Intellectual Property: What artists need to know

“You don’t have to be an expert on intellectual property but you do need to know when to contact one.” said local lawyer Mark Wright, beginning a workshop on Intellectual Property for artists. Xico was excited to host this informative workshop this past week and I’ve typed up a few notes to share. This issue is an important one for artists to be aware of, so please educate yourself early and avoid trouble later!

  • Intellectual property refers to ideas, not objects or land
  • Patents- 3-D artists may be interested in getting a design patent for their sculptures
  • Trademark- Artists can trademark logos, names, and similar ideas. Just using any of those gives you a claim to a trademark but registering provides much broader rights in terms of forcing others to stop using your idea.
  • Copyright- Simply, copyright is the right to make copies, to control the distribution of a thing. ***Artists automatically have a copyright on any work they create. *** Buying a piece of art does not automatically transfer the copyright from the artist to the buyer. Although copyright is automatic, registering a copyright with the US government gives artists a lot more protection and allows them to sue people who steal their work for damages.
  • Inheritance- In the US copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 75 years, artists may want to assign their intellectual property to a specific person in their will

The notes above are some very general guidelines. If you’re not sure what to do in a specific situation, consult a lawyer like Mark to protect your intellectual property.