– by guest blogger, Shannon Shaw, owner of SewCoolPets.com

I am finally doing it!

I am going to live out one of my dreams! After 15 years of working in the legal field, I created SewCoolPets.com and will finally spend my time doing something I am passionate about. I love my dogs dearly and love to spoil them. So here I am making gorgeous made-to-order dog collars and am open for business! Initially, I found it easy to drag friends and family into my workshop and show them what I can do but Canton is a small town and I quickly outgrew my client base. So I knew I had to do it. I had to bring my workshop online for the world to see. I was terrified and to say I was overwhelmed…would be an understatement. This was a whole new world to me and finding the beginning was challenge enough.

Sew Cool Pets Custom Dog Collars

I knew I needed branding and a website but I couldn’t make it all happen myself. I needed help! So I contacted my friends at Lara J Designs and poof! I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. During the process I remained in touch and gave a lot of input in feedback. I found myself looking at website after website and wanting to use various ideas and components for my own site but sometimes I couldn’t and here is why:

So why can’t I simply use the image I see somewhere for my own use?!

The answer is simple, it’s Copyright.

But what does Copyright mean and what does it do?

For my research I relied heavily on www.Copyright.gov website. However, I will break it down for you. The (shortened) definition of Copyright is the artistic creator’s exclusive right to make copies, license or otherwise exploit their work for their lifetime plus fifty years. The purpose of this is to promote the progress of science and arts by securing their respective writings and/or discoveries. But I don’t see the copyright © symbol so that means I can use it right?! Wrong. The moment the author creates their design, the art is automatically covered under copyright laws. Registration is not a requirement for the author to protect their rights under the law. So if you want to use that “swirly whirl” you see on a website you must first purchase the license from the copyright’s owner to do so. Obviously, tracking down the author can sometimes prove a challenge. This is where stock imaging companies come in handy as they offer an easy way for you to legally buy a license for the image.

So my next question: I want to use that image anyway and getting the license is just a pain in the rear and costly. Plus, no one would know! I mean, really, what’s the worst that can happen to me? Well, depending on the value set on the artwork, you could be looking at jail time of 1-10 years. Yes, you sitting in jail with the real bad guys just for snipping a cute “Swirly Whirl”. You can also be ordered by the Court to pay restitution (a set dollar amount) to the victim (the author). Additionally, the Author could chose to file a civil lawsuit against you seeking the value of the artwork plus a portion of any profits you may have made while using their art as well as any other relief they may ask from the court.

Since a website is out there for the world to see, I chose to spend the little extra money and legally purchased the images.

So now, thanks to Lara J Designs, SewCoolPets.com is up and running! And I sleep well at night knowing I did things right.