Saturday 31 March 2012

Who owns the copyright in the original painting on your wall?

But what if it is a painting on a wall?
This photo of "Finestra sulla valle" 1969, by Contini Emilio, was taken by Sergio Bertolini
in Dozza, a medieval Italian village known for its festival of the painted wall

This blogger is still recovering from a fantastic holiday in Sri Lanka where she had the opportunity to read Art & Copyright (second edition) on the beach (yes, really).

The book provides a fantastic overview of the different IP (and other legal) issues that affect the art world, primarily in the UK. It also includes a number of more academic nuggets of information (most of which are located in the footnotes and subtext, as Jeremy pointed out in his review). One of the more unexpected footnote discoveries concerns the connection in terms of ownership between the physical work of art and the copyright in the work.

This blogger had understood that ownership of the physical object and ownership of the copyright in the work were very distinct concepts. Whilst on many occasions the copyright owner and the owner of the artwork may be the same, ownership of the physical work by no means guarantees ownership of the copyright in the work. Thus, for example, whilst a gallery may own (or have been loaned) an artwork, they may not necessarily be able to make and sell postcards, t-shirts etc of the relevant work. However, as with every rule there is at least one exception in the CDPA.

The exception of particular interest is explained in footnote 23 (page 6) of Art & Copyright. In essence if you leave to someone in a will an “original document or other material thing” recording or embodying an unpublished artistic or other work, unless there is a contrary indication in the will, the bequest includes the copyright in the work. See section 93 CDPA for more details. NB unpublished sound recordings and films are also included in this exception.

Finally, Simon Stokes’ book notes a further exception for pre CDPA photographs (which along with original prints and similar works where there can be many ‘originals’ must surely cause problems when this provision is applied?). Unfortunately the book does not provide the detail of this section merely a reference... If anyone has Copinger (para 5-02) to hand and would like to share the relevant details, it would be much appreciated!


Andrew Robinson said...

I look forward to graffiti artists claiming artist's resale rights payments in the near future!

Anonymous said...

In general, there is the ownership (or possesion) of the medium (corpus mechanicum), and the right to a work placed on it (or license). These legal titles can belong to two different entities.

When it comes to graffiti, I can't wait to see Banksy case in the court.