Jane Friedman, a writer and creator of the website janefriedman.com, explains why crediting is essential to using work that is not your own. She writes:
“When you use copyrighted material in such a way that it cannot be considered fair use…crediting the source does not remove the obligation to seek permission. It is expected that you always credit your source regardless of fair use; otherwise, you are plagiarizing.”
Recently, an organization offered me an opportunity to feature my art on a brochure. It was used for a vast youth festival, where hundreds of teens advocated for non-violence. I talked over the phone with people in charge of the festival, and we decided the image for the festival should be one from an article I wrote online. After sending the email requesting credit, my Mom and I went to a pre-meeting. Before we sat down, we realized each chair had a bookmark, not a brochure. I noticed there were a few issues regarding my requests. It had another artist’s piece on the front with no credit: only the date and address for the festival. On the other side was my illustration, but no credit given to me or the publisher. My name, as the artist, was announced at the pre-meeting. Afterwards, audience members came up to me assuming I did all of the art, which I denied. This is when I learned the organization did not follow my wishes.
Some may believe, since authorization was given, no credit is needed. However, if an artist asks to have their art represented in a certain way, such as their name in an advertisement, a connection to their website, etc., and the organization does not listen, it is an infringement of copyright. It is imperative to give credit and acknowledge the artist, even if consent is given to use their work. I emailed the person in charge and requested, once again, to give credit to my artwork. However, they said since this was a family event they did not think credit was needed. The event was for family, friends, and people outside of the organization. I couldn’t understand how a family event prevents a piece of artwork from getting credit. We left the association due to their blatant disregarded for days after emailing about issues of copyright.
I decided to write to a copyright infringement forum called intelproplaw.com, to ask about my circumstances, and to see if it was truly a violation of copyright. I asked a question about my position, not stating the group or the names of the people I interacted with. Below is my question:
I gave an organization permission to use my art piece, which was published in an article I wrote online. I told them over email and phone multiple times to give credit to either me or the publisher. Bookmarks were created and distributed to hundreds of people inside and outside of the organization without my name or the publisher’s name. Another person’s artwork was used, and no credit was given to them either. Those who saw the bookmark believed I created all of the artwork. I explained that another artist did it, but sadly, I didn’t know who the artist was. I was worried the people who received this bookmark would assume the art was done all by one artist, and at the same time, not know who the artists’ were. The excuse written to me was the organization was holding a family event, so no credit needed to be given. I’ve heard from others this is some kind of copyright infringement. Can you tell me if this is copyright infringement and if this violates anything? It does not seem right, and the organization refused to make any changes even when I requested again to give credit after the bookmark was created.
I received the following response a day after I submitted my question:
In general, copying your work without your permission would violate your copyright. You granted permission, conditional upon receiving credit. The group used the work, but did NOT give you credit, thus violating the agreement. You probably have ground for legal action. However, your ability to collect damages in this case would be very limited, so it is probably not worth pursuing. If you feel very strongly about it, you might consult with an attorney and get him to send a letter on your behalf.
Hence, it is important to make sure the people you are working for understand the rules for using your art. Furthermore, before I asked the forum, my family and I talked about if it made sense to pursue this situation with legal support. In the end, we decided not to bother after a long discussion where we weighed all the options. My parents thought it was better to move forward using the unfortunate incident as a lesson for the future.
To summarize, research before making a deal, and see what other artists say about the company prior to making a decision. If a corporation is ignoring your requirements, its best to tell them the deal is not working out, and move on. In a situation like this it is critical to do your homework. If you have done the required footwork, you will know whether the people you’re working with are violating your policy for the distribution of your art; you will also know if your position regarding violation of copyright will be strong. Knowing the laws of copyright can save you from a long, drawn out process with regards to getting credit for your work.
Have you ever dealt with copyright issues as an artist? How did you handle the situation?
- Friedman, Jane. "When Do You Need to Secure Permissions?" Wordpress, 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 7 May 2015.
- Gittens-Jones, Amaranthia Sepia. "Permission given to Use Published Artwork but No Credit given to Publisher." IKnight Technologies Inc., 1 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 May 2015.
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