ACID Advisory Council – Follow Up

For those of you that follow my blog & social media you will know that Dids Macdonald OBE & the CEO of ACID (Anti Copying in Design) recently invited me to join their official Advisory Council - you can read our earlier blog article here. Dids & her team have always been such a wonderful support throughout my career & they really stood by me every step of the way with my own publicised legal battle against one of the UK’s largest retailers. Without them I honestly don’t know how I would have got through it. In the past ACID has presented my case (& many other cases) to the government to stress how much of a battlefield it is for many designers & small creative companies.

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 I met with the wonderful panel in London for the first time in May & it was a real honour to be invited to such an interesting & powerful meeting. I truly hope I can play a part in making a change for the better within our creative world.

 There are many areas that ACID & the panel want to focus on but I personally want to challenge the education system as I feel that’s something I have gained experience in. I believe that if we were educated in greater detail on copyright & intellectual property during our creative courses, more of our industry members would be able to make better & more informed decisions.

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I have creative friends who work as freelance designers, brand owners, teachers, writers & buyers & I’ve heard on too many occasions that they are asked to copy or replicate someone else’s work or style, which is just not acceptable. And yet it seems to be considered a normal request these days. However, this does seem to be more the case with ‘unregistered’ designs, as I don’t think a buyer, organisation or company would intentionally copy a ‘registered’ design now that it is illegal for the sake of a good sales based performance review as they could end up in jail… It’s such a shame that companies don’t see it as stealing when it is. No one would want someone stealing a possession from them, so why are designs not seen as a possession? Someone has poured their heart & soul in to coming up with a unique & original design or vision & it's taken up their time & energy. Most creatives depend on their original designs for their livelihood so why is it seen as OK to take them?

Designers are highly skilled people, many with multiple qualifications such as foundation courses, BA degree’s & MA’s under their belt. Most will usually take an extra business course as it takes a lot longer to break into the design industry, so why has it took the government so long to even consider the design community as movers, shakers & visionaries of our world?

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When I graduated from university we left with no practical business experience & copyright, intellectual property & how to protect your work was never even discussed. I know that this is changing within the current curriculum for many courses, however I do not feel that some educators & students understand copyright enough. Of course there will be exceptions but from teaching my own online courses, lack of knowledge in copyright has been flagged to me on many occasions and people reach out to ACID and Make it in Design as they feel they need further training or expertise. I’ve lost count the amount of emails we get about it.

By all means I’m not claiming to be an expert myself & have always sought professional advice from ACID or Kelly Hudson at McDaniel & Co. However, after experiencing a few intellectual property issues myself, & running a design studio & an education platform I do hope I can help in some way & speak on behalf of the community about the many concerns & challenges that a lot of start up’s & small businesses have to face on a daily basis. I know this is something ACID has already focused on in their future plans as they have always championed for education & awareness so I hope I can help to assist them.

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Prior to October 2014 there was no legislation in place for criminal sanctions to be placed on those that intentionally infringed registered designs.  It seemed that copyright issues within the design industry was not considered to be a priority for the UK government.

However, ACID has been campaigning for many years now & in 2014 Dids & her team changed the government legislation for the better. Companies can actually serve prison time now, so copying is something that the creative & retail industry needs to start taking more seriously. I can’t comprehend how the design industry was left at the back of the queue as legislation within the music & film industries was pushed to the forefront. It has always been clear that you can’t copy music or film, so why not design?

I always supported & understood the great work that ACID does & I would say that after a few first hand experiences of my own, I was thrown in at the deep end. However, I tried to take positives from the situations I found myself in & I feel that I’ve adapted a knowledge base & skill set that has now set me up for life. With all this being said I’m still learning every day & left the meeting feeling extremely well informed & everything just clicked into place for me. If I’m honest a lot of the technical & legal terns can still leave me feeling baffled at times. However, both Dids & Nick Kounoupias really explained ACID’s grand plan & any legality in plain English for me & I felt I could really understand their goals.

 The work they have done is outstanding & 2017 marks their 20th Anniversary & I know ACID really want to push for equalities with unregistered design rights too & work with the government to shape the future of our remarkable creativity industry for the better.

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Here are some facts & figures that I found to be extremely interesting (Design Council):

  • Design is the UK’s top export (BIS)
  • The design sector contributes more than 72bn a year to the UK economy
  • For every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect over £4 increase in net operating profit
  • Design spend in the UK is £33.5 billion

The facts & figures demonstrate how important the design industry is & I can’t understand why it has taken the UK government so long to get behind it. There’s still a long way to go & in general the creative industries are more often that not dismissed, particularly in young education today. I’ve heard too many people say “that you can’t get a real job with art”, which makes me so annoyed. If you take a moment to just sit & think about the world we live in today, almost everything that we use on a day-to-day basis has been designed by someone from the clothes you wear to the toaster you use, the car you drive, the desk you sit at, to the pen you write with & so on. Design is immensely powerful & I don’t understand how it’s not always been perceived that way.

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Jargon busters:

Below is an extract taken from ACID's Summary of Intellectual Property Rights jargon busting pdf. Click this link to download the full pdf: ACID SUMMARY OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

COPYRIGHT (2D Designs)

  1. Copyright will exist in 'artistic works', covering works such as paintings, drawings, fabrics, diagrams, and photographs. These are protected irrespective of the artistic quality. Surface decoration on 3D designs will also be covered by copyright. (Note however that you cannot enforce copyright in a design drawing to prevent someone from making an article to the design shown).

  2. The work must be ORIGINAL. This doesn’t mean that it is a concept that has never been done before; it means the author must use their own skill to create the work, so the design must not have been copied from an existing design.

  3. No formalities are required. The right is automatically created once the design is recorded in some permanent form.

  4. The ownership of copyright will rest with either the author or employer.

  5. Copyright lasts, in general, for the life of the author plus 70 years following the author's death. 

The information provided in this document does not provide a complete statement of the present law and you should always take specialist advice in respect of your particular circumstances. Call the ACID general enquiry line on 0845 644 3617 or if you are an ACID member call the legal help line on 0845 230 5742 for more detailed information on your particular circumstances.

I highly recommend the extremely affordable membership provided by ACID in particular their design databank service to support unregistered design rights.

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How can you protect yourself online:

  • Register your designs or use a service such as ACID’s design databank always do this before releasing designs online
  • Only use images that are low resolution & have been watermarked or have your logo/website url on
  • If you are sharing new designs online, only show a small selection to attract clients or buyers - you don’t have to show every design
  • Consider setting a up a private archive & make sure you thoroughly research any interested parties first (e.g. they have a legitimate website), & have them sign an agreement covering your ownership & copyright
  • Use ACID’s IP tracker when sending work to third parties

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 General tips for protecting your work:

  • Sign & date your original drawings
  • Keep all original drawings & designs as a back up
  • File your original drawings & designs together so you can easily get to them should an issue come up
  • Always research potential new clients & companies – ask other designers you know about their reputation if they have worked with them before & take some time to research them online
  • Only ever send low resolution, watermarked designs to new clients until you are 100% sure they are trustworthy
  • Always read the small print on every contract & don’t be afraid to ask questions
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