Episode 352: Copyright With Ryan Waterbury

Show Summary

Rob Cairns talks to Ryan Waterbury about Copyright.

Show Highlights:

  1. What is copyright?
  2. How copyright matters.
  3. What to think about when using digital assets.
  4. How to manage copyright.
  5. Who is responsible for purchasing the correct licenses for digital assets?

Show Notes

 Hey everybody, Rob Cairns here in today’s podcast, I’m here with my monthly Cohost, Mr. Ryan Waterbury, how are you today, Ryan?

I’m doing fantastic. How are you?

Doing coming out of an asthma flare, but you know that’s typical for this time of year. The long weekend at the time of this record is coming and I see an air show. And the Canadian National exhibition in my future. So life, life is good there. You know, and how are you doing?

Coming off of pneumonia got my voice back, got my lungs back, so I’m able to do the podcast, which I’m happy about.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I I am sure you are as you smile. And I don’t hear any office staff today. Have they decided to disappear or do I even ask?

They’ve been well, they’ve been well exercised today, so.

Ah, for those who don’t know, office staff from Ryan’s case are a couple of. And I used the word my cause I think that kind of face is hunting dogs. Whatever you want to call them.

Ohh yeah, my sporting dogs high energy pains in my ****.

Yeah. So anyway, today I thought we dive into the world of copyright and from a couple different angles. First angle is assets. Second is what the client owns third of owes, what client should and shouldn’t do. And I think AI is kind of complicated. This I read an interesting article today ruling from US courts that. You can no longer copyright AI generated artwork. Isn’t that interesting? The courts are. Not having it.

I I did find that interesting, and that’s also unfortunate. And in a little bit. Of a a disagreement there because you’re. You, with your prompting our our guiding, the artificial intelligence. To produce something so gear and direct control of, you know, its initiations so that that was a disappointing ruling.

No, I I would agree with you if you created it. So it’s a, you know when you think about it, we’ve. Had AI in. Photo tools before it was called AI translation, Photoshop. They’re really AI type tools to do things. I did some work last week. Interestingly enough, where I took a photo. Of Leslie. And it was a retirement photo and it was done in an ugly green background. And I mean, not green, brown, sorry. And it was just ugly. And she said, can you do something? I love the picture of me. I don’t like the background. Can you do some? And I flipped it into an AI tool and said so change the background from green to like a sky blue, which in an AI tool is easy, right? You. Push one button. Specify the hex code of the color you specify. Another done, and so does that mean because of this? Well, I don’t own that photo anymore like.

That you know where where it ends, is it? We won’t know until somebody really challenges challenges these laws and rulings and really get specific on it and. You know, part of the unfortunate part is, you know, I don’t use AI when I write, you know, to write for me. I actually write, and I tend to write long sentences, so it will. I have it set up and and assist tool that. All of a sudden, if I’m writing a little. Bit too long it will highlight. And give me a suggestion to truncate the sentence and be more concise. Which? Well, is it not mine anymore or is it? And I think I think there’s going to be a ruling eventually coming down on when we come to writing in particular on a a threshold in the percentage threshold of AI versus human. Input to be recognized as an original, copyrightable, or or trademarkable piece of work.

Yeah. So, true. And then I’ll go one more further. Let’s go to a common tool, we’ll use Grammarly. That’s an AI based tool. So because he I’m really just spell check, do I not own my content like I I think that’s or even more so because they used to spell check in Microsoft Word do I not. Oh my God. That like you know, I’m being facetious here, but I’m being serious, right.

Ohh yeah.


Yeah, I mean. Google is linking in more AI with with docs right inside Google Docs.

Yeah, no question.

Yeah, I mean, I’ve used AI when I’ve been doing client writing and normally you know I’d use an SEO tool to help me create a a writing brief and you know, identify proper headlines. You know, topic headlines. And then I’d start writing and then I’d use the assist to to really get some of the the meat and the the specifics from the niche, from the AI. And then I would Polish it for boys. But you know. At what point you know that that’s where you say threshold. It’s how much of it did I put in versus how much of it did the AI put in and you know, I don’t. I yeah, I use linguistics versus grammar, Lee. And that’s the one that that assists my grammar. But yeah. I absolutely think you own that. That piece of work. You’re the author, you’re originating it. It’s not. It’s it’s nothing more than having an editor come in and do minor rewrites and mark up your first draft. This is, you know, just a smart way to. Add people to your. Team, you know, with AI, you know, in my opinion you’re adding. An editor. Someone else giving your work another look before you hit publish?

I agree with you 100% and along the subject to copyright before we get into you know, client dos and don’ts on how to protect the clients versus the designer owning the copyright. Let’s talk to images for a SEC, because that’s one of my favorite subjects. People like to go to images. I could go. Dot com and they do a search for an image and they assume because it’s on the Internet they can use. It until they find out they get a little cease and desist from a company called Getty Images and those who don’t know getting is probably the biggest news image company in the world. They also have a pile of patent troll lawyers.


And all they do is search websites to say, did you use your image without? Consent or paying for it. And if you haven’t, the bills can be astronomical. I have a client right now who’s facing a $5000 bill for using one image, and yet he’s basically told them you can pay the 5000 and we can take you to court and we’ll and we will take you to court. And we’ll get more than that. You need to tell clients to stop using images they don’t know. Very simple.

It exactly, you know, in a build when I. Talked with clients. I have accounts with deposit photos, Adobe stock which pulls from Getty so I don’t like to go there often, but I let them know that. If they want stock images, here’s the library that you can pick. From and there’s no. There’s no reason that they can’t find what they’re looking for. But I’m very specific about that. So when we select images, I make a note within the project map on what page it went on. What resource it came from? And who owns it? Whether the client purchased it or or whether it’s from my licensing and that way, when someone comes along and says, hey, that’s my image, it’s a little CYA. And also I know that’s not likely to happen because we’re pulling images from a trusted source. That that we have permission to use from that we’re. Buying these images. Now you know, there are plenty of other sources out there like Pexels, Pixabay, you know, there are a couple of other free ones out there. But even with pixels, I know that some of the photographers have come back and said oops, I guess I don’t want it out there anymore. And people have gotten in trouble for using images from those royalty free sites. So yeah, you’re. You’re not doing anything wrong by using images from those sites, and I’m going to tell you that first and foremost, but you aren’t taking a little bit of a chance rolling the dice in that someone will come along and say I don’t want you to use my work anymore. Are they going to be like getting into you? Probably not. If you’re adamant, they’re probably just going to ask you to replace the image.

Yeah. Yeah, no worries. Yeah.

Is it a pain in the ****? Yeah, but are you going to get? Sued. Probably not.

And it was funny. I had a client. A former client last year, if you recall, was in the travel business and they wanted to use images off a stock photo site without paying for them. They were like just take screen grabs of them and I’m like, no legally and ethically I can’t do that and they’re like. Well, I’ll do it. And I’m like then I’m not working with you because, you know, ethics or everything and they and and even worse than that business, why wouldn’t you take your own images? You’re in the travel business. Real images are 10 times better and then you know exactly where they came from.

Exactly. I had a conversation today with a designer that I partner up with on project and another partner that we’re working with. Actually takes the time to set up photo shoot for. Clients and direct the photo content of the actual product and the location. You know, forget stock photos, but take stock in your own images and own your own content. Yeah, absolutely. Right. People want to, you know, see what they’re getting exactly. And, you know. So we always talk about owning your assets well. That show off your assets with your own photography.

Yeah, I have a. As you know, a well known client who’s got a big independent jewelry store and all their Instagram images are their own shots of their own jewelry. And it works out 10 times better. And we never worry about copyright cause I know exactly. Excuse me? Where they’re coming from and that’s a big deal and frankly, it’s showing off their own inventory. So it’s a win, win, win. Win, you know.

Yeah, yeah, you can’t go wrong there. That’s the the best scenario is taking shots of your own product, which you already own the patent on, I’m assuming.

How do you lay out your contracts? Do you kind of. I know with me it says all the images are the property and responsibility of the website owner. How do you lay yourself?

So I have a clause because. You know I’ve. Worked with clients of all different levels as as much as you know, we’d like to include professional photography a lot of times they don’t, and so I include a line item. Or photography and other design work. And in my terms of service. I have a lifetime use allowance for that client where I I retain the copyright and ownership of those pieces produced, but they have a a lifetime use license and some people disagree with that and I certainly. Do in some instances. And maybe amending my contract in the future to turn those over to the client, but. You know, certainly ownership of assets and who owns what is something that you really need to define.

It’s true and and I think. You need to do it legally because. The image comes in content. Can the designer be sued? Can the website owner be sued like you know that’s an issue too, right?

Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean everyone, everyone can come under scrutiny and be liable if if they know that if they’re knowingly putting. Someone else’s content then you are you as a a web designer just as culpable and liable as your client. Just like your instance when your client told you they were going to use stolen images. You know that that’s someone else’s labor and their product that they put time in. To set up a photo shoot. Do the photography do the retouching and editing and put that out there for someone, for another business to come along and steal that and claim it as their own is not only wrong, but it’s unethical and it’s illegal.

Yeah, forget the FX. I forget the legality. I just have an ethics standpoint. I’d be ticked off at somebody, stole my work and my proprietary work. So why am I and and and you know what’s funny? They didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing, Ryan. They just didn’t care. And that’s even worse for the problem.

Right, exactly. That’s not, that’s just one, you know, going through the the action of doing it, but not not having the moral compass to understand that that’s a problem that they’re taking from someone else. That’s one of the biggest red flags. To tell me. That I don’t want to work that with that client.

I agree with you. When you’ve had had to sit a client down and have this discussion, where does it usually go? Did are the clients receptive with you, or do they kind of look at you and say ohh, who cares? It won’t happen to me.

I’ve actually never had any negative responses when I explained that we need to be ethical about sourcing logos and photography content, and we didn’t make sure that we own outright all the content that includes the client logo. I had one instance. The client had a logo and it looked really familiar. Turns out it was, you know, a logo that they liked. That was from another business, not anywhere near us locally, but it looked familiar that I had seen it in in the niche. And I said hey. You’re going to get in trouble for for likeness, and if your business grows large enough, they will see it and you will be sued because they’ll put two and two together and that client didn’t. Didn’t really. Only see the problem because there were a lot of. Logos like that. And I said. Sure, there are a lot of people on fiber that have templates that do similar logos. But this was almost verbatim from from one of their you know, competitors. Out of state. And they were a little bit upset about that. But after some coaching and letting them know what the legal ramifications are and the possible fines and penalties. Both civil and criminal, they decided to get a new logo redesign or not a lot of cash and. They, they said this is. This is a lot cheaper than getting in trouble. You’re right.

Yeah, I would also. Say too, make sure you have the right type of license for what you’re using. So for example on this podcast, the first thing is is a trailer is a header that I had done by voice over. Do you know the licensing to use it in a podcast? Cost me as much as the. Voiceover did itself.

I I can see that. Yeah, I you know and.

And somebody got bent. Sorry, somebody got bent out of shape and said, you know, that’s kind of expensive. I said no. Licensing is part of the product. So you gotta understand that, right?

Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that you should get paid for what you do. And I had a tweet today. I said, you know, I spent the last year going through and marking down all the little things that I do and realized that there was a lot of things that I was giving away. Now imagine if you’re not even giving it away. If somebody just steals your work and you’re not even. Compensated for it now? Yeah, that’s even more frustrating. So. You know, protecting your work by here’s the other side of that. Not everyone files for trademark or copyright. As a former print graphic designer and logo designer, that’s extremely important to at least. File to file that you own your logo it’s. It’s a pain in the **** if you have to go to court to prove that this is your likeness that you’ve been using for X number of years and it’s necessary to your business versus. Going to file for your copyright or for your trademark. It’s not a difficult process. It’s not expensive, and if you create something original, you should absolutely do it. The intellectual properties you know.

The only exception to that in Canada is if your initials are part of the. Logo or part of the domain name you are legally allowed to use it. Trademark is is is implied so years ago and I like to share the story. I had a domain name that was called RBC consulting.com. Well, RBC is a well known trademark of the Royal Bank of Canada and Banks. Have big money. So they called me up and they said take that down, we’ll we’ll sue you. I said you can. Fine, except for one problem. RBC are the initials of my name, which legally allows me to use it despite the bank having a trademark on it. So how that went was the the bank actually asked me to? They ended up buying the domain name.


Don’t want some money in the end? Believe that.

That’s that’s another thing. And you know when we talk about ownership, we haven’t touched on domain names. I know you know I have the dot solutions ending on my domain. And I looked for one dog.com and there’s a broker that’s got it and he’s approached me several times. But when I was starting out, I think the first number he floated was $5000. And I said, I know it’s worth more than that. So he just wants me to start there to bed it up. And at some point I’ll probably buy it because I want it, but is it absolutely necessary? It depends on your industry and how much you’re willing to pay. For that extra. Business domain names are important, so that’s that’s another thing that another asset that you should be care to own.

Yeah, no question. I actually own the.com and the.ca and the.info. And then then, right, so you know, because of that, that whole small and you know when we talk domain names just cause we’re talking about it’s actually worth registering all the common ones around yours. So somebody. Just squat on them and then come back to you and say ohh you can have this but we’ll charge you X dollars right? So.

Exactly. And you know you end up paying, you know, being you can end up paying a lot in domain fees, but you’re also protecting your assets and it’s, it’s that one’s another one that’s really important to make sure that you maintain ownership. Ohh, who was it just recently? Fairly well known SaaS had problems with their domain registration and I saw their. Their Twitter. And it said, oops, we had a payment problem. With the renewing our domain and you know it will be rectified shortly, well they had to pay somebody off because somebody else bothered up from under them and you know owning your assets and making sure that you know you have the proper rights to them including your domain name. That one’s important too.

Yeah, and and by the way, if they had a. Problem with their domain name and. We we need to understand domain names go into grace, period. So that means they also sat on it thinking the problem would disappear instead of dealing with it on day one, they would have known their payment didn’t go through. Like there’s more here than.

There’s a really it’s a really long grace period that you get.


Yeah, it’s, it’s several 30 day periods. I think it’s almost 90 days is what I remember from Google. Working with that, you know, different political candidates and clients that buy their names one time and then let them go if they don’t win it, you know, seeing the reminders. You know, a couple months later and like I thought, this was already gone. You have a long grace period on.

Yeah. So I think we’ve given some listeners a few tips. Do you have anything you wanted to wrap up with in a quick tip or?

I you know, I think we’ve covered the main ones. Make sure that you own the rights to assets that you’re using and especially one thing that we left out with the photos, there’s editorial license and advertorial licensing. Make sure that you have the proper one, because if you’re going to. Use an image in a stock image. In advertising. I would urge you not to and use your own photography with your own products and your own services. But sometimes it you want an image in an advertisement. Make sure that you get the right license gene. At advertising, licensing for stock photography can be up to 10 times more than the editorial license. So that’s the only thing that I don’t think that we covered with the image assets is when you buy a license for use, make sure you get the right one.

Yeah. So true. Thanks, Ryan. And have a wonderful day as always. Appreciate it.

You as well.

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