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Thomas Swartz
Thomas Swartz, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3174
Experience:  Twenty one years experience as a lawyer in New York and New Jersey. Former Appellate Law Clerk.
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Someone wants to use my moms art for their website, which

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Someone wants to use my mom's art for their website, which they are already doing. (My mom died this year, and I'm in charge of her estate currently.) Are there licensing or copyright laws I should know about?

When your mom was alive she would own the copyright to her art work from the moment she created it. I suspect that she never registered a copyright for her art work with the U.S. Copyright Office. But registering a copyright is not necessary for ownership. It is necessary to enforce a copyright in court (but more on that in a moment). Now that she is deceased, ownership of the copyright to the art work would be passed to and be owned by her estate. Thus, as the administrator of her estate you essentially have the right to request that anyone using the art work without your permission and/or without compensation should be stopped.

Now it is possible that while your mom was alive she granted permission to others to use her artwork by some type of agreement. If that is the case, you wouldn't have the ability to prevent those users from continued use depending on the terms of that agreement. You'll have to do a little questioning of the current users on exactly how they came to use your mom's artwork and under what terms. But for any future users, you certainly have the right as owner of the copyright to grant or deny permission for use, and to request royalty payments under a licensing agreement.

To stop any actual infringement of the copyright (use without permission) you would have to commence a lawsuit against the infringer. And before you can bring a case in court to enforce a copyright, you have to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. So, I would recommend that you register a copyright for your morn's art work, and as administrator of her estate you can do that.

I hope this helps.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Thank you for all of that!


If I ask them for money, and they pay me, do they have all rights to it? Or can I still sell prints from it? (My mom has a ton of art on Fine Art America, and her art sells all the time.)



No they do not have the rights to it. You retain ownership of the copyright, and you can make prints and sell them or do anything else concerning the image of the artwork. You would just have them pay a licensing fee to use it on their website. You should have them sign a copyright licensing agreement specifying exactly the terms of their use, and how much they are to pay you. You can find copyright licensing agreement online. If you just google "Copyright Licensing Agreement Sample" you will find a couple to use a base for your own agreement. Take a look at This Sample just as an example.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you! I totally get this now!!



You are welcome. Good luck.

Tom S.
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