All Works of Art Are Protected By US And International Copyright Laws

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Copyright Registration for Pictorial, Graphic, and Sculptural Works

Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law to authors of “original works of authorship,” including “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.” The owner of copyright in a work has the exclusive right to make copies, prepare derivative works, sell or distribute copies, and display the work publicly. Anyone else wishing to use the work in these ways must have the permission of the author or someone who has derived rights through the author.

A work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created, that is, “fixed” in a copy for the first time. Neither registration in the Copyright Office nor publication is required for copyright protection.

Before March 1, 1989 the use of a copyright notice was mandatory on all published works, and any work first published before that date should have carried a notice. For works first published on or after March 1, 1989 use of a copyright notice is optional however the work remains protected even if a notice is not filed.

Copyright law defines “publication” as the distribution of copies of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending. Offering to distribute copies to a group of people for purposes of further distri- bution or public display also constitutes publication.

A work of art that exists in only one copy, such as a painting or a statue, is not regarded as published when the single existing copy is sold or offered for sale in the traditional way, such as through an art dealer, gallery, or auction house. When the work is reproduced in multiple copies, such as in reproductions of a painting or castings of a statue, the work is considered published when the reproductions are publicly distributed, sold or offered to a group for further distribution or public display.

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