A visual artist who creates a work of art has the right to determine the use of the work. This right includes the use and distribution of the work both in its original and altered forms, and using different methods or art forms. In order to use copyrighted material of another person, you need the permission of the author.
There are limits to the author’s exclusive right. The author can transfer some or all of his or her copyrights by entering a contract or transferring them against remuneration. These rights can also be transferred for an indefinite or fixed period. Moreover, there are direct legal limitations to copyright.
The author’s rights are divided into economic and moral rights. This distinction is significant in that only economic rights can be transferred in full or in part.
A central economic copyright is the right of reproduction. This means any kind of reproduction of the work: printing, replicating, copying and recording. Taking a photograph of a work of art is considered reproduction as is converting a photograph or work of visual art into a digital format.
Another economic copyright is the right to make your work accessible to the public. Regardless of the type of artwork, this can be done by publicly displaying, performing, distributing or transmitting the work. Works of visual art are primarily displayed. Transmission includes both physical transmission of the work and transmission online.
The economic rights discussed above are the part of your copyright that can be transferred. You have the right to receive remuneration for transferring your economic copyrights (e.g. use of your artwork). This is why you have to be compensated if a picture of your work is used online or your copyright-protected work is exhibited in an art gallery.
Note that handing over your artwork does not automatically mean a transfer of copyright. For example, handing over a work of art in video format does not confer the right to show the video in public or pass it on to a third party. These are all matters to be agreed separately.
Remuneration for the use of photographs
The main rules are that you always need the permission of the author or some other copyright holder to use a work of art, and the author is entitled to remuneration when his or her work is being used. This includes situations in which a photograph is taken of a work of visual art and the photograph is then posted on a website. Artists also need to obtain permission if they intent to use someone else’s work as part of their own work.
Permission is always required for the use of an artwork, apart from in situations in which legal limitations of copyright apply. The permission to use a photograph of an artwork is granted by the author or by Kuvasto ry on behalf of those artists it represents.
Publicly displaying your work is one way of allowing the public to have access to it. When artists publicly display artwork that they own, they are entitled to exhibition fees. These are paid to the artist or to Kuvasto ry on behalf of those artists who it represents.
Audio-visual works are also displayed in art exhibitions. In these cases, the work is not considered publicly displayed but rather publicly performed. Please read the specific guidelines relevant to audio-visual works and other composite works.
In the case of works displayed in an exhibition, copyright is limited to allow use for communications and marketing purposes. A work displayed in an exhibition or museum may be photographed and the photograph used for communications related to the exhibition or sale of the work or for an exhibition catalogue. However, this exception to copyright does not apply to digital content. Including a photograph of a work of art in an exhibition catalogue published online requires the permission of the author. It is always advisable for the artist and exhibition organiser to agree on copyright matters as part of their exhibition contract.