Is it necessary for an artist to copyright his work?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it necessary for an artist to copyright his work?

I am an artist and vendor for a large retailer. My work, that I was wholesaling

to them, was recently copied and sold by another vendor for the same

retailer. Should I have copyrighted my artwork? Would it benefit me now to

do so?

Asked on September 1, 2016 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If the piece was not specifically commissioned by the retailer and/or you were not an employee, you automatically had copyright by the act of creating: every original graphic (or textual) work is copyrighted by dint of being created. Copyright it--that is, registering copyright--adds to the protection, but you have a base level of protection without it just by originating the work. So you could sue the copier for copyright infringement.
If the work was commissioned by the retailer and/or you were their employee (not an outside artist who sells some works to them), then the retailer owned the copyright as work for hire; it's up to the retailer what to do with the work (e.g. to let another copy it) and potential copyright violations.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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