Cartoon Copyright Information
Dan Rosandich Cartoons Are Protected By Copyright Laws
It is a common misconception that digital images that do not show a copyright notice or the typical © symbol or even a protective watermark, are considered to be in the public domain and are free to copy or share on an open file sharing platform. This could be a very costly mistake for people who use my cartoons, such as in a corporate PowerPoint slide or on a site like Pinterest, if I am not notified. While I offer these cartoons for licensing, I also use a variety of tools to locate the unlicensed copies on the internet and elsewhere, and aggressively pursue thosewho have used my copyrighted material without a fee being negotiated. Under the Copyright Act, I automatically copyright my cartoon as soon as it’s created in a fixed form . . . that being any image which you see throughout my various cartoon catalogs I offer on this website. While it’s good practice to place a copyright notice on my work to alert others that it is protected, the law also doesn’t require me to display a copyright notice or take other protective measures to enjoy the copyright
protection the current Copyright Act and Digital Millennium Copyright Act offers. If someone copies and uses one of my cartoons. That person has immediately violated a copyright law and can be held liable. They’ve created a “retroactive license” for which they can be held liable in excess of several thousand dollars or more. It would be much safer and much more intelligent to make initial contact and provide information as to how you’d use a certain cartoon and negotiate a licensing fee. If you have used a cartoon of mine online without prior permission, immediately taking the cartoon down may not relieve you from liability for damages arising from past infringements. Certainly you may assume that your use of the cartoon was “fair use” since you did not intend to violate any copyrights. It could be that a commercially based web site has used a cartoon of mine without proper notification. Does it seem fair use if that commercially based site that derives earnings from banner advertising, subscription costs to it’s visitors and more, not reimburse a participant who has created something that was deemed as valuable to that site’s audience? Not really, so this is why it’s always best to negotiate an additional licensing fee to use that image. Same goes if it were a photo or painting or drawing that someone has created. You may be asking then, what if you cannot contact the owner of that image you’re interested in using? The best rule of thumb is “when in doubt”, save yourself any potential grief and continue your searching for an applicable image. If you have no budget, there are many “royalty-free” sites that you can go to and locate a potential image to reprint. Additional aspects to consider are that while your intent on reprinting the image or images may affect the amount of damages awarded in a copyright infringement action, it is not a requirement for a finding of infringement. Even though “fair use” of copyrighted images do exist, the analysis involved in the determining whether a use or usage would be deemed “fair”, can be complex and it’s very difficult to predict any outcome. In a situation such as this, the steep “retroactive license” fee might actually be the least expensive option in disposing of any copyright infringement claim. To establish any copyright infringement, the owner of the copyrighted material must only prove ownership of that work, and that it was used or copied without permission. If the copyright owner has registered the copyright of an image such as a cartoon, photograph, painting, clip art or other tangible visible graphic image, etc. before you copied the image, then they do not need to prove that your infringing use of the image(s) caused monetary damages. Instead, once the owner of the copyrighted material actually establishes infringement, the Copyright Act will entitle the holder to recover “statutory damges” that range from $350.00 to $30,000.00 that is at the discretion of the court for each separate instance. Additionally, damages can exceed amounts of $150,000.00 per copyright if the owner can prove that the infringement was willful, which people will sometimes interpret as including actions taken with knowledge or reckless disregard of the copyright owner’s rights, as opposed to an actual intent to infringe. The information presented here is not to demean your professional approach to publishing and using quality graphics, but rather to educate and inform on what has become a very important and sometimes sensitive topic in regards to the professional business world online and in regards to hard copy print. I hope that my cartoon below will help to “diffuse” any hostile impression you’ve interpreted initially! Ultimately the best and the least costly course of action is to ensure in the beginning that you or your employees either create or purchase directly from the copyright owner or licensed from the copyright owner, all images on your web pages or in print materials. Feel free to email me with additional copyright questions you may have, or if you wish to discuss any specific contracting of copyright purchasing in regards to any of my cartoons. Any written contracts for having custom cartoons created, to which you desire owning full copyright buy-outs to, can also be discussed. This includes the fact that specific email communications can also be considered as a form of contractual agreements.