Home / Info / FAQs

Copyright and Moral Rights


Much has been written about the right and might of copyright.
Here are some guidelines you need to know and understand, to enable
you to protect and maximise the potential of your work. Ignore them
at your peril! The history of cartoons and comics is full of stories about
creators who signed away all their rights for a pittance, little realising
the value of their creations.

What is it?

1. Copyright is the property right that authors, in our case meaning
“cartoonists”, have in the work they have created. It entitles them to
benefit from their work and also protects them against unauthorised
use of their work.
2. Copyright is also a separate property from the ownership of the
actual original artwork. For instance, it is quite possible, and often
common, for one person to own a drawing or cartoon whilst someone
else owns the copyright.
3. Unless you sign away your rights, you automatically have
copyright of everything you produce, and no one can use or copy
your work without your permission.
4. If you hold the copyright and someone wants to publish your
work, they must pay you and you must be clear what they are paying
you for. Whether it is to print it once, or a number of times, the fees
you are paid should reflect this.
5. Copyright is a valuable asset and as long as you continue to hold
on to the rights in your work you will be able to make money from it
for the rest of your life. Your heirs will also benefit from it for a
further 70 years after your death.

How do I ‘copyright’ my cartoons?

Your work is automatically your copyright the moment you create it
and sign it. You can also show this by stamping or writing the following
words in small, under each drawing you produce:
© Copyright 2007 Your Name
The © is the copyright symbol, the year, should be the year in which
you did the drawing, followed by your name. Take a look at the cartoon
strips in newspapers and magazines and you will see a copyright line,
usually very small, inserted somewhere in the strip.

How do I hold on to my rights?

It is important to remember that as long as you have not signed
anything, your cartoons are your copyright. Some publishers,
particularly media companies, will often ask freelancers to
’assign’ (give up) all their rights. They will cite some convincing
reason, but try to resist them, as their aim is to acquire all the rights
to future sales of your work in traditional as well as electronic media,
thus preventing you from benefiting when they sell your cartoons to
other markets.
It is not easy, but instead of assigning your rights, try to licence
a publisher to use your material in a specific market or area of
the media for agreed fees or percentages.
An example might be to accept a fee for first use in a newspaper
or magazine, and then to grant licences for syndication (usually
50% of the gross receipts) and/or for use in electronic media.
If you have a good agent, he/she will be handling all this for you,
but you still need to understand the importance of holding on
to your copyright where ever possible. Future income will most
certainly be lost if you relinquish it for the sake of short term gain.

---------SERVICE MESSAGE #1--------------
For organisations and law firm specialising in
copyright/moral rights check out the Cartoon World
on-line contact Directory listings at
or e-mail [email protected] for a list.
---------END SERVICE MESSAGE-----------

What are Moral Rights?

These are the rights of an author, illustrator or cartoonist to be
acknowledged with a credit or by-line and not have their work
treated in a derogatory way. That means not having your material
altered in a way that affects your integrity or reputation, such as
editing or changing what you originally submitted.
Moral rights, under British law, do not apply to newspapers and
magazines, but do apply to books, electronic media and broadcasting.
Some publishers planning to use your work in these areas may also
try to persuade you to waive your moral rights as well. But resist this
as much as possible!


Unlike copyright, which automatically belongs to you unless you
actually sign it away, moral rights only exist if you assert them in
writing. So this is another thing to remember to do when you accept
and agree a commission and/or contract. Moral rights have no financial
benefits attached to them, but they safeguard the integrity of you the
creator, and the way your work is treated.
Bill Asprey
Cartoon World
-----------SERVICE MESSAGE #2--------------------
For full details e-mail to [email protected]


No comments (Add your own)

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.