Secure Your Family’s Future Today

Copywright Law For Artists

Artists, in addition to producing their creative work, need to think seriously about how they will protect that work from being infringed. One of the key components of art law is the United States copyright law, which offers legal protections to creative people. Many artists, however, might not be aware of the basic elements of the copyright law. This article takes a look at this key aspect of art law.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal concept that gives the originator of a creative work the legal rights to that work. United States copyright law provides creators with legal ownership of the works that they produce. The law considers a work to be under copyright as soon as it's created in tangible form. The artist has the right to distribute their work for sale, reproduce their work, and adapt their work. 

What Types of Creative Work Can Be Copyrighted?

Only creative works that fall into one of the accepted categories can be copyrighted. According to the patent office, the categories are films, performing arts, photographs, literary productions, such as books, visual arts, such as paintings, and certain digital productions, such as apps.

What Is the First-Sale Doctrine?

U.S. copyright regulations have an important exception that applies to an artist selling their work. This exception is known as the first-sale doctrine. Under this provision, when the work of an artist is legally sold in a tangible form, the new owner has the right to sell or dispose of that particular copy of the work under certain conditions. For example, when you buy a DVD copy of a movie, you have the right to sell that copy to someone else or to give it away. You do not, however, have the right to make copies of that DVD and offer them for sale.

Should Artists Register Their Work with the Copyright Office?

Although artists do not have to register their creations with the copyright office for their work to be under copyright, registering provides some key protections that make it a good idea. For example, if someone infringes on your work by reproducing it without your permission, having a registered copyright can prove to them that you are the rightful owner of the work. Another important point is that although registering your copyright is not strictly required by law, you must do so if you want to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement at some point.

Copyright law can be complex and is not always easy for artists, who are typically focused on their creative efforts rather than legal issues, to navigate. To learn more about copyright rules, consult an art lawyer