Protecting My Artwork Lawyers

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 What Basic Rights Do I Have as an Artist?

The only right to reproduce and distribute any of your copyrighted works belongs to you as the artist. Additionally, you are free to assign your ownership or authorship rights to anyone you like.

Despite the fact that a copyright is the greatest way to establish and protect your rights as the author of your work, some state and federal laws offer protection to works that are not copyrighted. These are made to safeguard the credibility and reputations of those who produce works of art.

What Is a Violation of Copyright?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. For instance, only the play’s copyright holder may perform the play in public for pay. If someone tries to perform the performance for money in public, they could be charged with infringement. Another instance is when music that is copyrighted is being sold illegally.

The illicit content may also be seized, in addition to other penalties, including civil litigation for lost profits. Infringement is a very serious crime that may sometimes even be subject to federal penalties.

The 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) was passed in 1990 to safeguard those who produce visual art. It defends the right of an artist to claim authorship of a work and to have their name removed from any work that has been misrepresented or altered without their consent. The right of an artist to stop the destruction of their work is further protected under VARA.

Unlike several state laws, the VARA does not restrict its protection to “fine art,” but it demands that a piece of art be “of recognized stature” to be protected. VARA’s definition of “visual art” is quite limited and excludes some forms of graphic art, audiovisual and motion picture art, magazines, and electronic art. There may or may not be laws in your state that offer protection to various types of artwork.

State Protection Measures

You may be better suited to seeking protection for your work under state law than under VARA if your state has passed legislation to protect and preserve works of art. State laws typically offer protection for a wider range of artistic mediums. For instance, California and New York extend their definitions of artwork to encompass visual works of any media, protecting a considerably larger variety of artwork.

What Constitutes a Visual Artwork?

A piece of fine art is considered to be a work of visual art if it is produced in quantities fewer than 200, is sequentially numbered, and is signed. A sculpture, print, painting, or sketch falls within this category. A sculpture may come in a variety of cast, carved, or manufactured forms. A still photo taken solely for exhibition reasons is also included.

Why Do Moral Rights Exist?

These are the attributional and integrity rights. Only the artist can surrender their rights in writing.

The right of attribution is the owner’s legal claim to recognition as the creator of a work and the prohibition against having their name attached to any work they did not write. In the case that a work they made is altered in any way, an artist has the right to have their name removed from it. This is known as the right of integrity.

What Forms of Art Are Not Generally Accepted as Visual Art?

The Visual Artists Rights Act does not apply to all forms of art, and some do not qualify as works of visual art. These forms of art consist of:

  • Posters, globes, maps, and charts
  • Models, models, diagrams, and applied art
  • A movie or other audiovisual production
  • Magazines, journals, newspapers, and books
  • Databases, online information services, and articles published online
  • Materials for promotion, advertising, description, covering, or packaging
  • Any creation done for pay
  • Any additional work not covered by copyright

Can the Owner of a Building Remove a Mural or Other Piece of Art from the Structure?

Generally speaking, an artist is free to change or destroy their work as they see fit. Only with the artist’s specific consent may a work of art that is not the owner’s be altered or destroyed.

However, there might be a conflict of interest when an artist paints a mural or other work of art on a structure that another individual owns.

How Can I React if Someone Violates My Artist Rights?

If you win a lawsuit against someone who violated your rights as an artist, you can be entitled to the following:

  • Damages (any money you lost as a result of the infringement upon your rights)
  • Punitive damages (money awarded if the person who violated your rights acted maliciously)
  • Expert witness and legal costs
  • Any additional measures the court considers necessary

What Protections Do Artists Have Against Unauthorized Use?

The Visual Artists Rights Act was passed in 1990 to grant moral rights to artists. It is only relevant to works of visual art.

Why Are There Moral Rights?

The attributional and integrity rights are those. Only the artist may formally relinquish their rights. The owner’s legal right to be acknowledged as the author of a work and the ban against having their name connected to any work they did not create are known as the right of attribution. An artist has the right to have their name removed from a work if it has been altered in any manner.

When Artwork May Be Removed from a Building

In principle, the owner of a building may remove a work of art from the building so long as doing so won’t seriously harm or destroy it. After the building owner provides her notice, the artist has 90 days to remove the piece or pay for its removal if they so choose.

In the event of the Artist’s death, the same notice will be given to the artist’s heir, beneficiary, or personal representative so that she may claim the artwork and retain ownership of it.

When a Work of Art Cannot Be Removed from a Structure

If removing the artwork from the building would cause damage to it, building owners are frequently required to obtain the artist’s permission beforehand. If the waiver cannot be obtained or is denied, the building owner may be compelled to keep the artwork secure for the duration of the artist’s life or for a period of up to 50 years after the artist’s passing. This is due to the possible damage to the artist’s reputation that the loss of a work of art could inflict.

What Actions Can I Take if Someone Infringes on My Artist Rights?

You may be entitled to the following if you are successful in a case against someone who has infringed on your rights as an artist:

  • Injunctive relief
  • Actual losses (any money you lost as a result of the infringement upon your rights)
  • Punitive damages (money awarded if the person who violated your rights acted maliciously)
  • Reasonable expert witness and attorney fees
  • Any other remedies that the court deems necessary

Should I Hire a Lawyer to Secure My Artwork?

An expert copyright lawyer can help you protect your rights and pursue any applicable legal remedies if you suspect someone has violated your artistic rights. They can represent you in court if you need to file a lawsuit regarding your work.

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