While the title may be flippant, the subject of this entry is near and dear to my heart and is the result of a conversation (admittedly over drinks) with a group of professional illustrators at this year’s Illuxcon.

Let’s start with a question. In today’s marketplace where the download of an “illegal” MP3 could bring down the wrath of the RIAA – what organization provides similar protection for illustrators’ intellectual property? For the fantasy and sci-fi community? There are several professional association entities out there, but as I’ve discovered, none of them seem to provide the quick and dirty support that most independent illustrators need.

Three drinks in, Jim Pavelec sat down. I’d been told that we should meet since I was just launching my solo firm and he had this thing called PACT that I should hear more about. Sitting around that table at a hotel bar in Allentown, PA, I learned that most illustrators need simple contract documents and clear tools they can use to protect and enforce their rights.

So, I volunteered to provide a few.

You can learn more about PACT here, but the real point of this article is the following summary of your IP rights if you are an illustrator, painter, designer, writer or other creative. In keeping with the “quick and dirty” theme, and without excessive legal jargon, here’s what you need to know:

1. You need to be absolutely sure the infringer is really infringing. Is it actually your work? If so, proceed to #2.

2. If you’ve sold or licensed all rights in the work to a client, you should notify that client immediately. They are responsible for protecting the value of their IP.

3. If the work is yours, it is your responsibility to enforce your rights. No one will do it for you.

4. If your IP is in a physical product, sold in stores, or about to be sold in stores, contact an attorney immediately. At this late stage of f the game, you should not attempt to confront the infringer on you own.

5. If your IP is on a website, I’d still recommend the attorney route, but you can (and should):

a. Immediately contact the website owner and send a cease and desist letter;

b. Immediately contact the website host and send a DMCA takedown notice.

6. In all cases you need to set a hard deadline (I recommend a week) for a written response.

7. If your communication(s) are ignored, you need an attorney. Do not be afraid of this. Many will take these cases on a contingent fee basis – though you can expect to pay them a good chunk of whatever they are able to recover.

8. If all else fails, have your attorney (you have hired one by now, right?) write a final letter before filing a suit against the infringer.

9. Finally – do not be afraid of litigation should it come to that. It is your attorney’s job to worry and be stressed about your case. Not yours.