Copyright is complete ownership of a set of rights to creative works. When you create a new artwork, as the originator, you have copyright to the material, and as such can determine what commercial or non-commercial uses are and are not allowed for that material.

Copyright can live on beyond a creator’s death & can be passed on to heirs or transfer hands through other legal processes including work-for-hire contracts or buyouts. Once copyright expires, creative works become part of the public domain, and as such can freely be used by the public for commercial & non-commercial purposes.

It is important to note that copyright law has changed and expanded every time the copyright for Mickey Mouse was about to expire.¬† ¬†Mickey Mouse is particularly important for illustrators to remember. We don’t remember Ub Iwerks, the man who drew Mickey Mouse, we remember Walt Disney (& the Walt Disney Company) who own the copyright to Mickey Mouse.