Ethics Assignment


The word ethics is defined by the Oxford dictionary as, 1. moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of activity; and 2. The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. Companies are governed not only by policies and procedures but by ethical values that protect them from both legal and financial liabilities. Ethics within an organization raises its status and trust-worthiness with it, clients and competitors. The ethical practices will showcase the integrity of the organization and determined how respected it will be in its profession.

By the same token designers have a moral obligation to adhere to ethical principles as defined in the AIGA guidelines and building solid trust-worthy relationships with the people they work with. Designers should endeavor to obtain an in-depth knowledge of the business and design standards and shall act in the client’s best interest within the limits of professional responsibility. They should avoid all conflicts of interest, should treat clients’ information and work product with respect, and protect the confidentiality of said material. 

The designer should not engage in any practices even if those practices were given to the designer as part of the creative brief. The designer should correct the client’s breach of ethics or refuse the job. It is very important that the designer maintain his or her integrity as this become a problem for their career in the future. If a designer is known for lack integrity and ethical value that career will swiftly come to an end. 

Professional designers must always adhere to ethical standards be it in relation to the client customers of fellow creatives within the industry. It is of paramount importance that ethical values and practices govern the work and behavior of designers as they practice their craft to influence and make meaningful contributions to the greater good of humanity as a whole.

The Real-Life Times Newspaper where I am doing my internship is a small organization that operates mostly through volunteers coming and giving back their time to community service. Therefore they do not have a lot of intellectual property to protect. The informational resources we print are covered under the Fair Use Doctrine. The ethical standards are adhered to with regards to companies send their information and logo to us advertise their business.

I did not have to sign an NDA for volunteering, which is not a part of their culture mostly because the material is most information on where to get help and what to do in certain situations. The only restriction is the photos. If I attend an event and take pictures myself I can use them, however, I cannot ask the company photographer for pictures taken for company use unless it is required for a project I am working on.  

Personally, I know about intellectual property rights because I am a published author and songwriter. So I understand the need to protect work created by industry professionals. I have in the past taken images from the internet and use them for my school project. I did not give credit to the creator or site I took it from because I was just using it for projects and only my professors were going to see it. I had no intention of using it as a tool for unjust enrichment.

This semester, however, I did a portfolio class and was required to put my work online. I did mostly video editing for the creation of advertising and PSA. I got footage from and youtube and music from which I used on my adobe portfolio online so I made sure I gave them the credit they deserve. Even though I had prior knowledge about ethical guidelines it was refreshing to read again and I learn even more than I knew before having read the AIGA chapters. Every creative professional and newcomer needs to make sure to arm themselves with this vital information for their edification and career protection. 

Copyright laws are there to protect the designer’s original creative work for good reasons. I have first-hand experience with copyright infringement. I did a poetry CD back in 2005 and it was about my native culture living on the island of Jamaica. I wrote poetry that showcased different aspects of Jamaica culture I was being likened to the late great Dr. Louse Bennett, a prolific Jamaica poet. I did not try to sell them mainstream, instead, I sold them at local churches, community events, and concerts where I would perform live. The CD was so popular everybody wants a copy. My CD started to appear in music stores and on the streets all over the five boroughs for a little less than my originals and was no longer making money from my own creative work. 

I believe it is grossly unfair for creatives to spend time and money to create something special and some unscrupulous person or persons decide that they have the right to just unjust line their pocket with the fruits of your labor.  The AIGA article laid out in great detail the copyright laws and penalties for their infringement.

I spent a lot of time reading the Shepherd Fairey copyright case. I heard about the copyright infringement case linked to the HOPE poster but did not take the deep dive I took looking at it until this assignment. Having read the copyright infringement laws in the AIGA article; I can clearly see what is conspiring in the whole saga the reads like a movie script, the flagrant copyright infringement in action, and the legal ramifications. 

I now understand why I needed to read 29 pages of a copyright case and write about it. Clearly, Mr. Fairey was lacking in knowledge about intellectual property rights laws.  According to the article, Fairey did a lot of work on the photo, He worked on it in photoshop, then Illustrator, then back into photoshop then he did some cutting with his hand. That is a lot of work on somebody else’s property only to get himself a lawsuit. A costly lesson indeed. I can understand why the AP sued him for copyright infringement. He was using it on his products and made a lot of money. According to the AIGA article Fair use permits someone to use work without permission for a purpose that is basically not going to compete with or injure the market for the work. What Fairey did has not met the terms required under fair use.

According to the AIGA article, “Copyright defines the ownership of work created by a designer. Copyright is what allows a designer to control whether or not work may be copied. If the designer permits work to be copied, it is the copyright that gives the designer the right to negotiate for fees or royalties. If the client of a designer is to be protected from the theft of designs by competitors, it is because the copyright law gives such protection.”

Fairey infringed upon the protection AP had under the copyright law. According to the court document Fairey offered to pay the customary license fee. Which I think was ridiculous, however, AP wanted a share of all revenue from the hope poster. After realizing his mistake about the two different photos he lied and tried to cover up his mistake which speaks to his integrity and character as a designer a breach of ethics.

Fairey argued that not all because he copied some parts of the photo was copied and whether the portions that were copied fall under the copyright protection. He also argued that only the aspect that was original was copyright protected. He said that there were two dimensions of the photo that were not entitled to protection. Fairy also argued idea/expression or fact/expression, a feature of the natural world captured in a photo does not constitute a copyrightable expression. AP argued that Fairey’s conduct was improper and further argued that Fairey chooses the photo precisely because it makes Obama looks presidential. This case is very intriguing and has a lot of lessons for creatives to contemplate and learn.


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