In any less original or creative and

In today’s world of
multimedia, copyright is a subject that is not frequently talked or even thought
about and commonly remains a topic of ignorance until it directly affects a
designer. As a designer it is important to be conscious of current copyrighted
works and understand the ways to create works of your own that is unique and
individual to yourself even if it shares similarities or is inspired from
previous works.

First
the definition of copyright from Copyright.gov is that “Copyright is a form of
protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original
works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers
both published and unpublished works.” Copyright, as it currently works,
protects works in tangible form as soon as they are created, both physical and
digital; this means that creativity is now becoming a race to who creates what
first. While it seems that copyright is restricting creativity even further,
copyright protects only the piece in question, not the underlying ideas or
direction that created the work.

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Works
that contain the same ideas of previous, often successful works, are known as
derivative work, “Common derivative works include translations, musical
arrangements, motion picture versions of literary material or plays, art
reproductions, abridgments, and condensations of preexisting works.” Derivative
works use the same concepts and elements of previous works and takes different
creative directions that protect it from infringing on the copyright of the
protected piece. As a designer, it is key to know that while ideas, concepts
and elements can be similar, derivative work does not mean that the idea or
piece is any less original or creative and excellent work depends on execution
rather than being first.  

While
it is not only important to understand the rules of the game, it is also
crucial to understand the tools at your disposal as a designer. Copyright might
seem crippling, especially when the designer is wanting to use images or works
that might be copyrighted but there are works that are no longer protected or
do not qualify for protection under copyright, such work is known as public
domain. “A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under
copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright
protection.” Works that fall into public domain includes footage from WWII,
footage from certain older films and older literary works. Although it is very
helpful to have great footage and easily available, every designer should
utilize the works they obtain from public domain in a way that sets them apart
from other designers using the same images, footage and work.

So
far it seems that copyright holds all the power and makes the work at topic
“invincible” but it’s easy to forget a right that each one of us possesses in
the USA, freedom of speech…and because of this fundamental right, fair use comes
into play. “Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for
determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of
uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and
research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.” What this
means is that unlicensed use of a copyrighted work is permitted and requires no
permission from the copyright owner in certain circumstances, as a designer
this means that when expressed in your own opinion pretty much any work is up
for the taking.

Having
a better understanding of copyright, how it works and the ways to get around it,
is something every designer should constantly keep in their mindset and
creative process to spare themselves trouble down the road. With everyone
wanting their ideas, creations and works to be solely their own, copyright is
in a constant state of change and therefore appears to be a beast with changing
faces; but if the designer executes their own vision and understands their own
rights when it comes to their own or other copyright-protected works, beasts
can be tamed.