As design students, we hear the word copyright come up in many classes and discussions whether it is in regards to our own personal work, or the work of others. For me, and I'm guessing for other students as well, the issue of copyright is something that I know is important and I feel I have some knowledge regarding. However, I don't necessarily believe I am as thoroughly educated on the subject as I should be.
When beginning my research, I thought it important to first define the word copyright to ensure I had a clear-cut meaning of exactly what it meant to better guide my analysis. I found that Copyright is "the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work."
After defining copyright, my first question was, as designers, how do we obtain these exclusive rights? The good news is that when we create work, we automatically own the copyright to that work for our lifetime, plus an additional 50 years. No publishing, or registering of your work necessary. However, if you see someone using your work without crediting you, the only power you have without registering is to write him or her a "cease and desist" letter. The only way to legally file an infringement of copyright action is if the work in question has been registered.
Registering a copyright on your work is easy and very inexpensive, averaging around $35 - $45. At this point in our careers, many of us probably don't feel too at risk for copyright infringement, but it is a good thing to keep in mind and consider. Have you designed a great logo and displayed it on facebook? Come up with a brilliant packaging design that has made its way to thedieline.com? Might not be a bad idea to register the copyright and protect your work.
Visit http://www.copyright.gov for more information or to register your work.