Removing a Work of Art From a Building

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 Can a Mural or Other Piece of Art Be Removed from a Building by the Owner?

In general, an artist has the freedom to alter or destroy their creation as they see fit. A work of art that has not been created by the original owner may only be changed or destroyed with the artist’s express permission.

However, when an artist paints a mural or other piece of art on a building owned by another person, there may be a conflict of interest between the building owner and the artist.

What Fundamental Rights Do I Have as a Creative Person?

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.

Protection in Accordance with the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA)

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 her work is further protected under VARA.

Unlike several state laws, the VARA does not restrict its protection to “fine art,” but it does demand that a piece of art be “of recognized stature” in order to be protected. The definition of “visual art” provided by VARA 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 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, providing protection for a considerably larger variety of artwork.

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:

  • Orderly alleviation
  • 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

What Defenses Against Unauthorized Use Do Artists Possess?

To give artists moral rights, the Visual Artists Rights Act was passed in 1990. It solely applies to pieces of visual art.

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 his or her 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

When a Piece of Art Can Be Removed from a Structure

In general, the owner of a building will be permitted to remove a piece of artwork from the structure if doing so won’t cause it to be significantly damaged or destroyed. The artist will have 90 days to remove the piece or, if she so chooses, pay for its removal after the building owner gives her notice. The same notice will be issued to the artist’s heir, beneficiary, or personal representative in the event that the artist has passed away so that she may reclaim the artwork and maintain ownership of it.

When a Piece of Art Cannot Be Taken Down from a Building

Building owners are frequently obliged to seek a waiver from the artist in order to remove a piece of art from the building if doing so might result in damage to the piece. The building owner may be required to keep the artwork safe for the length of the artist’s life or for a period of up to 50 years after the artist’s passing if the waiver cannot be secured or is rejected. This is because of the potential harm that the loss of a work of art could do to the reputation of the creator.

How Does Copyright Work?

A copyright is the legal right to stop someone else from utilizing your unique creative work. Similar to trademark law, which safeguards brand names and logos, copyright law also safeguards inventions. The thing or work that needs to be copyrighted must be an original, not a replica or a duplicate of something else that already has copyright protection.

According to the federal copyright law, the owner of a copyright is granted a variety of exclusive rights, including the right to:

  • Replicate the protected work
  • Make copies of the protected work available to the public for purchase.
  • Execute the protected work
  • Rights obtained from other copyright sources to produce a license
  • Rights to produce and create a product through licensing

Copyright Protection: What Is It?

As per federal law, you instantly acquire the copyright to your work the moment you “fix” it in a “tangible medium of expression.” The work must be original to you and cannot be an adaptation of another piece. In order for others to replicate, view, or communicate the work, it must also be stored in a media that is sufficiently permanent.

When an author fixes a work in a tangible form without the author’s involvement, copyright protection is triggered. A form of work is protected by copyright once it has been created, and the inventor or creator controls who can use it and how. No one else may use the work after it has been protected without the creator’s consent.

What is a Copyright Violation?

When someone breaches the copyright holder’s exclusive rights, this is known as copyright infringement. For instance, a play may only be performed in public for profit by the play’s copyright holder. Someone or a business could be held accountable for infringement if they try to perform the performance for pay in public. Another instance is when someone illegally sells tunes that are protected by copyright.

Infringers may face civil lawsuits for lost revenue in addition to additional penalties including having the illegal content seized. In some instances, federal charges may also be applicable, making infringement a highly serious offense.

Should I Get Legal Advice Regarding My Artwork?

A copyright lawyer should be contacted if you have produced art that is in danger of being illegally destroyed. Should a disagreement over your work emerge, an intellectual property attorney will be able to protect your rights and represent you in court.

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