Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

Hi peeps! In this “Common Misconceptions” blog we’ll be tackling more copyright issues as they pertain to us artists! This can be somewhat confusing territory, so getting the right information is key to knowing how to effectively protect your work and rights. *Please note that all of the information here applies to the laws in the United States Copyright Office. If you do not live in the US, be sure to review your country’s laws on copyright*


:bulletred:I have to register for a copyright to own the rights to my work


In the simplest terms, if you made it (and it’s 100% original work) you own the rights to the work. In fact, anything you make that you do not sell the rights to is copyrighted to you for a whopping 70 years after you kick the bucket. If you were commissioned to do a work and retain the rights, that work is copyrighted to you for 95 to 120 years after you die. If you do a collaborative work it will be copyrighted to you and the other artist(s) until 70 years after whichever one of you dies last. Also, writers need not worry: if some of your work is unpublished at the time of your death, it is still protected by the United States government. Pretty sweet right? The only reason it would be a good idea to register is if you’re creating something that is extremely valuable (not necessarily monetarily, think Disney characters valuable) or if you think you may have to sue for copyright infringement (in which case, registration is required).


:bulletred:I’m a minor, so I can’t officially register copyright

Actually, in the United States, minors can (though you should probably do so with a lawyer present if you choose to do that). 

:bulletred:I own a commissioned artwork, so that means I own the copyright as well 

No. Simply owning a book doesn’t give you the rights to it anymore owning a painting gives you the copyright to it. Unless the original owner put it in writing that you are the copyright holder as well, you cannot assume you have the rights to that work.


:bulletred:Images on the internet are in the public forum, therefore they are public domain and up for fair use

Ah, the phrase “fair use” is almost thrown around as much as YOLO these days :roll:. “Fair Use” was created to allow people to use copyrighted works for educational purposes, appropriation and commentary…however this doesn’t mean ganking the entire creative work.“Public domain” refers to images that are no longer copyright protected. Fair use shouldn’t encroach upon the monetary value of its original work, and these days, we should never assume that any image is public domain.  To be safe, just try to avoid this as much as possible. Fair use relies very heavily upon intentions.

:bulletred:I own the rights to my fan created works

If you would like to publish a fan fiction for example, you would need to get permission from whatever company owns the original story and characters. You do not own the rights whatsoever. This is why deviantART does not allow prints to be sold of fan created artwork.

:bulletred:Fonts aren’t copyrighted

Oh, yes they are. If you’re thinking of selling artwork that has say Helvetica text in it, you may want to think otherwise. Helvetica is copyrighted to Apple.  If you really want to use text and you aren’t writing it yourself, seek out a free font, there are plenty of websites that allow free fonts for commercial and non-commercial use.

:bulletred:If I change an image 10%/20%/30% it’s different enough to be mineb>

No. I’m not sure what whoever came up with that one was smoking, but it’s wrong…it’s not even in the law books. Modifying any copyrighted image is copyright infringement unless permission was specifically granted by the owner.


:bulletred:Creative Commons License means I can use an image any way I like

If you see a creative commons license logo below an image read the fine print before proceeding. Not every license is the same. “Attribution” means that the work can be shared, but must be credited to its owner. “Share Alike” means the work can be shared and derivative work can be created based on it, and in turn distributed as well. “Non-commercial” means the work may be shared as long as it is not sold for monetary gain.  “Non-Derivative” means that the work can be shared, but it cannot be changed in any way. “Attribution Non-commercial” means the image can be shared for not for profit uses (such as blog banners). “Attribution Non-commercial Share-Alike” means a work can be taken and make non-commercial derivative works as long as credit is given to the original owner. Lastly, “Attribution Non-Commercial Non-Derivative” means that work is allowed to shared and used without any kind of modification, however the owner would not be compensated for the use either. Are you confused enough yet :XD:

:bulletred:A watermark can keep my images from being stolen

Watermarks can only deter image theft; they don’t keep people from taking them. Don’t fret though; most people who simply lift images from around the Internet will most often be too lazy to remove a well-placed watermark.

:bulletred:There’s nothing I can do if I find an image of mine being used without permission outside of dA

Just because you’re outside of the realm of dA if you find your work being violated, doesn’t mean nothing can be done. The first thing you should do is contact the person (if you can identify the person) who posted it and ask them to remove the image ASAP. Do this as calmly as possible. If the person does not reply after 2 days or refuses to do so, contact the website owner. Most website have a special email for copyright abuse. This will normally nip the issue in the bud, because web hosts take these issues seriously. If you continue to have problems after contacting the website owner, or they don’t reply, contact the legal department of the website’s company by phone or letter (if it gets to that point, and your work is being sold, it’s time to get an attorney).  

I hope this information has helped give you all a little information about your rights as makers! If anyone has a caveat to add or any other information, feel free to share here in the comments!

More information regarding copyrights and artists can be found here: here:… and also at the US Copyright Office handy basics pdf:…


This installment of Common Misconceptions deals with copyrights as they relate to artists :) All of the information here is based on the copyright laws that are in existence in the United States. If you aren't within the US, be sure to become familiar with your country's copyright laws.
Add a Comment:
danydiniz Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for providing such helpful information! :hug:
Ilda28399 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
damn, i guess in italy they aredifferent -.-'' and i dont get how the hades to find the infso >.> seem like google doesnt help me
Pythiadelphie Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013   General Artist
Thank you for this installement it was very informative and very clear. :)
Shadi-mei Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Hobbyist
Woah, didn't know fonts were copyrighted, thank you so much for this
GirlofClay Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Student General Artist
Thank you so much! This cleared up a lot for me. :D
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Also gonna point out that even if you're not in the US, if you're looking at work by someone who is in the US, you need to pay attention to our laws.
CodeAndReload Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013
Fonts aren’t copyrighted. Oh, yes they are.

Title 37: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

§ 202.1 Material not subject to copyright.

The following are examples of works not subject to copyright and applications for registration of such works cannot be entertained: (e) Typeface as typeface.

However, this finding was limited in Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc., wherein it was held that scalable computer fonts, i.e., the instructions necessary to render a typeface, constitute a "computer program" for the purposes of copyright law and hence are subject to protection. Hence the computer file(s) associated with a scalable font will generally be protected even though the specific design of the characters is not. Furthermore, a rasterized representation (e.g. bitmap) of the characters in a scalable font is not protected by copyright in the United States.
Add a Comment:

:iconxadrea: More from Xadrea

Featured in Collections

journals by trifle-confusion

Faves: Journals by Su5anLee

Journal information by LunarMew

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
January 22, 2013
Submitted with Writer


64 (who?)