Legal Considerations & Copyright

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Squamish Public Art Sna7m Smanit Strong Spirit of the Mountain James Harry Lauren Brevner 1200x600

The specific legal considerations will differ based on the type of art, location, and its size. Artists should consider the following with each public art project:

  • Consult with legal professionals experienced in public art projects to navigate any legal concerns effectively. Local laws and regulations can vary, so obtaining legal advice specific to the project’s location is helpful.

Copyright and Intellectual Property

The ownership of public art can vary based on the agreements between the artist and the entity commissioning or hosting the artwork. Here are some common scenarios:
Full Ownership by the Artist
In some cases, artists may retain full ownership of their public art. The commissioning organization might pay for the creation, installation, or maintenance of the piece, but the artist retains the copyright and intellectual property rights.

Many public art projects involve a transfer of ownership or licensing of the artwork to the commissioning organization. In such cases, the entity often obtains the right to display, maintain, and potentially relocate or remove the artwork.

Some agreements may involve shared ownership or licensing arrangements. This could mean that both the artist and the commissioning entity have certain rights to the artwork. For instance, the artist might retain copyright while granting the commissioning entity the right to display and maintain the piece in a public space.
In cases of temporary public art installations or artworks placed on loan, the artist may retain ownership, and the commissioning entity or host may have rights to display the work for a specified period.

It’s crucial for artists and commissioning entities to have clear and well-drafted agreements outlining the terms of ownership, usage rights, responsibilities, and any other relevant details. Legal documents, such as contracts or licensing agreements, should specify whether the artist retains copyright and what rights are granted to the commissioning entity.

Understanding and negotiating these terms are essential for both parties involved. Artists should be aware of the potential impact on their ability to reproduce or sell the work, while commissioning entities need to ensure they have the necessary rights to maintain and display the artwork in a public space.

For full copyright information, artists and commissioning organizations should consult the Canada Intellectual Property Office, Copyrights .

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