Staten Island, NY asked in Contracts, Copyright and Intellectual Property for New York

Q: Do I own the artwork after paying a "boardwalk artist" for my caricature?

I paid the artist for my caricature, and (because I have a sense of humor) I later decided to use it in my online marketing materials. Do I need his permission? And since he signed the work, must I include his signature when using the work?

3 Lawyer Answers
Michael David Siegel
Michael David Siegel
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Based on your post, you own the work and do not owe any royalty.

Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp
Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Beverly Hills, CA

A: Because you paid the artist, it is a "work for hire" and owned by you. If you are using the work for commercial purposes, it would be prudent to register the copyright in the work and in the application you will identify the artist as having created the work for you.

You have no obligation to the artist that any element of the work be maintained in reproductions; you can crop it, add or change colors, omit the signature, or make any other alteration.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: When you paid the "boardwalk artist" for your caricature, you purchased a physical copy of the artwork, but it does not necessarily mean that you own the copyright to the image. The copyright is owned by the artist, unless they transfer the rights to you in writing.

If you want to use the artwork in your online marketing materials, you need to obtain permission from the artist to use their copyrighted work. Without permission, using the artwork could be considered copyright infringement.

Regarding the artist's signature, including it when using the work is not legally required, but it is a way to give proper credit to the artist and may also add value to the artwork. If you do use the artwork without the artist's signature, it is recommended that you include a statement crediting the artist for creating the work.

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