Copyright Article

I’m currently working on a piece of research & writing to address a growing trend in the design and illustration industry – unofficially created posters, prints and apparel based on existing popular intellectual property.


One of the things that has come out of my research so far is that some people aren’t fully aware of this issue, or are assuming it refers to artists copying the work of other artists. So in an attempt to make it a little clearer, I’ll give an example:

David Pencils just graduated design college and is thrust into the world of freelancing. His favourite design blogs often showcase cool looking movie and gig posters which seem to be popular, so he decides to create similar work for his blog and puts together a series of posters based on his favourite films. These generate a lot of interest so he gets a short run of prints made and sells them online. Since he is creating the work himself and in his own style, he assumes this is absolutely fine.”

Now this kind of scenario seems to be happening more and more, and is something that many designers and illustrators can get more than a little angry about. The issue in the above example is that Dave does not have the rights to create derivative works based on someone else’s property. He is infringing copyright and is most certainly open to being legally challenged by the rights owners.

This is frustrating for some designers who go out of their way to ensure they have permission to create licensed work, and feel that those who do not are acting unprofessionally and often getting away with it. On the other side of the coin, some designers believe this is fine.


So, the purposes of my research and article are as follows:

  • Canvass opinions of people involved in the industry (consumers as well as creators) to get a feel for how much is currently understood about copyright issues. Just what are the grey areas? What is the current consensus?
  • Examine the actual laws around copyright and provide an easier to understand breakdown of how they apply.
  • Provide some quotes from well known artists, designers, and industry types giving their take on how to tread professionally or an insight into their own experiences with licensing and copyright.

I plan to create a free resource which will be held on the UK POSTER ASSOCIATION website, as well as do a more in-depth write-up (along with the results of the survey) on this blog.


You can complete the short survey here: and if you would like to contribute a specific quote or experience then please drop me an email to gdpilling AT gmail DOT com.

This is an ongoing project which is fairly time consuming, so I am fitting it in around other work, but I hope to complete it this month.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to complete the survey or contribute to the project so far, as well as all the kind words of encouragement I’ve received; it is all very much appreciated!

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