MYOB: Why artists need law

We could all do with reminders – here’s a gentle one as to why artists need to learn about the legalities concerning their creative disciplines.

(This post is largely inspired by the discussions that took place in the last few workshops conducted by Artistik License.)

This is a reproduction of a poster for a recently organized workshop by Artistik License and the rights to this image belong to the author of this blog.
This is a reproduction of a poster for a recently organized workshop by Artistik License and the rights to this image belong to the author of this blog.

Do I really need to know about the law now – can’t it wait for later?

Here’s an example – let’s say you want chocolate cake, and you decide that you’re ready to bake your own. Now you really like chocolate cake and since you want your cake to turn out moist, and oozing with chocolatey goodness, you’re only going to want to use the best ingredients and the best baking appliances, and you’re going to want to use them from the very beginning of the baking process right? Why wait until your cake burns to go over what you could’ve done to get it right? It’s the same with your artistic work – what you create is really an extension of yourself, and if you have serious hopes and dreams for it, why wait until you get into some kind of jam to actually learn about how to take care of your work?

So learning about some legal stuff is actually helpful from the start?

Yes it is – the law can help you understand what to do when things get a little troublesome (copying or infringement problems, someone piggybacking on your brand’s success, not getting paid on time for something) but it can also offer you a bunch of things to do if you really want to take care of your artistic works and career. This could include learning some basic IPR stuff so you know how to legally protect your work using copyright or trademark; or a few tricks that can put you in a stronger position when negotiating a deal with an organizer, client or company. Learning a few legal basics can even mean better understanding your rights as an artist, so you know that when you negotiate for something, you’re acting well within the industry standards and expectations that are legally permissible.

Isn’t a lot of this legal stuff expensive?

Some of it is, and some stuff is super simple and inexpensive – for instance, documenting your creative process is a really simple and inexpensive thing to do. Making sure that you have enough pictures, enough sketches, enough recordings of your work-in-progress might help you to prove your ownership and rights in the final product. Getting things in writing or getting someone’s permission before actually using their artistic creation in your own creative process – these aren’t really things that cost a lot of money but can spell the difference between feeling awesome and feeling cheated.

Cool, so maybe it’s not too expensive…but isn’t all this legal stuff boring and difficult?

Going diaper shopping, and then having to endure changing their diaper may not be the most enthralling part of having a baby in your world – but hey, after the icky, boring part comes all the fun baby stuff like giggling, fairy tales, gurgling baby laugh noises and all the other funny, cute stuff babies are so ridiculously famous for. Your art is your baby – get it a legal diaper (yes, that’s what I said) and then play with your baby for as long as you want! Just imagine the sense of calm you’ll be living with, knowing that you now understand what someone means when they ask you if your work has been copyrighted.

Right, so how do I get the legal info I need as an artist?

There are tons of resources already at your disposal – a simple search over the internet on issues related to copyright, art, artists and law should be able to point you in the right direction. If you know a lawyer, then go talk to them about your work and what the legal system can do to help protect it. In the mean time, keep your eyes and ears open for seminars, discussions or workshops on legalese for artists – and remember, learning about the law is really planning for the future; failing to plan is really pretty much planning to fail.

If you have anything to say or discuss about how the law might help you as an artist, then do leave a comment or get in touch.

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