View Full Version : Do you protect your pictures (and how) ?

CÚdric Trojani
09-05-2006, 09:59 PM

usually, I only send online cropped pictures, not completly full, and pictures with a watermark on a corner of the picture. So I think I can easily proove I'm the author of the picture as I'm the only one who own the complete illustration (and the one with layers,....) but I can see sometimes people who use protections on their pictures : they use some kind of "certificates" given by some websites that proove they have created a picture. Do you know if it's reliable and if yes wich one is more interesting ? I don't know a lot of things about copyright and as I want to contact magazines, publishers... not only in France, I'll be happy to have any help or link to intersting informations about image protection (international or USA) as when I search at google (or any other) I can find a lot of websites and I don't know wich one brings the good informations.

thank you


D Akey
09-06-2006, 08:08 AM
Look up sites with graphics guilds.

One of their reasons for being is to discuss protecting themselves, setting prices, and all that stuff that solo artists can get screwed over by. And they DO want to talk about it.

Check government sites? Call their offices. At least here in the US, they're supposed to answer questions so people can comply with the law.

I would assume that the EU is creating new laws all the time and so there must be info available on these issues. Otherwise it would be chaos and the EU wouldn't work at all.

Start making some calls to your local related government offices. If not, you may have to check in Paris (I have no idea).

CÚdric Trojani
09-06-2006, 09:04 AM
Effectively, the EU always creates new laws and it's the same in france. I know a little about the artist protection in France so I'm more interested in knowing more things for USA.
For exemple : in France, I really don't have to "protect" (by a copyright depot or anything else) my illustrations. As soon as I can prove I'm the author, I'm protected. I just put a signature on the pictures so it's not easy to use it without permission. But I don't know if in the USA it's the same, if I have to copyright my pictures.

thank you for your answer

D Akey
09-06-2006, 09:52 AM
Sure. And good luck.

In the US it's not a given. You have to register the art or music or whatever.

But, many people do the half step where you put the copyright symbol along wth the year on the piece, probably near your signature is best.

And that shows an intent to file. And sometimes that's enough to be protected.

But being out of the country and not a US citizen, I'm not sure how that impacts the issue.

I don't know if a copy of the work needs to be notarized or anything else.

Often times if it looks official, like you have gone to all the steps, people who abide by the law will follow the right path, give you credit and pay you.

But we all know what has hapened to copyright violation since the internet.

Also, there are people who will look at your work and change it enough to make winning a lawsuit difficult. Motion picture studios are masters at that sort of thing.

Some outfits won't even look at unsolicited material, and that means an agent or a big reputation to where you get noticed.

I think the important thing is that you get your work out there, and maybe take a risk -- especially if it's between that and not doing anything.

In order to become visibly attached to that style, you might want to enter something into the New York Society of Illustrators annual show/book and you will get seen along with your style. There's also Communication Arts magazine and annuals and so on. Art directors look at that stuff for ideas and they might seek you out based on one of those listings.

The important thing is that you are selling future work, where you've been commissioned, not so much past work. And then an agent is someone who will follow up on getting you paid in the US (for example). Which reps are reputable? I don't know that any more than knowing who would be willing to represent someone foreign.

If you create a body of work like for stock or what have you, then copyright will be more an issue. But look at your options through an artist's guild.

CÚdric Trojani
09-06-2006, 11:23 AM
thank you again for the time you spent for the answers.
I think I have now some hours to spend surfing on the web :)

09-06-2006, 04:53 PM

Hi. Cedric.

I have think that issue and i think that it is no possible to protect computer-image to copy-process. All digital protection can by-pass. Image, .jpg format can paint over those protection or name places. Because when you see image on computer monitor, then it is possible to take image to own computer, because it is then in the own computer system.

One method is to show images to so small size but who want to look too small image?

Other, copyright? What it really means image-level?

If i draw a common image, cloud and sky. And draw 5 bird. If some other take that image and draw one bird more, what can i say? It is new image then. I cannot denied to some other to not draw same kind image. Or i cannot denied to some other to song same song.

Mu thought this copyright system of art and music area is that is it quite wrong system to try to protect things which is mainly common basic.

Example music.
Music notes has born many hundred years progress, also songs words. No if somebody make song1 and then some else take that song and change some word of it or some note, he must ask copyright-rights that song 1 maker. How many % it need do change word and notes then that it dont need to ask copyright-rights?

I think that only protection to protect art-image is to make new art-image.

I have on my web-page copyright-issue text, but, how i can copyright example bird-image, if someone draw just like same image? With computer it is easy make copy, much easier than old trad oil-paint.

My thought is that this copyright-system and laws are old-fashioned system and dont fit this todays world.

Other example.
Songs word. I try to fount that Kirka-mamy blue Finnish word, no found. I read one web-page that song word dont allow to put web-page to see, because it is copyright-wrong. So, i must wrote those word by listening song. How some song word can be copyright, word, it is like poetry, is poetry copyright?, is.....

My thought is that this copyright-system of art, music, poetry, and literature, is wrong system at all. But world goes like goes, i draw, paint, draw and walk, and of cource, looking nice nature things.


CÚdric Trojani
09-06-2006, 05:58 PM
thank you Heikki

I just want to protect my picture from the legal point of view. I know it's not really technicaly possible to protect a picture. But I'm not really affraid about that. But when you use your images for your work, you need to be sure that people won't steal your illustrations and use it for free when you show them characters, graphic style....
As I said, in France I just have to DO my picture and to be able to prove I'm the author and I'm protected... no copyright to do.

But I don't care too much about this problem.. I just want to know a little more about it

09-09-2006, 07:30 AM
In the US it's not a given. You have to register the art or music or whatever.

This is incorrect.

Every random thing you capture, scribble, doodle, mash together or tappity on your keyboard is immediately protected by US Copyright law. No registration required. No government forms to fill out.

Now, the US Copyright Office allows you to register your works, which produces documentation which is quite valuable in cases that end up in a courtroom. The vast majority of cases don't get anywhere near a courtroom though, especially if you can just informally show some other aspect of your work which would indicate you were the creator (other pictures from the same roll of film, pencil sketches, uncropped views, closeups, notes, etc.).

Other countries' citizens may not have to follow the US law anyway, so it's a bit of a moot point when you're talking about worldwide audiences. In terms of protecting things on the web, my basic advice is: if you don't want it "borrowed," don't post it in public. Show a very small portion of it, a very small version of it, a very damaged version of it, or don't show it at all.

Here's a page I put up a couple years ago about this issue (in terms of photography): http://halley.cc/photo/copying.html Hope it helps.

D Akey
09-09-2006, 08:37 AM
Thank you, halley!!!!

Somebody finally posted who has updated knowledge.

That's why I suggest checking with those who deal with it.

Are you aware if that protection cover foreign artists' work?

09-09-2006, 08:56 AM
Are you aware if that protection cover foreign artists' work?

Generally, copyright protection across borders is only handled by treaty. It would then depend on three possible places: the artist's nation, the copyist's nation, and the location where the copy was performed or exhibited.

Then there are carve-outs. Photography of architecture cannot be copyrighted under US schemes, since anyone with a camera can capture it from the sidewalk. But the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco has trademark protection, so you still can't easily sell a stock photo which focuses on that building. The Eiffel Tower of Paris is not protected (due to age and architecture) but the lighting system they use at night to impress the tourists IS copyrighted. All very confusing.

Of course, the age of the work is important, as *theoretically* copyright protection is of finite length. For certain classic works, such as the Mona Lisa, there are still museum reproduction rights. And the story of Peter Pan has special law in Britain, just because. As if that makes any sense.

I'm not a fan of the near-infinite escalation of domestic and international copyright law; the original scheme lasted quite long enough for the creator to make a profit and incentive to continue creating, and then the work becomes a part of the rich tradition of the public domain. Culture builds on culture, and corporations have subverted this natural process with endless extensions to protect the likes of Disney's Mickey Mouse and Elvis' Blue Suede Shoes. Disney's Cinderella(C)(TM)(R) built on a public domain story but just try to tell your own version and end up in court. Every year, a new movie is based on one of Jane Austen's old novels because they're in the public domain, but just watch the lawyers circle around Peter Jackson for his multi-million dollar adaptations of more modern works.


It's perfectly natural as an artist to want to protect your creations using the full extent of the government's powers. I don't have a problem with creators wanting the most from their efforts. However, I think it's important for artists (new and old) to really understand the implications of copyright and the real value of their works in the larger scheme of things. If someone's really treating your works unfairly (profiting from your effort in ways that you're not), discuss/confront the issue head on. But otherwise, as my web page says, "learn to love to share." Getting a reputation for your images and skills is usually far more important than getting $0.50 for every pair of eyeballs that can catch a glimpse.

Anyone interested in learning more about this wider scope of the copyright question should start googling for the "Creative Commons" approach to selective copyrights and various essays by Lawrence Lessig. [Oh, sorry, Google(TM) prefers people not use that word as a verb, because they think they own that word. Mea culpa.]

D Akey
09-09-2006, 12:46 PM
I should xerox that last bit. . .

Oops, sorry again. :-)

There's abuse on both sides of the line.

I know folks that gleefully ignore copyright as a technique for doing business. May be hard to see the justice in billionaires getting all fussy about it.

But it's frequently where people on the payroll of big enterprises harm the little guy, where his comparatively few works represents his entire shot at making it or not.

It's a can of worms, and arguable every which-a-way.

Rationalization is an age old way to justify behavior. All depends who you ask.

09-09-2006, 11:35 PM
Great thread, This should be basic required reading for aspiring artists. It took me 30 plus years to finally focus on the "legal" aspect of being an artist in todays world.