Thursday, December 13, 2007

LET'S GET LEGAL - Copyrights, Trademarks, Contracts, Ad Infinitum

Eventually all artists need legal help. There are three options for getting legal information and help:

  • Paid Legal Advice: An intellectual property lawyer (for trademarks, copyrights, contracts or - God Forbid - litigation.
  • Free legal advice: Wishful thinking unless you have connections or a relative in law school or can manage to find a retired lawyer at the Small Business Administration
  • Do It Yourself: Time consuming and overwhelming, but the price is right and you learn a lot

I have found several sites that have helped me in some situations:

  • NOLO, this is an online legal resource that has lawyer directories, online forms for a fee, and some pretty decent free advice in certain areas (not necessarily relating to art, but helpful nonetheless.)
  • The United States Patent and Trademark Office: This is where you can go to find out how to file your copyrights, trademarks, service marks and patents. Believe it or not you can research and file your own trademarks and copyrights and for considerably less than an attorney would charge you, trust me, I know, I've done it both ways!
  • SCORE: This is a group of 10,000 or so retired or working business owners, professionals of myriad industries that volunteer their wisdom and business acumen from their years of experience. This is associated with the Small Business Administration of the U.S. government. I've gotten some help putting together business plans and such from here.
  • CEGUR: I discovered a few free contract forms here which can be downloaded or printed. I myself have not used these contracts - I pay an attorney - so I cannot vouch for them. But here they are if you have no other options. The forms are on the right hand side in a scrolling frame. No guarantee this link will always work, btw.

And here are some books every artist or photographer should have at hand:

Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines

2008 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market

2008 Photographers Market

I hope this helps a little, it can seem like a big, bad business world to us creative types but selling art is a business as well as something you love. Treat it like a business and not a hobby or a pastime and success will be your friend.

Well, I've been a little legal eagle with my first two posts, haven't I? Must be the weather! I promise tomorrow I start the FUN STUFF!!!

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Heidi at Connect Simply dot com said...

I think this is why I haven't started selling my photos as art yet, lots to learn about doing so.

One day I will, building up other things first. Meanwhile still taking photos, hang out in my favorite photography forums as time permits. I'm always inspired by others work.

Pop Art Diva! said...

I truly understand. I've spent many hours, even days, hunting down ways to protect my art online. Read my next post on this blog which I'll have up by this evening.
Ultimately, if someone is determined to steal your art they will - but you can make it so hard for them it's not worth the effort.
I finally decided to put my faith in the goodness of people and my ability to create new art so I'm always one jump ahead of them! Steal one image - okay, I'll do another!