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Selling or reproducing original artwork (with bonus copyright legal research guide)


We’ve had many patrons ask questions about copyright, including an interesting one about getting permission to sell or make reproductions of an original oil painting. If you own an original work of art and are looking for resources on reproducing the artwork for profit and/or obtaining authorization to resell the artwork, including finding the applicable forms, there are a few resources you can try (including our new legal research guide on copyright law).

Permission and copyright in regards to artistic works can be a bit more complex than other forms of copyright. Nolo press publishes a number of excellent copyright-related titles that provide an overview of the issue including: Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off; Patent, Copyright & Trademark; and The Craft Artist’s Legal Guide (check at your local public library to see if they carry the above-mentioned titles).

Works of visual art are covered by copyright. However, certain kinds of works of visual art (particularly limited editions) are also protected under the attribution and integrity aspects of the Visual Rights Act (VARA), 17 United States Code, Section 106A . Circular 40 from the US Copyright Office covers copyright registration for works of visual art. The Artists Rights Society also covers other rights assigned to artwork creators, including resale rights and moral rights. The Craft Artist’s Legal Guide has a section on what rights a customer has when they buy a work of art.  Nolo has an online article that covers the basics of assignments and licensing.

Using general forms comes with the caveat to at least consult with an attorney. The Oregon State Bar has a $35 attorney referral service: 503-684-3763. More information on using general legal forms in Oregon can be found in our previous blog post on forms.  Getting Permission does have a chapter focusing on obtaining permission to use artwork and includes a sample Artwork Permission Agreement. Legal treatises are often good sources for form templates, including Art Law: The Guide for Collectors, Investors, Dealers and Artists published by the Practicing Law Institute, Lindey on Entertainment, Publishing, and the Arts by Alexander Lindey, and Art, Artifact & Architecture Law by Jessica Darraby. Oregon county law libraries are not likely to have art law treatises, but you might have more luck trying a university law library or the State Law Library. More information on Oregon law libraries can also be found at the Oregon Legal Research website.  Also check out our other blog posts on copyright by clicking on the “copyright” tag at the bottom of this post.

Disclaimer: It is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law (ORS 9.160 to 9.166). They may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights. They may, however, assist patrons in locating materials or links that would aid in individual research.

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