How to divest intellectual property rights on a work of art

Catch and Release: Understanding Who Owns What When it Comes to Creative Works

Protecting works of art usually means asking about who owns it, first and foremost. Art is never created in a silo. Especially in cases where art is created for commerce, the question remains: who owns the rights to a work of art? Learn about how to transfer these rights legally and for profit.

What is the Point of Intellectual Property Rights?

Intellectual property rights give the creator of the work full rights of ownership and the creation is considered to be attributed fully and solely to the artist. This means that they are automatically protected the moment they create the work and this ownership continues on, even if they are to sell the object or art work. These rights heavily favor an artist and protect them to the fullest extent. They also cover any derivative works and posthumous works of art, unless the derivative copyright has been obtained from the artist for that specific work of art. Of course, exceptions can be made in cases of parody or satire and these are considered ‘transformative works of art’. Intellectual property rights exist from the moment of the work’s inception and, usually, the registration of copyright is only required if the artist intends to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement; this registration acts as a kind of paper trail that allows the artist who is filing a lawsuit to establish a substantial similarity between the two works.

How to Release the Rights on a Work of Art

So why would an artist ever release the rights to a work of art they’ve created? The boundaries of ownership rights are always tested when it comes to purchasing visual art. Usually, granting a release on a work of art benefits the purchaser or buyer and not the artist, since they have rights upon creation. Significantly altering or changing the work of art is generally considered an infringement on intellectual property rights, however in the case that the artist does not release copyright, the intellectual property rights would not automatically fall to their benefit; depending on the case, they might have to show that this significant alternation has harmed their reputation. Intellectual property release protects not just profits made on the work of art but what can be done to it and with it in the future, including resale and exhibition. In order to divest an artist copyright, the artist must fill out a release form so the other party may obtain the rights, stating their compliance with the fact that they will not be party to any royalties earned in the future.