Visual Arts Copyrights

The laws of the United States provide Copyright as a form of protection to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”  The copyright owner has the exclusive right to make copies, to prepare derivative works, to sell or distribute copies, and to display the work publicly.  Any other person must have the permission of the author or someone who has derived rights through the author, to use the work in similar ways.  

Under copyright law, a work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created and fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.  For copyright protection, registration in the copyright office or publication is not required.  However, there are certain advantages to registration including the establishment of a public record of the copyright claim.  Generally, copyright registration must be made before an infringement suit can be brought.  Moreover, timely registration can provide a broader range of remedies in an infringement suit.  Copyright protects original “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works,” which include two and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art.  However, Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of such works.  Copyright protects any pictorial, graphic, or sculptural authorship that can be identified separately from the utilitarian aspects of an object.


Inside Visual Arts Copyrights