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Old 08-04-2010, 03:16 PM
julia burton julia burton is offline
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Location: tulsa oklahoma
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Red face copyright

I am wondering if when you die and leave your sculpture to your heir do they also automaticly inherit the copyright to that sculpture? I have seen some pretty scary things about copyright lately such as some one ANYONE can take out a copyright on your work IF you haven't already and then sue you for making copies of your OWN work! It is legal to do that. If anyone knows about who keeps your copyright please let me know.
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Old 08-04-2010, 04:21 PM
Andrew Werby Andrew Werby is offline
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Re: copyright

I'm not sure that copyrights are automatically transferred upon your death unless specifically conveyed in ones will, although if your estate is probated and a single heir is established, that person will get them. Obviously, if you have more than one heir, things get more complicated.

But I doubt that the other issue you raise - where anyone can register a copyright on your work and prevent you from copying it is really based on fact - do you have a source for that? As I understand current law, copyright is immediately in effect as soon as you publish (or in the case of a unique work of art, exhibit) your work. While it's certainly helpful to register the copyright as well, in case there's a dispute about it, even if someone else has registered it as theirs, if you can show that you created it before that, you will prevail.

If you're seriously concerned about this, you should really consult a lawyer, which I'm not. But go ahead and register all your work - you can copyright a whole series of sculpture at once for a single fee; you don't have to do it one at a time. And if you're worried about who's going to inherit your work, spell it out in your will.

Andrew Werby
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Old 08-07-2010, 10:40 AM
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Julianna Julianna is offline
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Location: Waterloo, ON
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Re: copyright

To my knowledge, copyright isn't automatically inherited in the US or Canada.

Typically for visual art, copyright is automatically assumed by the artist when something is "published" (in whatever form applicable now; this is an old term when "making something public" wasn't easily done by an artist on their own). The only exception is for hired photographers, where US and Canadian copyright law assign that to the client unless the photographer and client have a contract that states otherwise. For other artists, the only time someone else would own the copyright is if they have a contract with the client (whether a person or institution) that specifically assigns the copyright.

For other forms of art (e.g. music, literature, journalism, film), copyright ownership is typically contractualized because of the way the work is produced and the industries operate. In general, if there is no contract, each person owns the copyright to their contribution (which gets messy, which is why this is usually contractualized).

With your question about inheriting copyright by inheriting the work, I don't think this is typically true, but it's a grey area. I don't know of any cases where this has come up (although there may have been). I don't suspect this would happen, because when you sell a sculpture, copyright is not sold with it unless specifically indicated. That being said, most recording artists whose survivors inherit their estate usually end up handling the business, but this may be specifically willed to them.

Like Andrew, I would recommend talking to a lawyer if you have a specific concern. Legal clinics for artists are becoming more common, so you might be able to get some free or cheap advice through a local arts group.
Julianna Yau Yorgan
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