Roberta Maneker went to the Armory Show this morning to learn a little more about Artists’ copyright:
Art lawyers Judith Bresler and Ralph Lerner, and Pace Wildenstein Director of Research and Archives Jon Mason engaged in a lively panel discussion led by art journalist David Darcy, that covered much of the basics and some of the arcana of copyright law.
Bresler and Lerner are the authors of “Art Law, The Guide for Collectors, Artists, Investors, Dealers and Artists,” and “All About Rights for Visual Artists,” and are of counsel to the law firm Withers Bergman which sponsored the morning event.
The broad-ranging conversation was followed by questions from the audience of mostly art market professionals. Key points:
- Copyright remains with the creator and his estate for 70 years after the artist’s demise. (Works prior to the earliest, and least restrictive, Copyright Act in the U.S. passed in 1909 are in the public domain.)
- One key bundle of rights precludes people, without the artist’s specific permission, from reproducing or copying the artist’s work, from distributing copies of the work to member of the public, from adapting the work, etc.
- A second cluster, so-called moral rights, is premised on the notion that the personality and spirit of the artist inheres in the work, and guarantees to the artist paternity and integrity. These provisions enable an artist to disclaim authorship if his/her work is altered and/or diminishes the artist’s reputation. The notion of integrity affirmatively prevents any tampering (defacing, destroying, etc.) with a work of art after it is sold.
- The usual defense against copyright infringement claims is “fair use” which turns on the degree to which the work has been transformed and the purpose for which it is being used. Research, newscasts, etc., usually fall within the realm of fair use.