyright
expired, the creator could extend it for another 14 years before it went into the public
domain. Works entering the public domain are those having expired copyrights or
where an individual gives their works to the public domain. When works enter the
public domain, no one else can claim ownership. They are available to the public.
For example, Lewis Carroll wrote Alice In Wonderland, and Sir John Tenniel created
the illustrations for publication in 1865. Many companies, including Disney, have
recreated the story of Alice. They cannot claim copyright to the story because they
recreated it.

According to the copyright law of 1976 (USA), the copyright law protects everything
that you create from the moment you create it, even if you have not registered it.
This is the way copyright is handled throughout the world. It was defined by the
Berne convention, an international agreement concerning copyrights. The duration of
copyright, changed in 1988 from the creator’s life plus 50 years, to the creator’s life
plus 70 years as it is today (USA). Having a piece of artwork protected by the very
act of creating it is good for an artist. They don’t have to register every piece of work
they make. Once something is in a tangible form, it is copyrighted. Many artists put
their name on art along with the copyright symbol © and the year. It is surprising how
many people do not realize that even if artwork does not have a copyright notice, the
copyright law still protects it. Traditional sculptors have been fighting copyright
infringement for years. Individuals think that they can copy a sculpture if a sculptor
has not marked it with ©, the year and name of the artist. Sculpture is often
recreated and sold as a reproduction without the permission of the artist.     
Under the current copyright law, you do need to register your work with the copyright
office if you want to collect for statutory damages for infringement. If you discover
someone has stolen your work and you file suit, statutory damages are punitive and
can be quite severe for those infringing on someone’s rights. Financial penalties for
infringement keep many people honest about “taking” other people’s creations.

Many creative people make a living from their creativity. Authors make a living from
the books they write, artists from the artwork they create, musicians from the songs
they write and record. If there were no regulations to how others use these works of
inspiration, it would be devastating for those who make a living creating.

Read on to find how copyright plays into copying the sculpture of Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University. 

Author Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon



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