Visual art is a broad category encompassing many types of art: painting, sculpture, film, still photography, architecture, fashion design, interior design, graphic design. Visual artworks are eligible for protection under copyright law. Contact the team at Duncan Firm to learn how best to protect your work.
US copyright law provides a specific, restrictive definition of visual art:
These works can be registered with the US Copyright Office using the same process as with other copyrightable work, by sending a photo of the work, paying a fee, and receiving a certificate confirming your ownership.
As the copyright holder of your original work, you have the authority to determine whether and how it is publicly displayed, which includes photographs of the work. If your work is displayed in an art gallery, you will generally sign a consignment agreement, in which you agree to loan your work to the gallery for a certain period of time.
Since the Internet and social media have proliferated, it has become more difficult to control the distribution of images. Most art galleries will ask their patrons to refrain from taking pictures of the displayed work, but images do still appear online. Depending on how much of your work is copied and whether it deprives you of income (for example, if your visual art appears prominently in an ad campaign that you did not approve), you may have a case for copyright infringement.
Conversely, if you are a photographer or filmmaker, you should be cautious about including works of visual art such as paintings and sculptures in your photos and films unless you have obtained permission from the rights holder. Context matters, as well as how prominently the work is featured. A brief, incidental glimpse of a painting in the background will likely not be enough to provoke a copyright case, but carefully staging a shot around a painting will.
Like other forms of original art fixed in a tangible medium, visual artworks are protected by copyright law. The experienced legal team at Duncan Firm can provide you with more information about copyright and how it applies to your work.