Living (Happily) With Copyright

Last night I noticed a recent post getting a lot of looks. They all came from the same source, so I went over to see what the link was. It wasn’t a link, someone had taken the entire article and printed it on their site. Yes, there was a link to this site, and yes, I was credited. But whether it’s print, Internet, Blogosphere, or any other outlet, you may not take and reprint articles without the authors permission. I have that rule on the homepage and have a copyright notice often on the site.

We live in a world of “sampling” and “free use,” but material on the Internet is not free just because you can cut and paste. Recently some students took information and pictures from Facebook and YouTube and printed the images in their yearbook. They didn’t think they had done anything wrong.

Most students who take sentences, paragraphs and entire articles and use them in their own work don’t think they are cheating or doing anything wrong. But they are, on both counts.

Not too long ago, I interviewed a copyright attorney about copyrights of authors and writers. The article was published in Somerset Studio magazine. I retain the copyright. Here’s that article again.

Please note: This is not meant as legal advice. Copyright law is constantly changing, and I did not update this article, nor do I have plans to do so. Please consult your own attorney if you have questions.

Living (Happily) with Copyright Regulations

Get on any art forum and use the word “copyright” and out comes a rush of confusion, arguments and myth-information. To make sure I got the facts straight, I talked to Katharine Colgan, JD, a Bucks County, Pennsylvania writer with expertise in writers contracts and copyright law. So let’s set the record straight with some questions and answers:
1. What is copyright anyway?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to those who create “original works of authorship,” including literature, drama, music, jewelry, postcards, greeting cards, cartoons, puzzles, rubber stamps, original dance moves, and other intellectual works. If you can touch it, see it, hear it, save it to a hard drive, print it on paper, or put it on a CD, you can copyright it. And that includes the HTML code you write it with.

2. Does my work have to be published to have copyright protection?
No. Copyright protection is available to both published and unpublished works. This applies to artwork, too. A statue in a public garden is protected under copyright; you can’t take a picture, make a postcard and sell it without permission.

3. My work is under copyright when I create it, so why register it?
Because the only way you can sue and collect for damages is to register your work. Luckily, it is neither difficult nor expensive to register your work.

4. How do I register my work?

You can download forms from the government here:
Benedict Mahoney has a website that is both informative and simple to follow. You can download forms from this page ( and detailed instructions here Note that when you choose a form, TX, VA and PA do not stand for states but are the form for text, graphic (visual) and plays or radio scripts, respectively. As of this writing, the fee is $30, but it can change, so check.

5. I work for a company that sells cards. They asked me to create cards and I did. Who holds the copyright, the company or me?

According to Section 101 of the Copyright Law the company who hired you to create cards (or other original work) owns the copyright. If you are an independent contractor (freelancer), the work you do for others is not “work for hire” unless it falls within a few narrow exceptions for “specially commissioned” works—or you sign a “work-for-hire” contract that makes your client the author and not you.

6. If I buy a pattern, or a rubber stamp, can I use it?
Yes, of course, you can use it to make items for yourself. A website that sells patterns will also have rules about how you can use them. Sometimes those rules prohibit you from giving away items you make from the pattern, and you can certainly not make a copy of the pattern and sell or give it away. You also cannot make items from the pattern to sell for profit unless you have specific permission from the person/company who holds the copyright. (Note that asking the designer for permission may not be asking the copyright holder—see question 5.)

7. Copyright doesn’t apply to the Web, does it?
Yes, it does. What appears on someone else’s website is their material. You may not download it without permission. “Public domain” is not the same as “internet.” If you download something to your website, and your website has a copyright mark on it, you do not own the material you downloaded.

8. If the author is anonymous, the work is in the public domain and I can use it without attribution.

Maybe. If the work was created before 1923 and published in the United States and has not been attributed to someone, then it may be in the public domain. But even if the work is anonymous, if it was published in the United States after 1923 it remains under copyright for 120 years. If you get your own copyright, you and your heirs keep the copyright until you die plus an additional 70 years.

9. If I change it 10 (or 20) percent, it’s new work.
That idea has all the marks of an urban legend, but it’s not true. Any change of an idea that isn’t yours that doesn’t make a completely new and different idea is called “derivative” and is against copyright regulations. Also false: the idea that changing the color, changing the frame on a rubber stamp, or changing the clasp on a piece of jewelry makes it a new piece.

10. I can get around copyright laws because of the ‘fair use’ doctrine.

There is a ‘fair use’ exception in copyright law, but here is what it says you must be doing: parody, news reporting, research and education. What you must not be doing is making money from someone else’s work or ruining its commercial value.


The whole copyright law:
Check out specifics in Circular 1 and a good overview in Circular 40. Both are available as PDFs.

“Three Reasons to Get Copyright,” previously published on this blog.

Specific definitions of words

Plain language of the high points

10 Myths About Copyright Law Explained

(c) 2007, Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. No reproduction, electronically or in any kind of print, without express written permission of the author.

Thinking. . .Processing

Rene Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender recognizes him and says, “So, Rene, do you want a martini?”
“I think not,” Descartes replies.
POOF! He disappears.

The web is a funny place. For the last month the most popular website on WordPress has been I Can Has Cheezburger, a site to which people submit pictures of their pets, complete with funny captions. The captions are written in pet language. Yep.

What amazes me is not that the site exists, or that thousands of people caption and send in pictures of their pets, which, according to the site’s rules, become the property of the site’s owners who can do anything they want with it (including advertising their site or making money without royalties to the owner.)

Nope, what amazes me is that the rules for the pet language , which are not easily found on the site, are being followed by everyone who submits a picture. I am amazed. I haven’t seen so much strict rule following since I arrived at the airport in Berlin. You can’t get people to move out of their lane when a blaring fire engine is behind them and Cheezburger has ’em lined up speaking ‘kitteh’ and ‘lolcat’ fluently. Amazing.

thinking blogger goldChris Brown, over at Branding & Marketing has awarded me a Thinking Blogger Award. That’s it, over this paragraph. (And it explains the joke at the beginning of this post.) I found out by accident because I am a compulsive blog stats checker, and saw people traveling from her site to mine. She reads my blog from time to time, and gave me the award.

It’s nice to get to know Chris in this “tag-you’re it” game, not because I love being honored, but because the rules of the game say you have to honor five other people similarly. Now, while I run from chain letters, hyper-circulated jokes and twee pictures, I find this challenge interesting. Because I’m passing on five sites that have good content. I can’t resist. There are 100 million websites in the world, and five good ones are hard to find.

Paul Lagasse’s blog at AV Writes is the thinking person’s writer. He writes in a clear and engaging style and is an amazing life hack.

Indexed by Jessica Hagy proves that you can make Venn diagrams interesting and funny. I would have taken bets on that before I came across her blog.

Heather Blakey runs The Soul Food Cafe–a fascinating spot for writers, artists, and others who want to share their work and creative ideas. (Truth in writing disclosure: I’m a member.)

A community blog, wikiHow will help you do almost anything, from learning how to make a tropical breakfast to How to Deal with an Existential Crisis.

Doug Johnson runs DIYPlanner, a guide for life hacks. If you need organizational tips that are also fun and inventive, it’s your place to visit.

Here are the participation rules for the Thinking Blogger Award:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
2. Link to the original post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, certified creativity coach, and journal writing teacher. See her work at
(c) 2007 All rights reserved.

Show Artists, Speak Up!

Here is your chance–you are being asked for an opinion on a topic you’ve always wanted to speak up about. If you are a show artist, your opinion on what’s happening to the art show world is being counted.

The National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) has a survey on its website. You don’t have to be a member of the NAIA, just an artist who does art/craft shows. The survey is in the left navigation bar. It takes about 15 minutes and is worth taking.

craft showHere’s my take on the condition of art shows–it’s my opinion, based on 15 years of observation and doing shows, big and small.

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, the purpose of an art show was to let artists who did not have gallery representation sell their work to a local audience. Artists could show and sell their work, and the public had access to good, original art.

Over time, promoters took over shows, giving them organization, advertising, and recognition. To make the show profitable for promoters, they charged the artist for the space and the public an entry fee. In those days, the promoter spent the artist’s fee money for expenses and advertising, and took gate money as profit.

Skip forward to the 80s. Promoters noticed that art shows were profitable. It was a time of art appreciation and the cash to buy it. Artists could make a living in the show circuit. Promoters added loyalty rules and raised prices. Scouts from one promoter swept through other promoter’s show and took names of artists who “weren’t loyal.” No promoter ever guaranteed you a living, but you played by the rules or you didn’t play. Many artists were able to make a decent living. posterBut many artists admitted they didn’t know much about business, and were happy to turn the business end of being an artist over to a promoter. There were whole groups of artists who became known by the show promoter they were loyal to.

The crowds, however, didn’t want to see the same artists over and over again. Particularly if the artists didn’t add more and different work to their line. The public was eager to attend different shows to find new and different artists.

Promoters took that as a sign that the public wanted more shows. Shows who wanted the best artists dropped the loyalty rules.

There were many factors that signaled the collapse of the art show success. Promoters raised prices for booth fees. A $250 fee became a $600 fee over five years. Artists had to pay extra for electricity and corner spots, so a $600 booth could become a $800 booth if you wanted to light up your corner spot. Artists who did all of a promoters show were given an incentive–free corner spots, or a whole free show. Promoters began to ask for full payment six to eight months in advance. And not all promoters used all the booth fees for expenses and advertising. Instead, they looked to artists to develop mailing lists and bring their following to a new show.

Artists had their own ideas. In the face of rising costs, they began to cut corners. They hired friends, relatives or other cheap labor to do the time-consuming work while they created originals. In time, the cheap labor did more and more of the work. In fact, you could pay the cheap labor to be at one show, while the artist did another, creating more income on a weekend when there was more than one good show. It was easy to add a few pieces that looked a lot like your work, even thought it was made by cheaper labor overseas. Newly arrived immigrants joined the art show circuit and had their relatives in poor countries do the work. It seemed like a wonderful world where everyone made art and enjoyed it.

Except for the third leg of the art-show stool: The public. While artists were creative in cutting corners, and promoters decided not to enforce the buy/sell rules because they were increasingly difficult to apply, the public grew from art lovers to bargain lovers. We raised up among us a Wal-Mart Nation. Art lovers turned into art consumers, and the buying decision was based on price. Artists who had bargain prices were those who by now had stores, factories, or at least a lot of family employees. They could pay the higher booth fees.

To a promoter, a check that clears is better than one that does not. The original artists, who made every piece by hand, who hand-fabricated everything, were not honored as national treasures. We were laughed at for being slow, expensive and not consumer minded. The public reminded us at each show that “I can buy something that looks just like this for half the price at Wal-Mart.”

Original-work artists began to dwindle. As we couldn’t afford the shows, art evolution worked by natural selection. Why pay full price for a painting, when print was cheaper. In fact, you can print it on canvas, treat is as special, and call it a “Giclee”? Why buy a painting at all, when a photograph does as well? Why pay full price for a photograph when a print will be no different, but a lot cheaper? Who cares if that necklace clasp is handmade or purchased in bulk? Does it matter that that jacket is hand-sewn and stitched or if you purchased it pre-made from China and painted it?

Promoters, needing larger audiences to cover expenses, increased the size of shows. It was not unusual to have shows with 400, 500, even 700 artists. To the public, this looked like the best flea-market in town. If one artist wouldn’t lower a price, they simply went to the next row, where an enterprising art-representative had a piece of “family made art” to sell, and much cheaper.

Large shows meant longer stays, so families began to bring the kids and dogs. Food and entertainment was added to the art mix, turning artists into part of an entertainment package. Dogs peed on tent corners, children touched art work while holding french fries, fried dough or cotton candy. To an original artist, it meant a ruined piece of work. To a store-artist it meant a tax write-off.

What no one noticed was that art lovers left the shows. And the original artists followed them. Some opened galleries, some got part time jobs, some began to teach what they knew at art retreats.

Is it too late? Are original art shows a thing of the past? It depends on what artists want, what the public values, and what promoters are willing to do. We are now a consumer nation, a bargain-loving nation, and a nation who has become used to outsourcing. If your job is being done by someone in India, why shouldn’t your art be done by someone in China?

I believe the art show is now a flea market show. I’m still an original artist, and I will continue to make each piece of my art by hand. That means my work won’t be cheap and won’t be outsourced. Why am I so stubborn? Because the original purpose of my art is not to make money. It is to make meaning. I’d rather do other work (and I do) to allow each piece of art to have a voice and speak with a clear voice. So far, my work has always spoken to an audience. It is the only way I want to make art.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at
Images: Tents, Poster: (c) 2007, Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. No reproduction, electronically or in any kind of print, without express written permission of the author.

Journal Prompt Cards

Here they are—the journal prompt cards. Originally designed as part of the One Sentence Journaling course, they are now available to anyone who wants to try one-sentence journaling.

There are 3 sets of 10 different cards, plus one instruction card, arranged as a pack. They come in two ways—as a set with Rollabind rings, which means you have an instant journal to use; or as a loose pack of cards, if you already have Rollabind disks or notebooks.

The cards are all 4″ x 6″, both loose and with disks.

Note: These cards are now sold out. (c) 2007 Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved. No reproduction of any sort without prior written permission from Quinn.








*journal prompt cards

The Maps to Lemuria

Parts of this blog link to the imaginary world of Lemuria, Australia’s equivalent of Atlantis. It was once believed to exist, and there are old maps. Now, Lemuria is alive and vibrant with writers and artists who blog in verse, in images, in stories. Today’s artistic challenge was to create two collages about Lemuria in half an hour. The top one is a map of the world showing Lemuria. The words in the rose-colored block say


“Compassion in the Buddha heart burst open like a rose.” The strip of copy underneath says, “dignity, power, respect, loss, healing and solace.”




Is it still available?

For about a week, now, I’ve had my jewelry-making stash for sale. A small kiln, beads of every size and shape, sterling rings for making chain mail, books. I have pictures on my website and links at the site I’ve posted the items.

Two kinds of replies are flooding my email: from people who, it turns out, have no interest in the sales items but feel a need to tell me what they don’t like about my website, my blog topics, or coaching. They scold or advise on topics I have not expressed a need to be advised on. Are they interested in the beads? No. Just want to express an unasked for opinion.

sterling jump ringsFar more confusing are what I have come to call the interested vanishers. The interested vanishers all ask the same question: “Is the [item name] still available?”
“Yes,” I write back, “it is.”
And then. . . they vanish.

A few promise to write me right back, ask for my phone number so they can make payment arrangements, or tell me to “put it on hold” till the next day, and then. . .poof, they disappear, too. But the ones that puzzle me the most is who just ask, and then disappear.

It’s not a money question. The price of each item is plainly stated. So what happens to them? Why ask if it’s still available if you don’t want it? Is this the bead version of “I’ll call you”? Once it’s available, does it make it too easy? Or too available? It’s a mystery.

Maybe they interested vanishers are the ‘be backs’ of the Web. Any artist who has ever sold at a show will remember the “be backs.” They are people who look at your art, ask questions, then need a graceful way to get out of your booth without buying. So they say, “I’ll be back.” You never see them again.

The odd thing is, the interested vanishers don’t need an excuse. They can look and leave. Perhaps they are waiting for me to give them away. That’s not the next step. Ebay works well for beads, and I’ll actually get more for them because I will sell them in smaller lots. But meanwhile, I’m selling the beads to those who act.

Journaling Courses: Perfectionist, Wabi-Sabi

The course is just about two weeks away and there will be no walk-in registration. (Because I have to confirm number of people 1 week in advance).

Both courses are being held in Alexandria, VA, in a hotel function room in the Landmark area.

3journals Time to sign up now for Journaling for Perfectionist (no pressure to change, just a chance to explore where perfectionism is taking you) and Wabi-Sabi–a Japanese esthetic that can simplify your life.

You get a great chance to experience journal writing and creativity coaching.

JULY 8, 2007 (Sunday) 2 pm to 5 pm
Journaling For Perfectionists

Why do perfectionists start a hundred journals, but never fill a single one? Negative self-talk, guilt, and procrastination are three of the most popular reasons. If you want to keep a journal but haven’t been successful, you’ll enjoy this course. Get the benefits of creativity coaching while you start that journal you’ll finally fill up! $65. Details and registration at: or 703-307-2106

JULY 15, 2007 (Sunday) 2 pm to 5pm
Wabi-Sabi Journaling

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese esthetic that honors the old, the worn, and the incomplete. Move that concept from art into your life. Simplify your mental environment and your journal-writing. Release control and stress to discover a life filled with meaning. Combine the benefits of creativity coaching with journal writing. $65. Details and registration at or 703-307-2106

Perfume: The scrubber

There are more than 400 perfumes introduced every year. This year it seems that every nose is busy creating groups of releases–Armani, Chanel, Perfume Generale all released more than one new fragrance at the same time. What’s a niche perfume freak to do? Try them all, natch.

images11.jpegBut as much as I love perfume, many of them are not for me. Anything with musk turns me into a complete armpit, and jasmine magnifies on me until I’m covered in a metallic white, sort of like aluminum siding.

So, what to do when you try on a scrubber and it needs to come off . . .right away? I’ve tried alcohol, I’ve tried makeup remover, but until last week, I found myself unable to pry off some of the skankiest smells in the world. And I’m old enough to remember the fear of walking through Saks and being surprised by the shout of “Red! Red!” spitzzzzzz. I smelled Red for a week.

So, to remove a scrubber: first, keep trials of scents limited to your hands and wrists. It lets you sniff often, but when you’ve tried on a scrubber, it is easier to remove from hands and wrists.

Cover the area in a lip balm like Chapstick or Blistick Use a tube type. In fact, buy them on sale and save them for scrubber-removal duty. Apply over entire scented area.pb17c-tn.jpg

Now, pour about 1/4 cup clothes washing detergent (Tide, Gain, All, but not Woolite) on a sponge or a washcloth. Wet your hands, wrists, lower arms in comfortably warm water and use the washcloth or sponge to work up a lather on all the affected areas. Don’t scrub hard, just lather up leisurely. Once the lather is on your arms, leave it there while you rinse the washcloth.

Now wash off the soap, making sure you get it all off. Rinse till the water runs clear. Pat dry. Apply a hand cream over the entire area. You should be scrubber-free and as soon as the cream is absorbed, ready for the next scent trial.

–Quinn McDonald is a niche perfume addict and certified creativity coach. At the moment, she is flirting with various scents from CB I Hate Perfume. See her work at

The Longest Day of the Year

Today, June 21, the sun will strike the exact spot on Stonehenge and line up an arrow of light that has been constant since roughly 2100 BCE. For 4,000 years, mankind has been talented, observant and smart enough to know that the movement of the sun and moon makes a difference in our lives.stonehenge

The rest of us will check the Sunlit Earth widget on our computers, grin at the fat sine wave of shadow that shows the arctic circle has 24 hours of sun today, and the antarctic areas get none. Or maybe not notice.

My mother and father both died in June, my father 27 years ago, my mother more recently, four years ago. They figured they’d held the world together all winter and it was time to let go.

images-11.jpegIn the Western Hemisphere it is the beginning of summer, but there isn’t a crone who doesn’t know, secretly, that the sun now begins its journey back to winter. The hottest months are still to come, but the sun has hit the Tropic and will move back to winter. Although summer is the cheery, bright and happy season, it is always at the Summer Solstice that I realize, with a shock, that I have lived most of my life. That the time ahead is much less than the time I’ve lived. And I always wonder how much I can do to strike a few sparks that leave a mark.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at Images: Stonehenge courtesy; sun, (c) 2007 Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved.