Here we all are, suddenly (well, comparatively suddenly)
faced with social isolation as we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Am I the only work-at-home entrepreneur who finds it hard to
settle down to work? Most of my client
work is on hold at the moment, but there are things I could (and should) be
doing with my website, bookkeeping, filing…
Yet I sit down to my computer and feel totally without inspiration.
One thing I am doing:
I’m NOT beating myself up for not being more productive. (Well, not much, anyway!) Every day I make an effort, then when I run
out of steam I just accept it and go into passive mode. (Hey, today I actually wrote and posted a
Other things I am doing:
I’m praying more. I’m reading
more. I’m keeping in touch with family
and friends (email, phone). And I’m
looking for ways to keep up a positive attitude:
Walking outside – I have the fortune to have a
big open field with a view of the Annapolis River right outside my door
Listening to music, on CD or on YouTube
Watching comedies -from my “Dick Van
Dyke” show collection to humourous videos on YouTube (check out
JeanneRobertson for very funny – and clean – humour!)
We’ll get through this.
Finally, let me share one of my videos with you: Wordless Peace
You may be a business owner, artist, musician, author, or
crafter. You probably use print ads, flyers,
brochures, a website, and even YouTube videos.
Your products may include images, text, or music.
If you publish ANYTHING – from a print ad to a song to a
full-length novel – you need to know about copyright.
So what is “copyright”? It’s pretty simple (in a way): it’s the RIGHT to COPY any “intellectual
property” or “original works of authorship”. This includes literary, dramatic, musical,
and artistic creations (and more).
“Only the owner of copyright, very often the
creator of the work, is allowed to produce or reproduce the work in question or to permit anyone else to do so”
(Canadian Intellectual Property Office, “A Guide To Copyright”).
A BASIC GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT
If you publish (or sell) anything containing
copyrighted materials, you either must hold the copyright yourself, or have
permission from the copyright holder.
Copyrighted materials include photos,
graphics, artwork, music (including lyrics), prose, poetry, and video.
If you took the photo yourself, created the
artwork yourself, wrote the music yourself, or wrote the prose/poetry/lyrics
yourself, then you are the copyright holder and there is no problem! (WARNING:
this only applies if the source
from which you created the work is not copyrighted. For instance, if you took the music from a
current radio hit and wrote your own lyrics to it, you are violating the
copyright of the person who created the music).
Old family photos (of your own family,
that is!) may be OK (this is one of those “grey” areas, and also tips
into the area of protection of privacy when it’s the photo of a living person). If the photo has never been published by
anyone else and was taken before 1922, you are probably in the clear – but best
to check with your country’s copyright authority.
You can use any public domain work freely.
Published materials older than a certain year (1924 in the US) is in the
public domain (unless someone bought up the copyright – nothing is ever easy,
is it?). Also, the creator of a work has
the right to declare that work to be in the public domain (in which case it
should say so somewhere).
Your best source of you-can-use-it copyrighted
materials is stock (also called royalty-free) images. These are works where the copyright holder issues
a license to use the work – in effect, you are “renting” some of the
rights that belong to the copyright holder.
Some stock materials are free, other times the copyright holder requires a
licensing fee. Free or paid, the creator
will most likely limit the uses for which the work is available. For instance, some stock photos are only
available for non-commercial (that is, personal or non-profit) use. Always check the rights before using stock
Another good source is materials that have a Creative
Commons license. These items are
made available for free use under certain conditions, stated in the
license. For instance, a Creative
Commons BY license allows you to use the work freely as long as you
“attribute” it (that is, say somewhere who actually created it). (All of the free images available on the
Dustwood Media website are available under a Creative Commons BY license).
A SPECIAL NOTE ON COMMERCIAL MUSIC:
Remember that you cannot freely use commercial music (such
as you would hear on the radio), even if
you personally sing and play the instruments. You MUST pay to license
commercial music, which is usually VERY expensive!
favourite Christmas carols and old church hymns are in the public domain. You can look up public domain hymns on the
Internet, or check the copyright information in any church hymnal (usually
printed at the bottom of the page or right under the hymn title).
For more detailed information and useful links, see the Dustwood
Media “Copyright And Creative Commons Licenses” page.
Especially in North America, we hear a lot about how we are
supposed to be independent and not need anyone else.
This turns out not to be the case.
We need other people.
Other people need us. Even in a
one-person home business, we are dependent on others – our clients, our family,
supportive friends, even the anonymous people who make available to us services
like the Internet.
This video says it perfectly:
Think about who you depend on – and thank them. Think about who depends on you – and
A couple of words of wisdom to all aspiring visual artists out there – things I learned the hard way:
1) USE TOP-NOTCH MATERIALS. When I was starting out, including when I was studying Fine Arts in university (more on that later), I used the cheapest materials I could find. In fact, in art classes I was actually told to use large sheets of newsprint for my assignments.
Now, this isn’t a bad idea in a way, especially if you are
in the early stages and aren’t turning out a lot of work that you feel is good
enough to keep. If you’re going to wind
up filing away (or throwing away) a lot of early attempts at
drawing/painting/pastels/whatever, you don’t want to waste a lot of money on
On the other hand, when you get to the point that you are
starting to turn out works that are a respectable quality, you will truly
regret not using good materials. Because
cheap materials turn yellow or degrade in other ways – along with your
I’m speaking from experience here. I have a number of drawings I did fairly
early in my art career that were really good drawings – but done on cheap
paper. I still have the drawings, but
they are no longer good enough to exhibit because the ground has yellowed
(Note: for smaller
works, there is a work-around: if it’s
small enough to scan into your computer, you can use photo editing software
like Corel Paintbrush Pro to correct the discolouring and fading, at least for
So, once you’re really starting to bloom, invest in good
materials – and that means archive-quality materials.
While you’re at it, be sure you’ve made provision for
archival-quality STORAGE of your materials and your finished works as well.
2) PLAN AHEAD. I have always had a very bad habit of just
starting in on a drawing – only to find that the finished work was too close to
the edge of the paper to properly mat and frame – or even to finish. (Another thing that you can work around if
the item is small enough to scan into the computer).
I’ve learned to start my drawings by penciling in a margin
around the page – at least 1″ in from all edges. That way, even if I get close to the margins,
there’s still enough room for matting and framing. Even if you’re just doing casual sketches in
a sketchbook, you want to be prepared in case you turn out something really
I’ve also learned to do a quick, very rough, very light
sketch of the entire image to begin with.
With close attention to relative distances and proportions, this gets
you off to a MUCH better start. (Note
that both of these apply whether you’re working in pencil, pen, oil paint, acrylic
paint, or pastel – start with a light rough first.)
In other words, have enough respect for yourself and your
art that you EXPECT to turn out works that are good enough to display, to
cherish, and even to sell!
Keeping your data – and your software – “in the cloud” is
very big these days. The big idea, of
course, is that you can access the program and/or data from anywhere. So handy!
First, a word about words.
“In the cloud” sounds so ethereal, somehow. One tends to think of one’s programs and data
floating around over one’s head in a fluffy white cloud.
The reality? Data and
programs stored “in the cloud” are actually stored on a hard drive
somewhere. Actually in a series of hard
drives, connected by networking software.
Here’s an explanation from Wikipedia:
Cloud computing is a jargon term without a commonly accepted non-ambiguous scientific or technical definition. In science, cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network and means the ability to run a program on many connected computers at the same time. The popularity of the term can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of application service provisioning that run client server software on a remote location.
…Cloud resources are usually not onlyshared by multiple users but as well as dynamically re-allocated as per demand… For example, a cloud computer facility which serves European users during European business hours with a specific application (e.g. email) while the same resources are getting reallocated and serve North American users during North America’s business hours with another application (e.g. web server).
…Proponents claim that cloud computing allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of infrastructure. Proponents also claim that cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand
…Several deterrents to the widespread adoption of cloud computing remain. Among them, are: reliability, availability of services and data, security, complexity, costs, regulations and legal issues, performance, migration, reversion, the lack of standards, limited customization and issues of privacy.
So what’s the
problem with storing your data and programs on some networked hard drive somewhere
instead of on your own computer on your own desk? Let’s focus on
one: “availability of services and data”.
A while ago,
my Internet connection went down – a not-uncommon experience in small-town and
rural areas. I had no Internet connection for the entire morning – no
access to email, no connection to social media sites, no direct access to my
Did it keep
me from doing any work? NO – because MY programs and data are stored
directly on my own computer (on which I am typing at this very moment). If
I had been using “cloud”-based data storage, and/or “cloud”-based software, I
would have lost the whole morning’s productivity.
problems were caused by a problem with my ISP. Maybe some hardware failed
somewhere, or maybe someone drove into a power pole – no way of knowing (or
predicting. Or controlling).
That’s not the
only potential source of trouble, either. What about a technical problem
with the cloud service provider? A natural disaster or power outage
affecting not your own area, but the area where your data happens to be
stored? Human error (or actual wrongdoing) on the part of one of the
unseen, unknown people who are in charge of handling the whole system where
YOUR data and programs are stored?
potential problems with keeping all your programs and data on your own hard
drive, too, the biggest one being equipment failure. (Which means you
need to BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER REGULARLY – something which will be covered in
another blog post!)
BUT – keeping
everything on your own hard drive gives you much more direct control.
Some companies – ones that need to share data, or ones where the people travel
extensively – may find the advantages of “cloud” computing outweigh the
disadvantages. For small businesses, entrepreneurs, churches, and other
users limited to a few people and one (or at least one main) location, the
advantages of keeping your business essentials under your own control have to
be considered first.
Because – think
about it – what is the life-span of a cloud?