One of the most important elements of earning income from our creativity is that we must only sell what is original. We can’t copy, change the color theme, or add a bow to someone else’s original work and suddenly call it our own. In a career that spans over 25 years, I have seen individuals try to pass off the work of others as their own. It happens. Sometimes it’s done without any malice. Other times the individual knew exactly what he or she was doing and it was done with no care about the consequences of breaking copyright laws. If we do overlook copyright laws, we might get away with it, but if one does get caught, there can be a high price to pay.
To give you a better understanding of how this works, imagine the perfect sunset. Now imagine 12 artists and craftspeople watching that same sunset at the same time. Chances are, you will get 12 different, original designs or projects from these creative folk even though the inspiration was the same. The sunset wasn’t their original concept, but how they chose to visually represent that sunset will be. Each deserves to earn income from their work. But what if 1 of those 12 folks decides that, rather than creating something original, he or she will just “borrow” the creativity of the others and copy someone else’s creation? Now, what if it was your work and originality that individual decided to copy?
The rights to the visual interpretation of that sunset go to the creator of it. The creator should document and process the implied copyright. Copyright notice should be included on the item, any photos, and any written documentation of the work. Yes, as the creator, you own the copyright, but to litigate, you must have proof and documentation that you protected that copyright. We must participate in supporting creativity by knowing the laws and following the laws.
If you are serious about earning income from your creativity, know the laws that protect your original work. Talk to an intellectual property rights lawyer and visit the U.S. Copyright Office to learn more about copyrights, copyright infringement, and how you can register a work electronically. And most of all, be an original!