So many of you have asked me questions about legal issues, like how do you copyright your work, and when do you pursue copyright infringement, that I brought in someone who knows legal issues for artists like the back of his hand to share his expertise with you.
Today I'm interviewing Gordon Firemark, an attorney who specializes in working with creatives, and we're talking about the most important things that artists need to do from a legal perspective to protect themselves, their work, and their legacy.
Here’s a snapshot of what we covered in our chat, where Gordon answered some of your burning questions about art and the law:
>> Copyrighting: Here’s a quote I think you’ll like:
The good news is that copyright is an easy form of intellectual property to acquire and protect. The basic rule is that when you set pen to paper or brush to canvas or any form of putting it into a tangible form, you own a copyright the moment you do that. If it's an original work fixed in some tangible form, the copyright springs into life at that moment. So you don't have to do anything other than create the work in order to enjoy the benefits of owning the copyright in the work. —Gordon Firemark
>> When is it reasonable to pursue copyright infringement and how does an artist go about that? Sometimes it's straightforward, when you can use The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and sometimes you have to decide whether it's worth the trouble and expense to pursue it.
>> Registration: When does it make sense to go through the time and expense of registering your work? It costs $40 – $50 per work, so it's a good idea to know when it's necessary and when it's not.
>> Licensing agreements and ownership: When a company wants to commission a piece of work from you and have it printed on mugs or note cards, etc., what are the things to look out for? For example: What’s the scope of the agreement? How long does it last? What rights should you reserve for yourself?
>> Why you need to take a business approach to your art. Hint: When you create art, you’re creating assets.
>> At what point should an artist move from the do-it-yourself approach to hiring experts, to help them with copyrights, registering trademarks, forming a company, handling taxes?
>> Why it’s important to address these legal questions and get things sorted out. Gordon’s answer may surprise you!
>> The legality of the situation where artists are offered visibility, or “exposure” as payment. Do artists have any means for managing that and requiring people to actually give them the visibility they promise? Gordon doesn’t exactly advise against including “exposure” as part of an agreement, but this is his soapbox moment:
I haven't been able, ever, to take ‘exposure’ to the grocery store and buy food for my family. My bank doesn't accept it as payment for my mortgage. So exposure is nice, but it should be adjunct to a proper compensation or deal. —Gordon Firemark
Here's where you can find my guest, Gordon Firemark:
His law practice website: www.firemark.com. blog and post stuff mainly about entertainment and media law, business law.
His podcast: It's called Entertainment Law Update, and you can find it wherever you find your podcasts.
His coaching website: gordonfiremark.com, where he offers programs, products and services for creative people in the entertainment and media businesses.
Your action step
If you're serious about selling your work, I think the most critical piece of the marketing puzzle is knowing your ideal buyer or your target market. To get started on this, download my free Artist Ideal Buyer worksheet:
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