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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Placing Copyright Notice on Art and Ways to Highlight it in Photoshop

The U. S. Copyright Office "recommends" that the word copyright ( or copyright symbol ©) followed by the date created and then followed by the name of the creator be placed on all tangible work (i.e. art). They state that the "Use of the notice may be important because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant's interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in section 504(c)(2) of the copyright law." However, it is not required to place a copyright notice on art because once the art is created the copyright exists. Note: It is a good practice to register copyrights at the Copyright Office for all art if an infringement suit needs to be filed in court so that attorney fees and statutory damages may be collected. Read more about copyrights by downloading "Copyright Basics" from the U.S. Copyright Office (Library of Congress) website.

Artists that license their art usually place the copyright symbol and signature on their art but most do not put the date. The reason is that the art could have been created years before it was licensed and the artist wants it to be perceived as fresh and new and not out-of-date. Some artists paint the copyright symbol and their signature on the original art before scanning it and saving in Photoshop. Others, first scan the art or individual icons / images and then place the copyright symbol and name (or signature) on the art in Photoshop. The symbol and name can be typed with a font, written with a stylus on a graphic tablet, or even created as a Photoshop brush. Read "Photoshop Tip: How to create a customized signature brush."

I think a © signature should be visible without detracting from the art. But sometimes it is difficult to make it readable if the background is multicolored, has both a light and dark background, or is on a busy background. Hint: When using Photoshop to adjust the visibility of the signature, always place the signature in a separate layer with no background color.

Read the following examples on how to use Photoshop to make a signature readable.
• Any color can be used for a © signature. I tend to use a hue that is darker than the background if it is a light color. On dark backgrounds I use a light color for the signature. In the example at the top of the article, #1- signature is displayed in white and #3- in black. Obviously the #3- signature is too dark on such a dark and busy background and cannot be seen clearly. I think that the signature in #1- stands out too much and will detract from the art. Signature #2- was originally white but the opacity of the layer was reduced to 60% so that the background colors show through. To me, the signature is much more acceptable and still readable. Hint: Adjust the opacity of the signature layer until you get the effect you want.

• Another method to make the signature standout on a mixed light and dark or a multicolored background is to place a glow around a darkly colored signature as shown in signature #4-. It can easily be done by going to Layer / Layer Style / Outer Glow. Adjust the opacity, color of glow (light yellow is default), spread and size of the glow. In example #4- the opacity of the glow is 40%, the color is light blue, the spread is 16% and the size is 84 px around the black signature.

• Example #5- has a white outline around the signature letters. Go to Layer / Stroke and adjust the size, position of the stroke, opacity, and color. In the example, the size is 7 px, the stroke is on the outside, the opacity is 50%, and white color. Note: I think the outline detracts from the readability of the signature but you might like the effect.

Make sure that you place a readable copyright notice on all your art before displaying it on your website, using it in marketing materials, and sending to manufacturers for licensing consideration. Also place the copyright notice on your art when sending the final version of the art to the licensee. Usually they will print the art on the product with the copyright notice on the art. But if they plan to place the copyright notice elsewhere on the product (i.e. on the salvage for fabric or on the back of a greeting card), they "may" ask you to remove it from the art.

Read "art licensing question - do you sign your artwork for licensing" on artist Linda Tieu's blog to see other artist opinions on signing their art.

I welcome any suggestions and comments. Please write them in the comment section below.

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