Tyler Stackman, a Thunghutti artist from Walcha in northwest NSW, is a visual artist who combines traditional dots with fine lines in his work (pictured behind him on the left in the photo) and he also crafts wooden artefacts, kangaroo skins and emu eggs. Tyler recently had an exhibition “Tribal Bloodline” at Stirrup Gallery in Marrickville, Sydney. Also in the exhibition are works by Nicholas Levy, Adam Spencer and Mona Fernando, all Aboriginal artists from NSW. Adam Spencer is currently the artist in residence at the Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Tyler will take over this role in the future.
Tyler was having issues with copyright licensing and infringement and needed legal advice to decide what to do. Arts Law was able to advise him on these questions as part of our Licensing the Right Way program. As part of this program, we work with artists to make sure their rights are protected and to ensure permission is obtained from the artist before their works are copied and used. Ideally, this approvals process should take place before the artwork is used.
We helped Tyler understand his rights. For example, we explained to him that a licence (i.e., permission) from the copyright owner is always required to reproduce an artwork, even when it is being reproduced by a museum which owns the physical artwork. Owning a physical artwork is not the same as owning copyright in that work. When an artist sells an artwork, they generally retain their copyright, and their permission is still required to reproduce it (for example, in catalogue or on a website).
In some cases, permission isn’t sought before the image has been used. Even where use of the image can promote the reputation of an emerging artist, this is a breach of their copyright. It is vital that the artist’s permission is obtained first (a licence) and they are credited as the artist, particularly in situations where the image is used commercially or for public projects such as road signs.
If you are an artist who needs help with copyright licensing or infringement, you should get legal advice. You can reach out to Arts Law through our legal query form here. We also have information sheets on Copyright, Licensing and Infringement.