FAQ – Reproducing Your Artwork

I’ve sold the original… Can I reproduce my artwork?

Can I reproduce my artwork?

As the creator of an original image or artwork you are automatically granted copyright, which is a set of exclusive rights granted to you. It includes the sole right for you to make, reproduce, distribute and adapt the work you have created. Images are protected for the lifetime of the creator, e.g. the artist or photographer, and for 50 years after his or her death.

Copyright belongs to you, the artist and is separate from ownership of an original artwork. If the work is un-commissioned, then the artist owns the copyright automatically even if the original is sold. Only the copyright holder has the right to reproduce the work.

The artist doesn’t have to put the little c in a circle to own the copyright. They own the copyright whether the symbol is there or not.   The Copyright Council recommend that it is used though as it is like a small sign that says “I know I have the copyright here”
For a work to be protected by copyright it must be “a product of the creator exercising independent skill and labour” (thanks NZ Copyright Council).

When you buy a piece of art you don’t buy the copyright with it

Let’s say you buy a painting. You have bought the painting NOT the copyright to the painting.
You can enjoy it and even resell it, but you don’t own the right to copy it by either getting prints made of it, or painting a replica, or taking as photo of it and selling the photo.  That right continues to be owned by the artist.
In some cases, if the painting was commissioned by the buyer then the buyer could the copyright by agreement.  If this is the case, the artist must then get the permission of the buyer to do any reproductions OR have a prior agreement in place with the purchaser where the artist retains the copyright.

Thinking of Selling Your Original Artwork?

You should scan or photograph your original artwork before it is sold as the new owner is under no obligation to allow access once the sale is complete. Remember, it is only polite to inform a purchaser if you intend to reproduce an original that they have just purchased.

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