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BellaOnline's Digital Art and Design Editor

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Copyright Overlay Your Artwork


Many people donít think about copyright issues on the Internet and just enjoy the Internet as a wealth of information and entertainment. However, copyright infringement is an issue for people like digital artists and other creatives. Whether itís art, the written word or some other form of creative expression, itís safe to assume that eventually someone will download a copy of your work and post it somewhere else, possibly even sell your work without your permission.

Most of the time, weíre not aware of this and only find out after the copyright infringement has occurred. For example, I accidentally encountered a Facebook page that had my copyrighted illustration of me and Fred the frog. This image is on my professional website, my Facebook page, as well as the bio page for both of my sections here at BellaOnline. The person had uploaded my image as their Facebook profile picture.

I emailed the person and explained that the image was copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Believe it or not, this person removed only the head and hat from the original image, kept the computer and frog part of the image and AGAIN upload it as his/her Facebook profile picture. Again, I emailed the person and requested that he/she remove the entire image and not just part of the image. It wasnít until I AGAIN wrote to the person and threatened to report the copyright infringement that he/she finally removed my image and replaced it with another - thankfully not one of mine.

They say that once you put something on the Internet, itís there forever. Well, itís safe to assume that once you put your creative work on the web, someoneís going to mistakingly believe that it is free. Of course, this problem is getting better as more become informed about the problem, but for now it still is a problem.

So what can you do to protect your work? One way is to put a copyright notice in small print at the bottom corner of the image, as I did for my bio image. However as I sadly found out, this polite reminder that the image is not free and is copyrighted doesnít prevent them from using it anyway.

If you find you need to be a little more obvious, you can use a copyright overlay for your digital images. The most common example is a semi-transparent overlay of the copyright symbol, which is the C inside a circle. Once you have your work completed and ready to post on your website, follow these steps to add the overlay. The instructions are for Photoshop.

  1. At the top of the Layers panel, add a new empty layer.

  2. Set the Foreground color to white - #FFFFFF.

  3. Select the Custom Shape tool.

  4. From the Shape drop-down menu in the Options Bar, select the copyright symbol.

    If you donít see the copyright symbol in the list, click the little icon at the upper right of the menu list to open the text menu. Select All from the list to add the rest of the preinstalled custom shapes to the menu.

  5. On the empty layer, click and drag to draw the copyright symbol above your image.

  6. On that same layer, set the Opacity slider to about 50 - 30% to make the symbol semi-transparent.

  7. Save your image for the web.


Note: If you are using a graphics software that doesn't have the copyright symbol as a custom shape, you can still create this effect with the Type tool and the letter C. Then draw a circle around the C with the ellipse tool.

Join us in the Animation forum. | Join us in the Digital Art forum.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Diane Cipollo. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Diane Cipollo. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Diane Cipollo for details.

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