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During the past few lectures, we have encountered with new terminology related to legal concepts that we need to be aware of as visual communication artists.

Intelectual property

Illustration by Jacob Stead


Copyright is a legal concept that protects your work and creations from being used by others without your consent. This applies for: original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, photography and illustrations being included to this. Any non-literary written work, such as software, web content or databases and sound and music recordings are also protected by the Copyright Law as well as films, TV recordings, broadcasts and layouts of published editions.

This symbol ©, with your name and the year of creation, raises awareness to any viewers of you claiming the copyright of the piece that they are seeing.

More into depth, copyright prevents other from copying your work, distributing copies, renting or lending copies, performing, showing or playing your work in public, making a change of your piece or putting it on internet. (1)

Fair use: Is a defence response against others infringing your copyright. Fair use laws allow other to use your or anyones' work without permission for educational, news, research purposes or criticism.

In order to determine if the use fall on fair use of the piece, the following factors are taken in consideration such as if the out coming product has a commercial or non-commercial purpose.(2)

In order to minimise the chances of failing the fair use of a piece you can use the minimum amount of copyrighted work for youth obtain your message. Highlight the source and the intentions that you have by using this piece (as an example for a lecture, as a critic...(3)

Public domain

Once the copyright is not longer in force a piece of work/art belongs to the public domain. This happen 70 years after the death of the person who the copyright belongs to and means that anyone can use it without permission and with any purpose, they can be use to obtain a economic profit at the expense of it. With images, paintings and written pieces is easy to determine when is legal to use it. With music, however, is a bit more complicated as Sibelius' Violin Concerto In D minor OP:47 Allegro Moderato belongs to the public domain but to that piece played by certain musicians. So, if you want to use this piece, you will need to find one that is free to use or play it yourself. (4)

Illustration by Davide Bonazzi


As the university of Oxford defines it on his website: "Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence." (5)

Oswald The Lucky Rabbit created by Walt Disney. Owned by Warner Bros.

Work for hire

The work produced by an employee during the time they are working for an employer and its copyright belongs, unless specify otherwise on the contract, to the employer. This means that you do not own the copyright of the work created and you have no power over your piece.(6)

Moral rights

The moral rights protects your piece in the way that economic rights does not. Among your moral rights you find the right to be credited as the creator of the piece, whether you have the copyright of the piece or not. You also preserve the right of protect the integrity of the piece as any alterations on it made by someone else but credited to you may be perjudicial for you as an author.(7)

Illustration by Hellman




(4) Deazley, R. Melettie, B(?) Public Domain [Online] Available from: <> [01 Oct 2021]




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