Copyright can be one of the most confusing subjects to deal with as a visual artist, given the numerous forms of copyright and the increasing wave of appropriation art and other forms of art practice which challenge what copyright means and what it encompasses.

Defined in the Canadian Copyright Act, copyright belongs to the creator of a work. If you create, you have a right to profit from your creation, unless you have signed away your copyright in writing. Even if your work has been sold and no longer belongs to you, the copyright associated with the work belongs to you. It is up to you, the creator, to use copyright, to know that it has value, and to know how to protect it.

The law says that no one can exhibit, reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise exploit your work without obtaining your written permission. Many users will ask permission, ask you to sign, and never offer a fee for the use. There is no need to accept this situation. Artists may charge for public exhibition (where the work is not presented for sale or hire) or any other use of copyright as defined by the law.

Crown Copyright and Licensing (CCL) is a division of the Federal Government devoted to these issues. They provide assistance, advice and support to the public and to Government of Canada departments and agencies with respect to Crown copyright issues; administer and protect the copyright in works authored by Government of Canada departments and agencies; negotiate and issue licensing agreements for non-commercial and commercial rights associated with works subject to Crown copyright; offer information sessions to author departments; and investigate potential copyright infringement on Government of Canada works. To learn more about CCL, click here.

You may decide to handle your copyright yourself, but if you are a member of CARFAC (all members of VANL-CARFAC are automatically members of CARFAC) you can also join CARCC, the Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective, free of charge, and let it negotiate licences for you. While this will not totally alleviate the workload associated with managing copyright, the structure and support of the organization has proved worthwhile for many visual artists. To learn more about CARCC, click here.

To order a copy of Information for Artists, which contains information on copyright, click here.

If you are a member of VANL-CARFAC, Kristen Piercey, the Program Coordinator to receive CARFAC Advisory Notes dealing with copyright.