Copyright uncovered: Our Top 10 Tips

    We share our Top 10 Copyright Tips that all visual artists should know.

    Your Copyright Advice Service

    In 2007, DACS set up its Copyright Advice Service to help members better understand their rights, by providing free advice and information on copyright. Over the last ten years of this service, we’ve directly helped over 2,000 artists and estates and have built up an online Knowledge Base, supporting the wider artistic community.
    We've selected our Top 10 Copyright Tips to share with you.

    10 Copyright Tips

    1. Get it in writing

    First thing’s first, get it in writing.
    Whether you’re making an artistic work for a commission, have been approached by a gallery for a loan or agree to collaborate with someone else, it’s important to have a contract that establishes the intentions of everyone involved.

    Copyright uncovered: What to know about contracts

    2. Watch out for wording: assignment v. licence

    Before you sign that contract, watch out for the wording. One of the above terms is similar to ‘selling’ copyright, while the other term refers to ‘lending’ copyright for a designated period. But do you know which is which? Find out below.

    Copyright Licensing: Frequently Asked Questions

    3. Put a licence in place

    So now that you know the answer to tip #2 above, make sure you always put a licence in place. This will help you agree terms from the very outset and DACS may even be able to do this on your behalf.

    Find out more about our Licensing Service 

    4. Check the terms and conditions before signing up to social media

    What should you be aware of when sharing your work on social media? Read on to find out.

    Social media: understanding the terms and conditions

    5. Use the © symbol and watermark your artistic work

    Don’t underestimate how important a © symbol and watermark can be, especially as a possible deterrent for plagiarism and infringements. You still own the copyright in your work without it but it can help in tackling infringements.

    Copyright uncovered: What should I be aware of when sharing my work on social media?

    6. Fight infringements

    If your artistic work has appeared online without your permission, DACS can help you.

    Copyright Uncovered: How do I know if my artwork’s been infringed?


    7. Know your moral rights

    What are moral rights? Well, they are rights that protect your reputation as an artist and allow you to ensure that you are credited as the creator.

    How do they work?
    Read our Moral Rights article to find out.

    Copyright Uncovered: What should I know about moral rights?

    8. Keep accurate records

    Keeping accurate records, such as the date of creation benefits both you in your lifetime, as well as your loved ones or beneficiaries who inherit your copyright, including those who manage your estate.

    FAQ: How do I copyright my artwork?

    9. Make a will

    We can't all live forever but your artistic works can, so make a Will. This way, your artistic works will be treated and remembered how you wish, and your loved ones will benefit financially from the royalties generated by both copyright and the Artist’s Resale Right.

    Copyright Uncovered: What happens to my rights when I die?

    DACS member Ben Summers said of the Copyright Advice Service: "I used the DACS Copyright Advice Service to guide me in making an informed choice, about my future relationship with a gallery. The support I received was excellent, and extended to recommendations about additional copyright services available to artists”.

    10. Seek permission before using someone else's work

    Last, but not least, be sure to ask others for permission before using their artistic works. As suggested in #2, always get any permissions in writing.
    If you’re seeking permission to use the artistic works of an individual who may be represented by DACS, use the artist search tool.

    DACS artist search tool

    Copyright Advice for Members

    If you are a Copyright Licensing or Artist’s Resale Right member and you want to contact the Copyright Advice Service, please fill in our online query form available on our website: Copyright Advice Service Form.

    How it works

    Browse related pages:

    Knowledge Base

    Copyright FAQs



    The content of this article is not intended to apply to individual circumstances. It does not constitute legal advice, it is not a substitute for independent legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

    Image: Study for Art Reference (books), 2001, Richard Galpin. © Richard Galpin. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2017. Photo: Richard Galpin. 

    Posted on 13/12/2017 by Laura Ward-Ure