Copyright is an area which is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. When you create a collage, painting, drawing, diagram, map, chart, plan, engraving, etching, lithograph, woodcut or similar work, you have created an artistic work and that is protected by copyright, provided that your illustrations fall into any one of these categories.
You, as creator of that illustration, own the copyright which subsists in it. There is on exception to this general rule. If you are employed to create that illustration, the employer will, own the copyright in it. There are no registration requirements. There is no requirement to use the sign © but it will help the public to realise that your illustration is protected by copyright.
If you own copyright, you are the only person who has the right to make copies of your illustrations. If someone else makes a copy without your permission, they are infringing your copyright.
You can give permission to individuals or companies to reproduce your illustration which is known commonly in the illustration trade as giving a licence. Your licence should be in writing and should set out the use that can be made of your illustration and any restriction you wish to place on the use. You can grant licences for different uses.
You can effectively sell your copyright which means that you have no further right of reproduction in your work. This is know as an assignment but will only be effective if you put it in writing.
If your illustration is reproduced without your permission, you are entitled to damages, perhaps an injunction to stop the infringement and on occasion the infringing copies delivered to you.
Your copyright in your illustration is an economic right. It is different from ownership of the illustration itself. You may still grant a licence or give an assignment of copyright in your illustration whilst owning the original piece. Likewise, you may sell the original illustration without giving permission for it to be reproduced.
There are rights in addition to your economic right of copyright and your right of owning your illustration.
You have a right to be identified as author of your illustration. This right must be asserted in writing and should be included on any copyright, assignment or licence to reproduce or other written contract.
You have a right to object to derogatory treatment of your illustration. This means you have a right to object if your illustration has been adapted, altered, added to or deleted from. You may also be able to rely on this right if you are unhappy about the colour reproduction of your illustration or if perhaps it has been cropped in a way which distorts it.
You have a right not to be falsely attributed to another person’s art.