Legal Matters – Guide For The Professional Artist
Legal Matters Artist Guide is your easy and simple guide to everything you need to know about branding, copyrights and gallery submissions of your artwork.
Arts law is a very unique niche in the realm of the law. Art is indeed a great part of the society and is classified as what makes us human. Art not only plays several roles in our basic culture, but it is also the backbone of many of our businesses, governments, families, artists and most importantly of all, museums. Some of the common issues related to arts law include copyright of artistic works, protection of the intellectual property rights of artists, free speech problems, moral rights, validating and dealing with stolen goods in the art realm and finally commercial issues related to managing an arts business.
Law, supreme in all matters of human interaction is sub-divided into many branches for the easy access and application of it in matters pertaining to the ethical and lawful functioning of the society. Laws exist for two basic reasons: Justice and protecting human rights. Law Journals and constitutions ensure that the law is accessible to the common man and the knowledge of it is indeed a great asset. The law might seem like an unexciting thing to have to think about when it comes to your art making practice, but it is very important and knowing your rights and seeking legal advice when needed will help you in the long run to build a sustainable artistic career.
Arts law in Australia considers that evaluation is extremely important in contemplating the different tax consequences in handling art and testamentary purposes. It is also required in insurance claim disputes of artifacts, and also when an art piece is kept as collateral while obtaining a loan. Even in acts of charity, when pieces of art are contributed to museums, churches, or other properties, it is extremely important to make use of the law while determining the taxes involved, the insurance claims and lastly the different factors in retaining the not-for-profit status.
Issues around intellectual property interests related to art and the protection of copyright can arise depending on whether you made the artwork for a commission or as part of your employment. It’s important to establish who owns the copyright in your work if you are making it for someone else or for a company. Do you retain copyright or does the organization you work for retain copyright? These questions are extremely important and can have an impact when evaluating the worth of an art piece, especially considering forgeries in an artist’s name. Lastly, some artifacts are location sensitive and thus the question of moving them from their original position also requires that you consider the procedures and fine print involved.
For visual artists it is also key to have good contracts in place to protect your rights when dealing with galleries, exhibitions and the sale of your artwork. The Arts Law Centre of Australia is the national community legal centre for the arts, and they often have visual artist clients who are facing problems with their artwork not being returned to them after an exhibition, being damaged or their artwork being sold and then displayed without respecting the artists’ moral rights. These are all crucial factors of which to be aware when practicing as a visual artist.
Finally, the Arts Law centre is available to provide legal advice on any legal problems you might be facing as an artist, to review a contract you have been asked to sign and to provide easy to understand and convenient resources around common legal topics like copyright, moral rights, insurance, not-for-profit governance, intellectual property and contracts. Their free publication Answers for Artists covers the basics of Arts Law and provides a starting point to answer your questions as an artist.
If you have a legal question or want to talk to somebody about your rights, you can go to the Arts Law Centre of Australia’s website, artslaw.com.au, and submit your legal query. You can subscribe to Arts Law’s services for discounts on contract templates, access to their document review service and access to five legal advices over the phone. Readers of Art Expedia can receive a discount on our three most popular visual arts contracts:
- Loan of Artwork for Exhibition,
- Sale of Artwork Agreement
- Artist/Gallery Agency Agreement.
These Legal Matters Artist Guide is great to have in hand and although it might sound like some big serious stuff, but when you’re faced with a legal question it can be very difficult to know where to turn. Understanding your rights and having an avenue to seek advice can help keep your artistic career flourishing for years to come.
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