The Way Copyright Protects Creative Works in Broad Strokes

A note whistled from Posterboy becomes a convenient perch for his feathered lapwing companion.
On a Lighter Note (2022)
Masked and with his typical whistle, Posterboy brushes a wall with paste ready to hang up his printed posters.
Posterboy Brushwork (2022)

The Way Copyright Protects Creative Works in Broad Strokes

Intellectual property refers to a creation of the mind which can be protected by law. Copyright is one area of IP law, and has been legislated differently around the world. Though it is a multifaceted subject, a grasp of its core principles better enable people to safeguard and earn from creative works.

The Importance of Copyright

Wherever we encounter authorial works, there are legal protections to prevent any unauthorised use. These protections are made explicit by way of copyright law, which regulates permissible rights. For example, copyright holders can decide who can produce, reproduce, publish, create derivative works, distribute copies, display, perform, transfer ownership, and license the ‘original authorial works’ to designated parties. Licensing fees are economic rights from which financial reward can be derived. To use copyrighted works without approval is infringement, and subject to legal penalties.

How Copyright Comes Into Effect

For the relevant laws to come into effect, works must be in a ‘fixed’ manner, for which reason an idea alone can not be protected. Once an OAW has been created it immediately comes under the protection of copyright law. Additionally, moral rights ensure the author’s right to attribution. To verify the right to these legal protections, there is the option for works to be registered. Should future disputes occur, registration aims to demonstrate which party has the prior claim, a significant point were litigation to arise.

When Works Enter Into The Public Domain

Copyright is typically valid for the duration of the author’s lifetime, plus several more years. This duration can be further extended, thereby prolonging the exclusive rights of the holder. Once expired, OAWs enter into the public domain, where they can be used freely by anyone.

Work for Hire or Commission

The expression for an idea may come about when commercially tasked. If commissioned, the creator retains copyright until it is explicitly transferred. This is not so with a ‘work for hire’ contract, in which case it falls to the employer who uses the skills of others. Sadly, a commission contract can harbour rights grabs, a reality which can affect practitioners in any creative field.

Copyright Exceptions

There are instances in which use of copyright material does not require permissions, and thus need not seek approval from copyright holders. Fair Dealing (Fair Use in the U.S.) covers these contexts, which include education, scholarship, review, and reporting to name a few. Search engines are mostly exempt from liability for the time being.

The Grey Area of Remix Culture

Unlike originative works, much creative production relies on assembling pre-existing parts. The status of these remixes continues to be a point of legal debate. While derivative works clearly infringe upon standard copyright, many agree that due consideration ought to be given to avoid prohibiting amateur, non-commercial creative works.

Works Made Available to Reusers

There are cases when it is not desirable that the spread of creative works be inhibited by the need to seek permissions. In those instances there are tools provided which encourage the reuse of creative works. Under the Creative Commons licenses, the usage rights make works available to the public for limited use, which may also include adaptations. This is certainly a timely development, given the societal shift toward online participatory culture.

Outlining the Changing Role Played by Character Design

With crayons in hand, a young girl uses an upright easel and canvas to draw a large picture of herself.
Millie Crayon (2021)

Outlining the Changing Role Played by Character Design

At its core, character design is the authoring of invented characters. Due to this, anthropomorphism often features in these creations, and a review of the contemporary field uncovers several meaningful uses.

It is helpful to note the distinction between characters which are narrative, and those which are not. For instance, we come to know the former through exposition, as with sequential art and animated cartoons. Story-telling requires characters, and our knowledge of narrative characters is aided with biographic insights.

Enter the Mascot

Mascots generally avoid the exposition that comes with storytelling. Above all, they can represent any organised group, from a sports team to a student club. Many corporations use mascots as spokespeople for their consumer products. What is crucial is that a mascot is made to be recognised and understood at a single glance, without need for a shared language or enculturation. Since they emerged, it was evident to marketers what potential lay in mascots, which could appear in various media, and in spaces where advertising was not permitted.

Post Digital Characters

The affordances of the internet have proven to be fertile ground for pictorial characters. These web-native characters have much in common with mascots, eschewing narratives in favour of embodying ideas and values. Having emerged before the mobile web, these characters would later transition into becoming collectible vinyl toys. Today’s character designers increasingly explore techniques that place them in the physical world, thereby ensuring the stability that is inherently absent from the internet.

Character Design Within Personal Worlds

Further to how a character appears, illustrators may create the space they occupy, thereby staging where events might unfold. This correlates with what the screenwriter Bob Foss has termed the plane of events; the imagined setting where characters dwell. Illustrators have been known to craft personal worlds which are revisited whenever needed, and can be realised in different media. Character design and the expansion of a personal world can certainly have far-reaching implications for independent entrepreneurship and merchandising.

Emerging Web Trends

Further to characters being visible on websites, today’s social web and cellular MMS have given rise to memojis and messaging stickers. These can be potent marketing tools, and are driving interest in character design. In addition, 2021 saw the demand for PFP NFTs reach new highs, placing digital collectibles in the limelight, and bringing the value of character design into ever-clearer focus.

Illustrated Visual Communication for the Online World

A spectacled character with a back-turned cap holds up a giant computer pointer, arguably the most active icon in visual communication online.
Leftclick (2022)

Illustrated Visual Communication for the Online World

As a means of conveying messages and ideas, illustration has long been central to visual communication. At the turn of the c. 20th, the surge in American and European print-based publishing incubated what became commercial illustration. Today however, the primary medium in which illustrated works exist is not one of mechanical reproduction, but rather the various interfaces of the mediasphere.

When online, images exist as data, irrespective of how they were created. The desktop monitors that display images have, since 2008, been joined by the touchscreens of mobile devices. As a result we are continuously surrounded by web images. Without the inherent stability of print, artwork now dwells in a medium where scale and dimensions are subject to flux. In addition, the ever-wider adoption of broadband has made possible the use of motion in otherwise static illustrated images. As the internet has matured into web2, the place where many first encounter images is not at the url where they are published. Instead, the initial contact with images happens on search engine result pages, and the scrolling feeds of social networks.

Digital Symbols

In 2022 global internet usage stands at around two thirds of the world’s population. To navigate web2 presumes user familiarity with digital symbols. Many of these are provided freely by Google, and are considered a standard convention for desktop and mobile use. The global community recognises these recurring internet symbols and can infer what is meant when they appear in software interfaces. Given our growing fluency with digital symbols, it is clear why they appear in illustrated content, particularly digital product illustration which can be seen on user-facing apps and websites. By definition, illustration must communicate something particular, and these symbols are a way to speak in the language of today’s internet. Historically, changes in print reproduction have affected the commercial art field. Similarly, the evolving web is almost certain to influence the production of illustrated images, and how onlookers interact with visual works.

Hear and Now: Charting the Event Poster

With an oboe held diagonally across her body, a young girl in a long red dress is poised to play. Illustrated poster artwork for World Music Day.
Hear and Now. Event Poster (2021)

Hear and Now: Charting the Event Poster

The need to publicise cultural events has long given call for the event poster. Many of the most revered posters have been created for this reason. Commercial artists were tasked with making the onlooker aware of what shall soon be taking place. Bearing on the way posters looked was not only the knowhow of the hired artists, but also the societal milieu where their work would be seen. And though posters did not command the same prestige afforded to painterly art, when advertisers realised the potential of the poster, a reliable market for artists did emerge.

Still Recognisable

Since the dawn of the modern illustrated poster there have been countless depictions of young women. Among the early entrants are those in the works of Jules Cheret, who harnessed the opportunities brought forth by colour lithography. Similar contributions were made by Alphons Mucha, and Adolfo Hohenstein. In the early 20th century poster design became less ornate, affecting both image and typography. Many norms of contemporary posters can be traced back to works belonging to this period. Today there is broad agreement that images ought to be legible at a glance, with ample ‘air’ for all the visual elements to breath. This is exemplified by the Sachplakat of Lucian Bernhard. To the same end, typography that leaves no room for ambiguity is advantageous.

Advertisers recognised the value that event posters brought to publicising performances of theatre, cabaret, opera, film screenings, exhibitions, live music, and festivals. This, along with the promotion of purchasable goods and services, formed a lucrative market for many poster illustrators. Those most successful images were not made to be studied, but rather were eye-catching and persuasive. These visual works appeared on morris columns and alongside walkways in major cities worldwide. Posters later fell under the remit of advertising agencies, where they were considered a part of larger marketing campaigns. Graphic design and photographic realism would soon usurp the position held by the illustrated poster within the printed commercial sphere, a medium which would later be dwarfed by the internet. Any illustrated festival poster is now obliged to exist in print alongside visuals optimised for mobile screens.

The Affect Digital Drawing has Made on Contemporary Illustration

With a chisel-tip marker, a young girl pulls a line of red ink across the surface of an A4 drawing pad.
Workspace. Drawing Pad Cover (2022)

The Affect Digital Drawing has Made on Contemporary Illustration

Though traditional drawing techniques are far from obsolete, digital drawing has seen a marked rise in the last decade. Aside from spurring demand for software, this is contributing to the market growth of Digital Drawing Tablets. Standing at over 710 million USD in 2021, the global market value is predicted to rise at a compound annual rate of over 7.5% going into 2028. Global growth is also forecast for the traditional art supplies market. However, those who draw digitally do not share the same need for physical supplies. This shift in practical methods is widely accepted as part of contemporary illustration.

The Absent Matter of Digital Drawing

With physical media, visual textures often reveal how an image is made and reproduced. Notably this was foregrounded by the Ben Day paintings of Roy Lichtenstein. Working digitally, a draftsman can make images that are void of textures, or emulate the concrete traits that are otherwise absent. What is more, digital methods have replaced physical originals with files that can be edited ad infinitum. This is a marked advantage whenever commercial assignments are subject to review.

Digital drawing replicates mark-making by way of software algorithms. To paraphrase digital culture theorist, Lev Manovich, the simulation of a medium means to simulate its tools and interfaces. As more than one medium is present in user software, the affordances of digital workspaces expand what draftsmen can do. This industry-standard software is available to professional and amateur users alike. This has removed a major barrier to entry in a global labour pool that is being flattened by access to broadband.

In spite of this transition, what have remained consistent are the competences that predict a successful drawing, which can be applied to paper or digital. When depicting pictorial subjects, a draftsman’s technique bears upon the fundamentals of volume, composition, light, and colour, to mention a few. The means chosen to prepare images are, in essence, part of the cumulative know-how of a draftsman’s repertoire.

Editorial for Now Then MCR: Fresh Servings at Kim’s Kitchen

An array of herbs and vegetables are sent flying from the colander of a headless chef.
Fresh Servings. Editorial Artwork for Now Then Manchester (2021)

Editorial for Now Then MCR: Fresh Servings at Kim’s Kitchen

One of Manchester’s longstanding cafe restaurants, Kim’s Kitchen, is revived with a kitchen refurb and new menu. The following excerpt comes from an article written for Now Then Manchester.

To help realise its full potential the premises has been refurbished with a new kitchen, drinks counter, and at the time of writing is being redecorated. The refurbishment also includes a new sound system, laying the groundwork for future DJ sets and video streaming. The ethos of local cooperation informs which suppliers are chosen, and extends to fundraising initiatives for select charities. A phased relaunch began in early 2021, offering an updated menu for takeaway and local deliveries, and includes plant-based and gluten-free options.

The people involved in the plan have lived and worked in the building and local area and have a true recognition of what the space and surrounding area means to the community.”

Bevon Manville (Kim’s Kitchen Co-owner).

As Manchester looks toward the easing of COVID restrictions, Kim’s Kitchen is poised to offer a community-orientated revival in Hulme’s increasingly gentrified landscape and, by doing so, serve a reminder of what has been achieved so far in this part of the city.

Read the full article at Now Then Manchester