When an artist creates a drawing, painting, sculpture, animation or any of the myriad of other forms a visual communication may take, it is the tangible expression of an idea. Artwork is intellectual property in the same way that words are. Intellectual property is protected by a body of copyright law reserving to the creator certain rights and privileges designed to encourage further creativity by rewarding that creator financially as long as the creator makes his or her creation available to society. In this manner, through self interest, individuals and groups are encouraged to create new ideas, art, inventions and so on that, in turn, benefit society.
Medical illustrators are in the business of creation and in order to pursue their careers must be aware of the copyright laws governing the publication of their work and of their rights and responsibilities under these laws.
The publication AMI Copyright for Natural Science Illustrators is available to members in the Member Community.
The rights that the artist, as the creator, possesses upon creation of a piece of work and that are confirmed by the registration of the copyright with the Copyright Office, are stated by the law as follows: "The owner of a copyright has the exclusive rights to reproduce the work, sell and distribute the work, prepare derivative works, [and] perform the work publicly." The term of copyright is the life of the owner plus seventy years. The term of institutional copyright and copyright of works made for hire is ninety-five years from publication or one hundred years from creation, whichever is shorter.
Registering copyright is a fairly simple matter, and is clearly explained on the Copyright Office website. Go to the Copyright Office website, and click on Register A Copyright http://www.copyright.gov/eco/. The methods of filing are described there with links to the appropriate forms and information about deposits and current filing fees. The three ways to register your copyright are:
1. Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) filing is the cheapest method, and allows you to submit the form and deposit requirements electronically with options for electronic payment.
2. Fill-in Form (select Forms TX, VA, PA, SE, or SR). You will fill out the PDF form, then print hard copies to send by mail, with your check and deposit requirements. Form VA may be used for unpublished works, or for published works in a single publication. Group Registration Form GR/PPh/CON (published photographs) (up to 750 published photographs can be identified on form GR/PPh/CON with a single filing fee) may be found by clicking the Forms tab on the Homepage.
Before using Electronic Registration the first time, read the eCO Tips, eCO FAQ, and review the Powerpoint Tutorial on the Copyright Website.