Copyright and artists rights

Hi all Orchids,

I am having copyright problems at the moment regarding a major
award I designed for the government. Now a letter has arrived
from a Government dept… one dealing with the arts (!)…
saying "As you may be aware in the absence of any agreement,
copyright lies with the State…( they have taken legal advice
from Crown Law). I had thought that in Australia ( sorry I dont
know what it is like elsewhere) we had at last acknowledged the
ethical and moral rights of an artist’s designs.

Does anyone have any hints, precedents etc other artists have
had in dealing with copyright regarding Government projects. All
advice would be Very welcome. Is the copyright council any good?
I have tried getting advice from Artslaw but it takes 3 days
before they can ring me back and answer a query!!! You would not
want to be desperate!!

Felicity in West Oz

Felicity: this probably isn’t helpful now and I don’t know
Australian law…here in the USA in the absence of a legal
document the ARTIST owns all rights. This seems really weird that
your government would steal your creation! If you don’t win in
this instance you’ve learned a hard lesson but one you should
never forget…USE A CONTRACT and specifically spell out your
rights of usage. Especially in dealing with idiot bueaurocrats.

Crystalguy Jewelry, the first art jewelry site on the net
Art jewelry with a mystic touch / Now accepting credit cards
Paddle Jewelry for River Addicts


I would surely think that the international copyright law would
include Australia. There may be some variations to what is
required on an object, or image nation, by nation, but I would
think that this would all be the same. whether, or not you
could get a court to uphold your copyright claim is another
story, unless you have filed for the copyright through the
proper channels.

Dear Felicity, I can sympathise with your plight. Back in the
seventies, I was embroiled in a courtcase over ownership of a
design and copyright issues arising. Although I eventually won
through, the court case lasted four years and was very traumatic.

Some bureaucrats, especially in government departments (working
in TAFE, I know about these things) will make certain assertions
and give them a quasi-legal weight which has no reality in law.
Bureacracies are notorious for their smug assumption that their
decisions are somehow the final word on any issue. Believe me,
this is not so.

Take your concerns to the Ombudsman’s Department or whichever
public watchdog exists in W.A. Do you have a branch of the ICAC
in Perth? It may seem to be a daunting step to take, but you will
hopefully find that there is a satisfactory outcome to reward
your sense of justice and perseverance.

Kind regards,
Rex Merten.

Jim: yeah, you’re probably right, I think this gal might be
getting a snow job here. The artist owns the work and all uses
unless explcitly released in writing. If there is no written
document the artist always retains ownership. I had a real nasty
run in with a copyright lawyer once over my artistic treatment of
a CD cover. She claimed that my treatment wasn’t protected under
law. Basically she was telling me a line of BS and threatened to
go to court which would have meant I would have had to travel to
California which I couldn’t afford and I couldn’t a court case
and she knew this. Lawyers work like this, they will lie cheat
and do anything they can get away with to bully artists around. I
didn’t give and I gave my client hell for trying to rip me off
and I won in the end. Another time I did a job for a division of
the City of Marin and a manager there tried to say I didn’t have
any rights to the art I did for them. I read him the riot act
and told him he’d better talk to their lawyers. It was a clear
cut case that my rights were protected and they backed down and
paid me also so sometimes you have to be a bastard and fight back
and make them know you mean business or artists will get walked
all over. Graphic design is a tough business…Dave

I’m about to put an ad in the Jewelry Design Showcase. I would
like to copyright the piece before I do. Could someone point me
in the right direction. I know nothing of how to obtain

Chris, Kansas City

Chris One very important thing to keep in mind is that every
reproduction, or image of a piece needs to include the
international copyright symbol, your name, or hallmark and the
year it was produced. This whould include all slides, or
transparencies, fliers, etc. I can only assume that the
Jewelers Design Showcase info would be copyrighted, but check it



Some of the customers that use the Sanders ModelMaker to design
and manufacture jewelry are actually designing their logo and a
copyright symbol within the shank. Not where it is actually
viewable. Up inside the shank and it is so small, you need a
loop to see it.

A great way to protect yourself without the expense of legal
fees. Check it out.


Listen up people! No more ‘I heard that …’ or ‘I thought that
…’ on copyrights!!

Here is a section of an article in the December ‘97
’CraftsReport’, pages 33 & 34, on ‘Answers to questions about

How does one secure a copyright? Copyright is automatically
secured when a work is created. While registration is not
required to secure copyright, there are definite advantages to
making it official with the U.S. Register of Copyrights.> The
article, by Matthew G. Rosenberger, Esq, with the Philadelphia
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, also states … For works
originally created on or after Jan. 1, 1978, copyright
protection attaches from the moment of its creation and is
ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s [read
’artist’s] life plus an additional 50 years after the author’s

Chris you could copyright every piece you make but it would get
time consuming and expensive. Your piece is copyrighted the
moment you make it and the ad record is proof of ownership, I
wouldn’t even spend the $20. But if you want to just do a search
the copyright office has a very good site and you can download
some forms although the copyright office should get an original
not a copy.

Preston Reuther