Someone who paints, creates literary works, or is involved in any way in producing works with artistic merit may have his works protected. This is reliant on several things and sometimes in some cases the terms of ownership come into question when requirements are lacking or not fulfilled. The law is often on the side of the creative person.
These days there are so many items that need copyrighting both in national arenas and the international one. Copyright laws for artist are something well defined in America but may not be so or might be defined in different terms across any given country in the world. Despite the fact that there are international bodies that govern copyrights, not all countries are members.
Also it all depends on what is defined as a true artistic work in any country. When something of value in this sense gets exported from America into say a country in the Orient, there are differences that cause problems. The language barriers alone may amount to something that becomes much too problematic.
Artistic value is something that might have some subjective definitions too and this causes more problems. But problems aside, there is usually no contest when it comes to a well made work that any artist presents to the public. There are really few instances in which copycats go out of their way to cause trouble for a new work.
The main targets for crime in this sense are actually those works which are already recognized. And for the most part the creators or artists who made these often have some relevant legal backup. Recognition alone spells a base foundation for ownership which no one, especially not governments will violate.
Governments anywhere in the world do respect the rights of any artist. So the businesses, outfits and other commercial or personal concerns that are related have now defined their own terms. There may be money from the pieces in question, and that is something that always has competition striving to come up with equal things.
Equality is a democratic value, and no sensible artist will deny that the values and characteristics of his work do not have universal traits. These are the ones that anyone can use on their own works. Copycat definitions are often not so well made and there is a regular process of imitation that is important to the development of art.
The main thing is that a painting for instance is not copied stroke by stroke and looks the same as another. A work of literature should not copy anything word for word, especially if the parts are substantial. There is always trade and interchange between artists that speaks of a healthy sense of community.
The laws too may be enforced strictly by governments, but when it comes to trade and the ability to compete, business or corporations must mount their own defenses. Artists though are considered people of extraordinary abilities who create their own unique parameters. There is no substantial use of their works for trade.