Better question: What is the highest, best use of your time and money?
(4 minute read)
Nothing will totally protect your artwork from being copied, not even unlimited time nor deep pockets of money.
In last week’s article about our fear of being copied, I shared how the most commonly used practices to protect our online art images (watermarks, disabling ‘right click’ on our website, etc.) do very little to actually protect us, and end up simply annoying our true collectors and potential buyers.
In the original article that sparked this discussion, I shared how someone may have found my art tagline attractive, and adapted it for their own use. (Again…MAYBE.) After sharing my emotional journey from dismay to acceptance, and moving forward, a reader suggested I ‘trademark’ my slogan.
First, thank you for thinking of me! I know this came from a place of wanting to help fix this problem.
I have no intention of doing that, for many reasons. But I did become curious about what would be involved.
I looked up what a trademark protects, what resources it gives us, and how much it costs. (Disclosure: Lori Woodward would have dived deeply into this, which is why I miss her highly-informative posts on topics like this. I did a cannonball in the shallow end of the pool instead, so feel free to go further with your own exploration, if you need to.)
Trademarks are indeed a way to protect our ‘slogan’. (Copyright protections do not apply to slogans and short phrases.)
However, they don’t automatically stop people from using our own words. They simply give us the means to increase our power if we decide to pursue our trademark rights.
That means, filing a lawsuit. Which costs time, and money. A lot of money.
· First, it costs from $225-$400 simply to file a trademark.
· It only lasts 10 years.
· There are extra fees for extensions, amendments, and maintenance.
· And it can take 6 months to a year to be approved.
· It’s highly recommended to hire a lawyer to do the filing, to make sure everything is done correctly.
· And lawyer fees typically run $125-$300/hour, and usually get to $500-$2000 per action.
That’s a lot of money to protect six words.
Second, trademark action is only supported if the copied usage creates confusion. Hence, we have Delta Airlines and Delta faucets, because very few people would be confused by the two companies. (I was going to say something funny here, but I decided not to.) (Actually, I couldn’t think of anything funny, but if you can, be sure to share it in the comments!)
I don’t think I’ll be filing a trademark application anytime soon.
So back to my original point: This person’s bio echoed my tagline. But their work did not. In fact, their body of work doesn’t even echo their tagline. (What I could find of it, anyway.)
And I don’t think anyone looking at their work, and my work, would ever confuse the two.
Furthermore, I never would have even seen the wordy resemblance, if a friend/artist back in New Hampshire hadn’t pointed it out to me.
So for a minimum of $725 up to $2,400 for protection, for ten years’ protection, is it worth it?
And again, that protection only makes my legal action more solid. I would still have to file a lawsuit, pay lawyer fees, take a lot of time off work, and a pile of energy I don’t have right now, to make that legal action stick. (Yes, sometimes a cease-and-desist letter will have the same effect, but that costs lawyer fees, too.)
Even if I won my case, and won damages, whoops, here comes another copy-cat! Let’s do it all over again! Oy.
We artists are not multi-million dollar franchises with corporate lawyers to manage this for us. Most of us are sole proprietors (or “soul” proprietors) squeaking through, hope to earn a nice income from our work. Or at least enough to break even every year. A very few may be lucky to have a spouse handling the business end of our art making, but I’m guessing even fewer have copyright/trademark lawyers for partners.
So I repeat:
How do you want to make the best use of your time and energy?
Dealing with those people who consciously or unconsciously tread on our toes? Defending our art like an angry, indignant meerkat, sending cease-and-desist letters, scouring the web for instances of people copying our work, our words, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on “protection” we probably can’t afford, that won’t work anyway?
Or could we choose to count our blessings? Give thanks for our ability to create the work that makes us whole, that brings us joy?
Could we choose to be grateful for the ease of sharing it with the world freely (literally!), daily, in ways that lift the hearts of others?
Could we rejoice in the fact that we can choose every single day what we make, where we make it, how we make it, and know that, if we’re doing it right, our audience will instantly know, “That’s a Luann Udell!”?
I know what I will choose, every single day.
What will YOU choose, today?
Next week, another article on true forgeries, and what made me smack my head in disbelief. (If you haven’t already watched “Made You Look” on Netflix, you still have time!)
Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them through my blog.