Here are answers to some of the questions I'm most commonly asked.
Is my work copyrightable?
Many creative works are automatically protected under copyright law. If you're a painter, writer, graphic designer, musician, or sculptor, your work is probably already covered. But there are many other forms of creative protection to consider, too!
What is a copyright, anyway?
A copyright is a form of legal protection afforded to original works of authorship for a limited period of time. But an "author" could be an installation artist, songwriter, filmmaker, or yodeler. The protection is automatic and attaches from the moment of creation. And the protection is actually a bundle of rights, each of which you can reserve to yourself, give away, or license. But there are many ways to strengthen this protection, including copyright registration, and ways to customize it via contract.
I'm not an artist. I'm not really sure that my work counts as "creative."
One of my greatest joys is helping clients who don't identify as creative - including curators, witches, chefs, and mompreneurs - realize the extent and value of their creative contributions.
Anything I find on the internet is free to use, right?
At minimum, you should always credit and link to the creator of an image/song/text that you appreciate enough to reuse. On social media, credit is generally enough. (Though you'll find some creators who don't want their work recirculated at all.) It gets more complicated as projects get more complicated. You can't always squeeze a song into your setlist or slip a photo into your collage.
But fair use!
Fair use is a complex doctrine that perplexes even the wisest legal minds. (I wrote a 400-page doctoral dissertation on a tiny aspect of the subject.) In court, fair use is a case-specify inquiry based on close fact analysis and decided by a set of balancing factors. Fair use covers many creative reuses - but not all of them.
Can you help me sue this person who ripped off my work?
I'm not offering legal services right now. Check back in Summer 2020!