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Understanding Your Rights as an Artist: Contracts & Copyright

Attorney/Consultant Gamal Hennessy (Creative Contract Consulting) and global pop culture expert Kuo-Yu Liang (Ku Worldwide) discuss the key things artists should know when it comes to protecting their work for a panel that was part of Anime Expo Lite 2021. (Full panel embedded below)

To get involved in comic book law, Hennessy recommends understanding contract law, intellectual property law (specifically copyrights and trademarks), entertainment law (such as service agreements in studios and distribution agreements), and lastly publishing law.

When it comes to protecting your work as an artist, it is important to understand what is and is not your work. “A lot of times people are creating art that they do not necessarily own,” which includes creating art based on other characters owned by other companies or making art in a work-for-hire situation.

Once you have determined the art is indeed your original work, there are three basic steps to protect your art:

  1. Memorialize: Registering a copyright for your original work with the US Copyright Office to memorialize the fact that you are in fact the owner
  2. Retain Ownership: Whenever working with other entities, it is important that the contract states that you retain ownership of the copyright in the contracts.
  3. Monitor and Enforce: When you see your art used on another platform without your permission, you can send a cease and desist letter or DMCA takedown notice to enforce your ownership of your copyright.

Hennessy also discussed the differences between trademarks and copyright and what to look out for when it comes to contracts. Check out the full panel above to learn more.

For more resources and to learn more about Gamal Hennessy’s services, please visit his website.

To learn more about Kuo-Yu Liang, visit

Meg Tsuruda is the Assistant Marketing Manager at SPJA, the nonprofit organization responsible for Anime Expo, World Cosplay Summit USA, and Project Anime. She has attended Anime Expo since 2004 and decided to volunteer in 2013 which led her to join SPJA later that year. Tsuruda has played an integral role in establishing, growing, and managing SPJA’s brands. Her responsibilities include creative direction across art, design, and merchandising, social media/digital content strategy, and public relations. She also acts as the corporate spokesperson, making appearances in various Anime Expo videos, as well as on KTLA, CBS, and Associated Press.

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