Copyright and the Artist

Having produced arts events and participated in art shows over the years, I still occasionally run across an artisan who is unsure of the laws pertaining to “copyright” and “derivatives” with it comes to creating art. Without going into great depth about the legalities of what is and is not acceptable in the “world of art,” it is best to first understand the meaning of “copyright” and who it protects.

Copyright protection is available to original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form, whether published or unpublished. The categories of works that can be protected by copyright laws include paintings, literary works, live performances, photographs, movies, and software. - See more at:

For instance, I have often seen painters/crafters who love to produce collegiate products using the official collegiate logo and colors, then sell their items to the public. Tsk, tsk, tsk! That logo is protected by copyright law and not allowed to be reproduced in any shape or form. It is a Registered Trademark meaning, “NO WAY JOSE, NADA, NO, ZIP, ZILCH!”  However, it is still possible to get permission from a collegiate licensing company to sell collegiate products, provided one completes an application, pays a fee and is approved to do so. See:

An artist friend told me she was told by another artist, if she painted the logo a different color it would be OK. Sorry, wrong again………that is called a “derivative”! Yikes!  A derivative is art that is based on the work of another artist or school of art, or uses all or part of another artist’s work in it, is known as derivative art, plus it is still a violation of copyright.

I came across a crafter a while back on eBay who was making and selling these adorable decorative magnets for the fridge using the trademarked company logo designs of the very well known artist, MARY ENGELBREIT (If you do not know who she is, be sure to go read more at; I thought how pretty her magnets looked and wondered how she was able to sell someone else’s design on her work. Well, when in doubt………….just ask! So, I did, I spoke with the COO (Chief Operating Officer) President, John Mavrakis about using the Mary Engelbreit logo and here is what he said;

“Here are the “rules” as it relates to selling unauthorized and unlicensed products using our artwork:

  • You CANNOT reproduce any of the images used on the magnets/cards.  Your ability to make and sell these items is only legitimate if you purchase the products from which you get artwork and use that artwork from the final product.  You cannot make photocopies of any of the images and use them for the magnets.
  • You CANNOT use the words “MARY ENGELBREIT” in the name of the product.  You can, however, say the magnets are made using artwork created by Mary Engelbreit; but not “Mary Engelbreit Magnets.”
  • You MUST include our copyright information on each magnet created to identify us as the owner of the copyright.”

Mr. Mavrakis was so nice to take time time to educate me on the use of a copyright image, granted this rule was only applicable to the Mary Engelbreit Company. My suggestion to anyone unsure about copying or using the the work of another, is to make sure you have permission from the artist and the legal right to do so. Better safe than sorry!

It is OK to be inspired by the work of another, but DON’T COPY! Now, GO GET CREATIVE!

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