It's not unusual for artists to be concerned about protecting their copyright, but what I can't seem to reconcile is when artists aren't taking precautionary steps to claim copyright in the first place.
I'm not talking about officially registering for copyright. Whether or not you choose to do this is up to you.
I'm talking about giving yourself credit whenever and wherever you show your art.
You may be thinking, Of course I do this. I would never show my art without credit.
Here’s a little challenge: If you think you have all of your bases covered, I invite you to use the checklist below to do a quick review.
Tell Us Who the Heck You Are
If I came across this once, I’d only be amused. But I run into it several times a month.
I visit a website, social media page, or open an email where the artist’s full name is nowhere to be found! I can’t make this up.
I can see how this happens. After all, you know who you are. Your brain is filling in the blanks because you’re too close to see what isn’t there. But you aren't properly crediting your art if your name isn't visible.
If you want to be known in the history books, pick a single format for your name and use it consistently. For example:
First Name + Last Name
First Name + Middle Initial + Last Name
First Name + Maiden Name
First Name + Maiden Name + Last Name
Crediting Your Art is Your Responsibility
Next, make sure your name appears in the following places.
- At the top of every page on your website or blog. This has become easier with the advent of template sites like WordPress, FASO, SquareSpace, and Wix, but you still have to remember to include it in the first place.
- At the top of your email newsletter.
- In the “from” line in your email. Please use email with your professional name in it.
- In the signature that closes out a personal email to anyone but your nearest and dearest.
- On any storefront you use online. Even if you use a business name, your name should have a prominent place.
Then there are the situations that require more than your name.
Enter the Art Credit Line
Wouldn’t you be pissed off if someone showed your art and didn’t give you credit? Here’s the thing: Before someone else can give you credit, you have to claim the credit for yourself, and many artists are not doing this.
A credit line is what you include alongside your art whenever and wherever it is shown. Yes, even on social media.
The credit line includes your name, title of the piece, medium/technique, dimensions (if online or in print), and credit to your photographer.
When the image is online or in print, add your copyright notification. (Using the © symbol isn’t accepted in gallery and museum labels.)
Twenty years ago, I never would have encouraged the use of the © symbol, but the Internet has changed the dynamics. Hopefully would-be image stealers will think twice when they see that a piece is copyrighted.
Crediting your art is easier when you develop a standard format for your credit lines.
How to Make a Copyright Symbol
Here are easy instructions for adding the © symbol, rather than using the clunky (c) with your credit line.
Making a Copyright Symbol on a Mac
Hold down the OPTION key and type the letter g. ©
Making a Copyright Symbol on a PC
Type Ctrl+Alt+c on a PC. ©
Listing Dimensions of Your Art Properly
The proper way for listing dimensions when crediting your art is Height x Width x Depth.
Notice the credit lines that appear with the images in this post are standardized in this format:
©Artist’s Name, Title of Work in Italics. Medium/technique, dimensions (H x W x D).
If you post the year of creation, it would appear immediately after the © notice. In my example:
©Year, Artist’s Name, Title of Work in Italics. Medium/technique, dimensions (H x W x D).
See that your credit line is visible alongside the art in these places:
- On your website or blog. Notice that if you have windows that show a larger version of an image, your name might disappear behind it. Then you have people admiring your art without seeing your name attached to it. This is the most overlooked opportunity to claim credit.
- In your social media posts that contain finished artwork. Work in progress is separate, but finished work should have the full credit line.
- In printed promotional pieces: postcards, catalogs, flyers, brochures, calendars, note cards, and the like.
- At your exhibition. You do not need dimensions on a label in a live show because people can see the size for themselves. It would, however, be included in a checklist of the exhibition. (See note about © info on labels above.)
I encourage you to take five minutes to review all of your sites and promotional pieces to see that you have included your name and credit line. But only if you want the credit.
This post was originally published March 9, 2017. It has been updated with original comments intact.