Case Studies

Rachael Cooyou – Copyright and Licensing the Right Way

Rachael Cooyou wearing her Cardabia design. Photograph by Glen Aubrey.

I was pretty green about all this to start with, but I knew there had to be something in the law to protect us. I’ve seen a lot of artists in my community get ripped off. With Arts Law’s help, I was able to understand my rights and make sure my work was protected. My family is very proud when they see my artwork on a shirt or a scarf that someone’s wearing.  

Rachael Cooyou, artist, rae-wendy creations

Rachael Cooyou is an Aboriginal artist based in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is a proud Payungu (Baiyungu) woman. About her work, she says, “I paint the colours of the Ningaloo Sea Country (Nyinggulu Thanardi Ngarrari) – through my eyes, I see the land and waters of my country as layers with a myriad of vibrant colours that are ready to explode.” In 2019, she started ‘rae-wendy creations’ with the vision of putting her artwork on printed fabrics to create wearable art (you can see her online store here).   

Rachael first came to Arts Law with general questions about how copyright works and how she could protect her rights when her work is used on apparel and other merchandise. She wanted to run her business and her arts practice in a way that safeguarded her rights.   

We talked Rachael through the way that copyright automatically protects original artistic works in Australia. Our advice also covered:  

  • Licensing – different ways she could give permission for others to use her work and how to keep those permissions limited in an appropriate way. 
  • Moral rights – her personal rights as an artist to be credited and to not have her work treated in a derogatory way.  
  • Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (‘ICIP’) – the shortcomings of Australian law when it comes to protecting traditional knowledge and culture, and how she could use tools like contracts to get around those short comings. 
  • Commissions – what template contracts she could use and how to access them through Arts Law, as well as detailed discussions about how those templates worked and the clauses in them (e.g., getting a re-sale royalty through the Copyright Agency). 

A few months later, Rachael was asked by a Native Title Group she worked with to design their logo. She came back to Arts Law for more advice. Through our ‘Licensing the Right Way’ program, we were able to first give her general advice about the commission, and then give her specific feedback about the draft licence contract for the project.  

Rachael was able to proceed with the project with confidence, and she is ready for new opportunities in the future, knowing she has the legal support she needs.   

Do you need help understanding your rights on a new project? You can submit a legal query to Arts Law through our online legal query form. Arts Law also has useful Information Sheets on Copyright, Licensing, Moral Rights and ICIP.