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The Statute of Anne is now seen as the origin of copyright law.

The Statute of Anne, short title Copyright Act 1709 8 Anne c.19; long title An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned, was the first copyright statute in the Kingdom of Great Britain (thus the United Kingdom, see Copyright law of the United Kingdom). It was enacted in 1709 and entered into force on 10 April 1710. It is generally considered to be the first fully-fledged copyright statute. It is named for Queen Anne, during whose reign it was enacted.

The Statute of Anne did not apply to the American colonies, although some scholars have asserted otherwise. The colonies' economy was largely agrarian, hence copyright law was not a priority, resulting in only three private copyright acts being passed in America prior to 1783. Two of the acts were limited to seven years, the other was limited to a term of five years. In 1783 several authors' petitions persuaded the Continental Congress "that nothing is more properly a man's own than the fruit of his study, and that the protection and security of literary property would greatly tends to encourage genius and to promote useful discoveries."

Today COPYRIGHT PROTECTION IS AUTOMATIC Under the present copyright law which became effective January 1, 1978, a work is automatically protected by copy-right when it is created. A work is created when it is "fixed" in a copy or phono-record for the first time. Neither registration in the Copyright Office nor publication is required to secure copyright under the present law.

A site with more than you ever want to know about copyright...

First off, the moment you create ANYTHING visual—paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, etc—the only person who is allowed to copy that art is you. If you decide to sell prints of one of your paintings, you can. If anyone else does, without your written permission, you have the right to take them to court and sue for damages. In fact, copyright laws are so strong that your family or legal heirs will still own the copyright to your artwork until 70 years after your death. Artists that display their work online or allow their art to be published in books or magazines often put a copyright symbol (along with their name and the year the artwork was created) next to the reproduced image. © 2010 Alison Williams especially on web pages or next to images on web pages...


This practice isn’t actually necessary—you still own the copyright, even without using the symbol—but at least this will remind people not to copy your work. Additionally, if you find out that someone HAS “infringed on your copyright, and you can prove that the copyright symbol was next to the image of your artwork that they copied, you’ll have a very strong case against them if the issue ever goes to court—which is exactly why so many artists choose to put up that copyright notice. You should also be aware that even after selling an original work of art to a collector, you still hold the copyright to it. The buyer cannot make prints or sell copies of your art unless you’ve given them that express permission in writing.

Now, even though you own the copyright to your art immediately after creating it, there are still ways to officially register your copyright claim with the US government and most other governments (if you live outside the US) as well. Some of the reasons to officially register your artwork are: 1. Registration creates a public record of your copyright (more proof in court) 2. Registration is the first step required before you can sue someone for infringement 3. Registration often increases the amount you can sue for If you don’t plan on suing someone, here are a few other reasons to register: 1.You’ve created something especially valuable (ie, the next Mickey Mouse). 2.You plan on selling the copyright of your art to someone else 3.You’re very, very cautious. In the US you can register your copyright with the US Library of Congress Copyright Office by filling out an application and paying a fee. For further information about the application form and costs, make sure to visit

How to write © on your Mac?

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Who Owns Copyrights?
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed, tangible form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

What about when you create work in a workplace?
In the case of works “made for hire”, where an artist has created the work while in his/her capacity of employee, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author and copyright holder. Where a work was created jointly by more than one artist, the authors of a joint work are all co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Copyright in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of each contribution.

According to section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act., as a copyright holder, you can do the following:
- reproduce your work, for example as a Giclee; - create derivative works based upon original work; - sell your prints, or license your image files; - sell your copyright to a publisher or share it with the publisher or another artist; - display the originals and prints publicly

Where to go to copyright

Common confusion about the rights of original artwork owners.
Sometimes artists sell their originals to collectors and think that they can not reproduce the sold artwork because some one else owns it now. On the other hand collectors often are under impression that they can go ahead and reproduce the paintings they own and sell the prints online. According to the Copyright Law, the ownership of an original painting, or any other work alone does not give the owner the right to reproduce. When the artwork is sold the artist loses the ownership of the artwork but still keeps the ownership of the copyright. Hey, you can keep the artwork and sell the copyright to a publisher if that pleases your fancy :-) Exclusive or partial copyright ownership. You can own a copyright exclusively or transfer it or a portion of it to another party, you just have to sign the appropriate papers. Such transfers are comparatively rare in the U.S. and are almost never knowingly engaged in by European artists. For more on this subject, go to “Related Topics” and see the pages titled “Do U.S. Owners of Works of Art Also Control the Copyrights?”

Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test. The term "fair use" originated in the United States. A similar principle, fair dealing, exists in some other common law jurisdictions. Civil law jurisdictions have other limitations and exceptions to copyright. To justify the use as fair, one must demonstrate how it either advances knowledge or the progress of the arts through the addition of something new. A key consideration is the extent to which the use is interpreted as transformative, as opposed to merely derivative. When Tom Forsythe appropriated Barbie dolls for his photography project "Food Chain Barbie," Mattel lost its claims of copyright and trademark infringement against him because his work effectively parodies Barbie and the values she represents.

The practical effect of this law and the court decisions following it is that it is usually possible to quote from a copyrighted work in order to criticize or comment upon it, teach students about it, and possibly for other uses. Certain well-established uses cause few problems. A teacher who prints a few copies of a poem to illustrate a technique will have no problem on all four of the above factors (except possibly on amount and substantiality), but some cases are not so clear. All the factors are considered and balanced in each case: a book reviewer who quotes a paragraph as an example of the author's style will probably fall under fair use even though he may sell his review commercially. But a non-profit educational website that reproduces whole articles from technical magazines will probably be found to infringe if the publisher can demonstrate that the website affects the market for the magazine, even though the website itself is non-commercial.

A watermark is a visible embedded overlay on a digital photo consisting of text, a logo, or a copyright notice. The purpose of a watermark is to identify the work and discourage its unauthorized use. Though a visible watermark can't prevent unauthorized use, it makes it more difficult for those who may want to claim someone else's photo or art work as their own.

for art law advice:

Other questions: Can I make artwork from photographs?

Appropriated Artwork and collage?

Famous music copyright lawsuits...

Famous artist copyright lawsuits...

And a great site with a article about plagiarism and the public domain...