A major concern for artists of all kinds is the artistic integrity of their work. Finding out that their work has been reproduced without their permission is an extremely distressing experience for an artist. Between print, internet, television and film, the issue of artistic copyright infringement is more prevalent than ever before.
Copyright is specifically designed to protect the artistic manifestation of an idea, that is, the way the idea is expressed. Either through the written or spoken word, through music, painting, photography, or digital art. It does not, however, protect the artist’s right to the idea itself.
Copyright infringement occurs when the creator and copyright holder finds that their creation has been reproduced or shown without their permission. Typically it is considered infringement if someone else stands to recieve recognition or financial gains for your copyrighted work. Copyright infringement cases are heard in civil court, initiated by the copyright holder.
However, the legal route is not always the best decision nor is it always the most cost effective way to settle a dispute. Legal representation for copyright disputes costs between $2000 and $3000 per day. Unless you stand to lose this amount of money or the other party stands to gain this kind of money by pirating your images, words, etc., it may not be the wisest course of action.
That is not to say that you should let the infringement slide. If someone has used your intellectual property without your permission and there is not much money involved, the best procedure is to make it clear to the offending party that you are aware that they have infringed upon your copyright and that you would like them to stop. Make sure that you document all your communications and requests as well as their responses in case it does get to a point where you need to take legal action. Explain that you will be monitoring the situation and recording everything that happens. If they continue using your copyrighted material for their personal financial gain, you will have evidence that you tried to resolve the issue.
If you find that you do need to take legal action but cannot afford it, many states have nonprofit lawyers that you can sit with for an affordable fee to gain some insight into your case and the options available to you. If you successfully sue someone for copyright infringement, they may be responsible for your legal fees as well.
Art Business.com. Art Copyright Infringement: Copyright Infringement, Reproduction Rights, and Artist Careers. http://www.artbusiness.com/reprosuit.html
Yoskowitz, Andre. Apple is sued over artistic copyright infringement. July 8, 2007. http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/10318.cfm
Wikipedia – Copyright. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright
The Intellectual Property Group PLLC: A professional limited liability company of attorneys. http://www.artlaws.com/
Art Business.com. Art Copyright Infringement and Your Creative Health. http://www.artbusiness.com/copfringe.html