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Public Domain Art Question

Chris asks…

Is using a photo or another work as inspiration an infringment of copyright or artistic license?

All artists need inspiration from one source or another. The internet provides a wonderful resource, but at what stage does using art on the net as a source of such inspiration become potential copyright infringement. Also, how can one avoid ones’ art becoming a subject of such infringement once it is in the public domain (ie on the net)?

scottparat answers:

Generally using someone else’s idea is not a copyright violation. Even if your images is very similar it’s probably not a copyright. However, put a little of your own twist on it. If you take an image that is exactly like another, it could possibly be considered copying.

Putting your images on the internet, does not make them public domain under most circumstances. You still have copyright, however, as you know, people infringe on copyright frequently. Preventing infringement is nearly impossible, but here are some things that can work you your favor:

Use photo sharing sites that have photo copying controls such as smug mug.

Place watermarks on your photos.

State that your images are copyright and you will take any copyright infringements seriously.

Post only low resolution images which limits what people can do with them.

Register your images with the copyright office, so you can sue someone for copyright violation.

Nancy asks…

What happens to a product with a provisional patent after it expires?

I have a provisional patent that will expire mid May. If I am not able to file an official patent application by then what will happen to the device I invented? I understand I will lose the right to patent it myself but what about others? Is it in the public domain whereby no one else can patent it either? I have been very dilligently persuing a market for it.

scottparat answers:

If the provisional patent expires before it is converted, it will become prior art for any subsequent filings, meaning that no one else will be able to successfully patent something made obvious by the provisional.

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