Using Artworks in Creative Projects – The Legal Position Explained

Using Artworks in Creative Projects – The Legal Position Explained – By Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya (Partner, Head- Sports, Entertainment and Technology Practice) & Ginika Ikechukwu

Are you an art collector or budding aficionado or perhaps a film producer who works in the creative space?  Do you plan to use artwork or sculptures for your next creative project? Alright, before you make your next move, we advise you read this. Failure to seek legal advice can bring about undesirable liabilities and consequences for you and your project. It may also give rise to an infringement of the copyright of the artist as well as payouts and halting of the project.


Is Artwork Protected by Law?

A Copyright is a collection of exclusive rights that automatically vest to a person who creates an original work of authorship for the duration. According to[1], copyright refers to the legal right of the owner of intellectual property. This means that an artist or author etc. has the exclusive right to license their works to 3rd parties.

Copyright in Artistic Works. 

A work would qualify for copyright protection where it satisfies all the requirements that;

  1. Sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character;
  2. The work has been fixed in any definite medium of expression now known or later to be developed, from which it can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated either directly or with the aid of any machine or device[1].”

Specifically, in the case of artistic works,

  1. An artistic work shall not be eligible for copyright if, at the time when the work is made, it is intended by the author to be used as a model or pattern to be multiplied by any industrial process[1].

Artistic works have been defined by the act to include;

  1. paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, engravings, and prints;
  2. maps, plans, and diagrams;
  3. works of sculpture;
  4. photographs not comprised in a cinematographic film;
  5. works of architecture in the form of buildings models; and
  6. Works of artistic craftsmanship and also (subject to section 1 (3) of this Act) pictorial woven tissues and articles of applied handicraft and industrial art[1]


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