Copyright Basics: How to Create Your Work and Keep It, Too

Is another business taking credit for your work? Our Legal Expert shows you how to prevent this from happening to you again.

Q: I’ve started a small home-based business making customized T-shirts, menus, mouse pads and other products. I take a picture and add designs or text to it. Recently, I did some menus for a business that just wanted a few. They asked me to put my business name and telephone number on them. I delivered the menus with everything they asked for. Then they took the menus to someone else and had copies made. The person who made the copies took my name off and put their own name on them, so it looks like they made the menus. Is there anything I can do to stop this? How can I keep this from happening again?

A: No one is allowed to steal your work and put his or her name on it. These things are protected under copyright laws. To get protection for your work, you have to meet three requirements:

1. The work has to be original, although it doesn’t have to be the only one of its kind.

2. There must be something tangible to the work-it can’t just be an idea. A mouse pad, T-shirt or menu is tangible.

3. The work must be in a protected category-art, sculpture, books, music, movies, videotapes, photos, software programs or other creative materials. Your graphic designs, photos and text would definitely qualify.

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Blender’s Eyewear Schools Budding Entreprenuers at AICA-SD

Ace of Shades Blake Jensen and his business partner Chase Fischer started Blender's Eyewear just over a year ago. Last week they visited a new class I started teaching this quarter on design entrepreneurship at the Art Institute of California-San Diego. They wanted to explain the options, challenges and advantages of starting your own business right out of college. Here is part one – note: the video was an afterthought so if you can excuse the shaky camera work on my part, I think you will find it worth watching. For more information on where to buy the sun glasses or to see their inspiring work, visit their web site: Blenders Eyewear

Aica students

Left to right: Chase Fischer, Francesca Zanuso (who helped set up the visit) and Blake Jensen





LbI couldn't resist getting into the picture, I think the shades look cool on me don't you?


I was asked to teach a new class on Design Entrepreneurship at the Art Institue, where I am a faculty member. So I will be posting lots of resources for you creative types that wish to eighty six your day jobs and start a creative service or product business that you LOVE!

Here is the premise for class: the students will team up in groups of three or four and they will create a product that both solves a need and they will enjoy producing to sell. I can’t wait to see what they come up with – they are always amazing me with their ideas so this should really be interesting. We have had a couple of successes from me stirring the pot in my classes. First there is Sweet Bricks, a confection company that started from a class project and more recently Blender’s Eyewear, cool shades for college students at great prices. I mentioned these projects to our new academic director and the next thing I know is I’m teaching a class on entrepreneurship (insert shrill scream:0).

I have been involved in R&D and product testing for my own recent endeavers. I have had a few product launches myself with varying success. I have been truly embracing the design thinking mantra of rapid prototyping and failing OFTEN, and I have learned a lot that I will be sharing here with you and for my students. But enough about me– let’s see what we can drum up from my research. I will try to post at least once a week and maybe more often, I thought I would start with posting this video of a talk given by Kate Bingaman of Portland at the Creative Mornings event. I would love to hear what you think, so don’t hesitate to comment.

Portland/CreativeMornings – Kate Bingaman Burt from CreativeMornings/Portland on Vimeo.

Keynote Presentations


Screen shot 2013-04-07 at 12.38.14 PM

Here is the lecture I presented to my class this week to kick off the class on Design Entrepreneurship. You can click to Download INTRO TO CLASS.



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