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PI 2/3

Intellectual property and the creative sector 2/3. Copyright infringement Case Studies

06 / 13 / 2018

In order to correctly protect your creations, you need to know what your rights are and identify when they are being violated. Likewise, it is important to understand that sometimes you might be committing an infringement yourself without being fully aware of it.

Scenario 1: You are a designer, an idea man or a blogger and you post your designs on Instagram or Facebook.

One day you realize that a design that is suspiciously similar to yours has been signed by someone else or has been used by a brand without even letting you know.  

Sometimes, you might even find your face on a T-shirt.

In this case, a fashion blogger posted her stylings and a renowned fashion brand reproduced several similar images on T-shirts without asking for permission. Once the plagiarism is detected, the brands end up removing the T-shirts and compensating the affected party, but even so, the first thing to do is to contact the author and agree on the terms.

Unfortunately there is not much to be done to avoid these situations. When someone misuses one of your designs, what you need to do is get in touch with them and explain the problem. But this takes a lot of police work. For this reason, the authors have the option of becoming members of copyright management societies, such as DACS in the United Kingdom, BILDKUNST in Germany or VEGAP in Spain. They are in charge of defending the rights of the members, of locating illegal uses of their works and of collecting royalties, which are then distributed to the authors concerned.

Scenario 2: You are preparing a design and you need an image for the background or to illustrate a concept. You search the internet, download any image and you are done. But can you do it? 

Not really. First you must make sure that the image is not protected by copyright.

In this case it is essential to know how far you can go in your creative process. It is well known that in the world of art, music and design there is a very fine line between inspiration and plagiarism (and if not, ask Lana del Rey!). In some cases, plagiarism is difficult to determine and very subjective. That is, in some cases it all depends on the decision of a judge (in the case of academic papers, there are software programs that detect the paragraphs that have already been published in other doctoral theses or published articles, but they are not always entirely reliable). To make matters more complicated, in the age of the Internet and the free flow of information, there may be a widespread belief that everything on the Internet can be freely used. Nothing could be further from the truth. As designers and creators you should know when you can use an image for free, without any legal consequences, and when you cannot. There are image banks free of rights, images in the public domain that can be used or under Creative Commons licenses. In a later post we will discuss this matter in depth and we will give you some tips on locating images that can be used for free and explain what Creative Commons licenses are. Stay tuned!

Scenario 3: You have a brilliant idea and you tell your best friend all about it. After some time, your friend develops that idea, registers a patent for it, it becomes a success and he is famous and rich. When you ask for some kind of participation in that project, he tells you that the project is his. You end up with no friend and no profit.

This is something we should always avoid. It is true that the fact that you have created a work is enough for you to be considered its author and, on paper, it is not necessary to register it with the intellectual property office, although it is advisable to do so in order to make any subsequent claim easier for you. However, having said that, it is very important to point out that ideas cannot be registered. You can register something that is tangible, so be careful not to share your ideas around because someone might develop them before you do and you will not be able to do anything about it, even if you had the idea in the first place.

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