Hyattsville, MD asked in Copyright for Maryland

Q: Can an artist rescind permission after giving it?

I'm working with a team of volunteers on an unpaid passion project. One of those volunteers did a lot of artwork for us and gave us permission to use it. Now, about 9 months later, he is telling us that he wants all his artwork taken out of the project and completely redone. This puts a significant amount of strain on the art team still working with us and delays the project's release. Can he legally rescind permission and do we legally have to replace all of his artwork or does his permission in the past hold up? Unfortunately, we don't have a contract but we have a lot of evidence of permission in the past and we even released one version of the project with his artwork included (this was while he was working with us), so we have a lot of people who can back us up on that front as well.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Bill Hulsey
PREMIUM
Bill Hulsey PRO label
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Austin, TX

A: You may have a problem. However consider the rights of co-authors as addressed here:

https://corporate.findlaw.com/intellectual-property/copyright-ownership-the-joint-authorship-doctrine.html

Barbara Berschler
Barbara Berschler
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: There may be grounds to argue that from his behavior he granted an "implied" license. The difficult question is to figure out the scope of the license, meaning the terms of the license. Best to work with a copyright attorney to see where the balance can be drawn. If there was a license, even implied, and your group relied on it to its detriment, would it have a contractual claim against the artist? If the artist can be found liable under contract, you may be in a good position to bargain with him as to the terms under which your group can make use of the works.

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