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Author - Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.


Should An Artist Trademark Their Name? [Part I]

One question artists, photographers, designers, and musicians always seem to ask is whether they should trademark their name.  In many cases, an artist’s personal name is also their company name. That name is a corporate asset with real tangible value, and protecting it is an important...

Slander and Libel

When Do My Angry Statements Become Defamation?

Whenever an artist or writer portrays a living person in an unflattering light, they are likely to receive a letter or angry phone call saying things like “I am going to sue you for defamation” or “you’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” along with plethora of swear words. It sounds pretty...

Art Forgery
Business Moral Rights

Using Synthetic DNA to Fight Art Forgery

Ever since humanity has created and sold artistic works or items of aesthetic beauty, there have been art forgers looking to relieve unsuspecting individuals of their hard-earned money. Over the centuries, purveyors of art have maintained a continuous struggle against art forgery, developing ever...


Equity Crowdfunding for Art is Finally Here.

Crowdfunding is an amazing way to get art projects funded, but an aspect that has been lacking is the ability to invest in art projects or the companies developing those projects. Recently, after years of discussion around the topic, Indiegogo announced that it will be offering equity crowdfunding...

Mickey Mouse Copyright

Is Copyright Duration Too Long?

The United States has been waging a battle against several other countries over how long a copyrighted work should be protected.  Copyright duration has been one of the major sticking points in the massive free trade agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret between...


Art Law Journal is now part of Orangenius, Inc.

To Our Readers,
The Art Law Journal is pleased to announce its integration with Orangenius, Inc. a new startup developing cloud-based tools that will help members of the art community manage and grow their businesses. As an online home for the visual artist, Orangenius will be the nexus between...

Library of Congress

Is a new Copyright Office on the Horizon?

While there are many words or phrases used to describe the Copyright Office registration system,  “excellent,” “easy-to-use,” or “visually appealing,” are not among them.  In fact, don’t be surprised if the Obamacare rollout disaster has a higher approval rating than eCo; that is...

Apple Ad
Copyright Trademarks

Pop Artist Romero Britto Sues Apple

Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto is suing Apple, Inc, and two artists, known as “Craig & Karl,” over artwork Apple used in its “Start Something New” campaign. Britto, whose work is characterized by his use of bright colors, fanciful patterns, and happy subject matter, has often been...

Licensing Art

How to License Your Art Successfully

In part 1, I talked about several methods for finding companies that would be the most likely to license your art for us on their products.  The next step is contacting those companies. Licensing decision makers, especially those working in large companies, are inundated with people looking to...

licensing art
Business Industry

Why Are Some People Great at Licensing Art?

Wherever you are right now, look around and you’ll likely see dozens of products that license some type of design element; maybe it’s a photo on the cover of a book, the geometric pattern on a scarf, the graphic design of a product label, or the illustrations on a holiday card.  We are so...

Prison Music Infringement

Record Companies Sue over Mixtapes for Prison Inmates

Some of the biggest companies in the music industry, UMG, Capitol Records, Universal Music, Polygram, and Rondor, (collectively “UMG”) have banded together to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit to stop distribution of copyrighted song to prison inmates. Keefe Group and Centric Group sell...

Seth Godin

Seth Godin and Marketing for the Art World

When I set out to write this article, I wanted to provide readers with some resources they could use to help grow their businesses by taking advantage of some of the new art startups I had discussed in my last article.   How can an artist sell their work for use in the Depict Frame? How will...

Art Business

Four Tips For Growing Your Art Business

Artists, photographers, designers, or anyone who starts a business to sell their creativity is an entrepreneur. Yet, ask most art entrepreneur’s for their 24-month Pro Forma Cash Flow Report, and you will find yourself looking into a blank uncomprehending stare as if were speaking in some...

Comfy Balls Trademark

Comfy Balls Trademark Rejected as Too Vulgar

In a country where AC/DC’s can sing about their Big Balls, South Park can demonstrate Cock Magic to small children, and the Kardashians can act like Kardashians, it seems unfair that a Norwegian underwear company would be denied a U.S. trademark for its brand COMFY BALLS because the name is too...


Will the Stolen Picasso from Art Miami Be Recovered?

This past week found thousands of art collectors, galleries and art dealers flocked to Miami for Art Basel / Art Miami, including at least one art thief who walked off with an $89,000 plate made by Pablo Picasso.
The stolen Picasso, entitled Visage aux Mains,is a 16 1/2 -inch silver engraved with a...


Why You Need a Trademark Now

Most business owners in the art community will consider registering a trademark for their businesses at some point. Very often trademarks are relegated to the “nice to have” column, replaced by what are believed to be more pressing business concerns. However, trademark protection should be...

Pixsy and Infringement
Copyright Industry

Pixsy: Find and Get Paid for Image Theft

Visual artists consistently find themselves in a quandary: Should they upload their high-resolution images to social media? On the one hand, social media marketing is critical to success for many artists’ businesses. It is highly cost-effective and has great reach to many different types of...

Copyright Infringement

Christian Mom Rewrites Harry Potter

For all those people worried about their children becoming witches from reading the Harry Potter books, your worries are over. Last week, FanFiction.net received an upload from an Evangelical housewife; Grace-Ann Parsons (codenamed, “proudhousewife,”) entitled, Hogwarts School of Prayer and...


Disney Fights Deadmau5 Over Mouse Ears

After a decade of using his signature Mickey Mouse style ears, Deadmau5 is finally in hot water with the Walt Disney Company. Disney, known for the aggressive enforcement of its intellectual property, had surprisingly left Deadmau5 alone. That is until the musical artists decided to Trademark his...

Fox News

Fox News Can’t Suppress Clips of Its Shows

Fox News often finds itself the brunt of criticism by competitive networks and cable favorites, like the Daily Show. Clips from Fox shows are To discover material needed, these shows use online services like TVEyes, which provides a searchable database of clips from major TV and Radio stations...

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart Sued for Using a Photo of Himself

In 1989, Rod Stewart was at the top of his game with his song, Forever Young, #12 on the Billboard charts, and his albums Out of Order, Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits, and his anthology, Storyteller, all going Double-Platinum. Storyteller featured the now iconic photo Stewart, showing the back...

Angry Birds

Advice for Artists in a Contract Negotiation

Making a deal to bring an artist’s work to the wider world can be nerve-wracking especially during the contract negotiation phase when the artist is pitted against a team of corporate lawyers. Too often, the artist doesn’t have enough money to hire a legal team to fight for...

Gillian Street Art Infringement

Terry Gilliam Sued by Street Artists

Did the AholSniffsGlue lawsuit against American Eagle Outfitters usher in more street artists standing up for their rights? This week finds director Terry Gilliam in hot water over the use of street art in his new movie, Zero Theorem. Gilliam is a master storyteller, with a unique aesthetic that he...

Police stop

Can the police stop photographers from taking photos?

The shooting of unarmed 18-year old, Michael Brown, in Ferguson County, Missouri has once again made police brutality a topic of conversation across the media landscape. Some may think that police brutality is on the rise, but more likely, its mobile technology that has brought these incidents to...

Monkey selfie

The Telegraph is Wrong about the Monkey Selfie.

In the summer of 2011, the infamous monkey selfie went viral. Nature photographer David Slater was shooting in North Sulawesi Indonesia, when his camera stolen by a female crested black macaque monkey. Curious about the seemingly bizarre contraption, the primate began pushing buttons, accidentally...


Did American Eagle Rip Off a Miami Street Artist?

Graffiti or Street Art has come a long way since the raw style adorning New York Subways or marking gang territories in the 1970’s. Street artists have gained a healthy following of fans enamored by their non-traditional approach to shape and color; an aesthetic highlighting socially relevant...

License agreement
Business Industry

Congress Makes Unlocking Smartphones Legal

This week, the Congress approved a bill allowing anyone to unlock their cell phones, regardless of restrictions may have been required when signing cell phone contracts. The Senate passed a similar version earlier in the month and President Obama will soon add his signature. Given the ease at...

Noriega Right Of Publicity

Former Dictator Manuel Noriega Sues Over Call of Duty

In the latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops II, video game maker Activision took the bold step of moving away from the traditional terrorist or Nazi villain in favor of Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega. Ousted from power in 1989, Noriega has remained relatively quiet...

Etsy DMCA Safe Harbor

An Etsy Store Stole My Art. What Can I Do?

It has been about a year since I wrote about the excessive complaints permeating the web regarding copyright infringement on Etsy, the popular ecommerce site dedicated to handmade and vintage goods. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then, at least not from an anecdotal review of complaints...

Model Release

Why Businesses Should Always Have a Model Release

Let’s start with some advice: Any graphic materials that promotes something; whether products, a businesses, or charitable causes, and the graphics contain images of recognizable people, — always have those people sign a model release. Of course, there are non-commercial uses that may...

Getting Model Release

When Do I Need a Model Release?

One of the most frequently asked questions Intellectual property lawyers hear from members of the art community is “When should I get I need a model release?” Given the litigious nature of our society, this is no surprise.  The fear of being sued is pervasive.  The question becomes more...

Write a story about Sherlock Holmes

Now Anyone Can Write a Story About Sherlock Holmes

It has been over a hundred years since Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print. Now, thanks to Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, anyone who wants to write a story using the infamous sleuth or any other character’s from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon are free to do so.

Redskins Trademark

Redskin’s Trademark Loss May Not Have Much Effect

The Washington Redskin’s have been under pressure to change the team’s name due to its disparaging connotation to Native Americans but the owner’s have refused to budge on any changes. To add to the controversy, today, the Trademark Trial an Appeals Board revoked the six of the Redskins...

Stairway to Heaven

Did Led Zeppelin Steal Stairway to Heaven?

In 1968, Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitar player and songwriter, wrote what is arguably the most famous rock song of all time, Stairway to Heaven. According to Randy Craig Wolfe, Founder and guitarist for the band Spirit, the Led Zeppelin masterpiece is just blatant plagiarism of his song...

Drone Photography Law

The Law of Drone Photography

Drone photography discussions seem to abound nowadays across the Internet. Today, for around $1600 anyone can buy a drone like the Turbo Ace X830-D, attach a Go Pro Hero 3 Black edition camera, and have an aerial studio which can fly around for 25 minutes, taking either 12 megapixel stills or 4K...

Breach of Contract

Tips on Contracts and Licensing for Artists

Every business needs a contract at one time or another.  They are everywhere.  Whether you are a struggling artist, world renowned photographer or a gallery owner, you will be inundated with contracts from art dealers, agents, exhibitors, publishers, ad agencies, museums as well as non-art...

Trademark in Business
Business Trademarks

Need a Trademark? Here are some tips.

Picking a name for a business or product is one of the first steps for any new venture. However, many companies don’t register their trademarks during the start-up phase, usually waiting until a later time when sufficient cash is available, if registered at all. That decision is a bit of a...

Hyperlink and copyright

Will Hyperlinks Become a Copyright Infringement?

In 1996, the U.S. signed onto the WIPO Internet Treaties which requires its member states to give authors of creative works the exclusive right to decide how, when and where their works are made available and communicated to the public, including on the Internet or other digital platforms. The U.S...

Art Law Negotiation

Contract Negotiation Tips for Visual Artists

In part 1, we looked at some general negotiating strategies. In part 2, we will look at questions you should be asking in any contract negotiation as well as reviewing provisions that you will likely see in your contract. For this discussion, let’s again assume that you are an artist negotiating...

Art of War

Licensing Strategies for the Visual Artist

An artist has her first show in a New York gallery, an author is commissioned to create a photography book, a set designer has been asked to work on her first play; after the initial excitement ends, they realize with mounting trepidation, that they must enter into contract negotiations and have no...

Work made for hire in copyright
Business Copyright

Who Owns Works Created by a Freelancer?

As a general rule, when an artistic or literary work is created, the author is the one that holds the copyright. Nobody can copy, distribute, or display the work without the author’s permission.  When a painting is sold, the buyer owns the painting itself, but does not have the right to use that...

Upskirt Photography

Upskirt Photos No Longer Legal

There has been a lot of outrage this week over a Massachusetts high court decision that made it not against the law to secretly take photographs up a woman’s skirt.  The fallout of this decision created an outcry by the public demanding that the State Legislature to ban upskirt photography. ...

Phoenix Copyright Notice
Copyright Industry

Some Copyright Holders Are Ridiculous

While it is a good idea to enforce your copyright against unscrupulous Internet thieves, some copyright holders overreach their authority to their own detriment. Take the French Band “Phoenix,” and their label Liberation Music, who threatened to sue one of the most famous and well-respected...

Copywrong Movement
Business Copyright

Do we need to relax copyright law?

While the idea of copyright protection is near universal, not everyone agrees with how its implemented.  There is a growing movement among creatives who feel that the benefits afforded by copyright law strongly favor corporations and the wealthier members of society, leaving the majority at a...

Mickey Mouse Copyright
Business Copyright

How Mickey Mouse Keeps Changing Copyright Law

When the Copyright Act was first enacted in the United States, the copyright duration was only 14 years. Today Copyright duration can last over a century in some cases.  Why such a drastic change?  Some say it is all due to a cute little mouse named Mickey.
Copyright duration had some...

Creative Commons Art Alw

Why should I use a Creative Commons License?

Go to Flickr, Deviant Art, Sound Cloud, or even Wikipedia and you will see the term “Creative Commons License” peppered throughout attached to images, music files, and videos. Creative Commons licenses enable the owner of an original copyrighted work to allow use of their creative work by...

Schlackman Cuba Photography

Can’t find a good domain name? Help is on the way.

For those of you looking for a new domain name, you probably have found that most of your “insertcoolname.com” ideas were already taken.  You find yourself forced to go with a .net or a .co, instead of the more lucrative .com name.  That wouldn’t seem so bad if most of the domains actually...

Business Copyright

Copyright for Architectural Designs

It is a common misperception that you cannot copyright a building design. That is probably because before 1990, there wasn’t much protection for building designs. At that time, anyone could reproduce buildings that looked identical to those created by others, as long as they didn’t actually use...


How to Submit a Copyright Takedown Notice

If a U.S. website is using your images without your permission, the easiest and fastest way to stop the infringement is to send the website a “DMCA Takedown Notice.” DMCA stands for the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”  Websites that host user generated material are immune from...

Art law of stolen Nazi Degenerate art

Nazi Stolen Art Still Not Returned

In November, I wrote an article about a treasure trove of 1408 artistic works stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Unfortunately, while at the time, it seemed that much of this art would returned to their owners, not much has happened, although some new developments may see that change.
The art...

Copyright Symbol all rights reserved
Copyright Industry

Do I Need to Use the © Symbol?

The copyright symbol © is one of the most recognized symbols in the world.  The reason it is so well known is that for quite a long time, it was required that creators display the © symbol on their artistic works to receive the benefit copyright protection. Look at any movie poster and you will...

Art Law

Another 101 Images of Nazi Looted Art Released

German authorities have released another 101 images of artwork found in a Munich apartment which had been stolen by the Nazis.  This release, now totaling 219, include drawings and watercolors by Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso as well as the painting Two Riders on the Beach by Max...

twitter and copyright

Are My Tweets Copyrighted?

Twitter; a bastion of free speech, extolling thought-provoking 140 character diatribes from some of our most famous cultural icons, including Kim Kardashian’s eloquent “Watching Cash Cab and these questions are so hard!”  to Paris Hilton’s “No, No, I didn’t go to England, I went to...

Sony sues United airlines
Business Copyright

Don’t Make This Simple Business Mistake?

In negotiations is not the same as a signed agreement. Seems simple but his kind of thing happens a lot.  People get excited. They want to tweet to use it or tweet it to the world. Sometimes, it’s no problem, the agreement gets signed and life goes on.  Other times, it’s a different story as...

Mission Statement

What everyone should know about Mission Statements.

Every creative person that is trying to sell his or her work is running a business.  It may not be formalized into a separate company, it may not have any employees other than the artist, or it may not even be a full time effort, but regardless, every business venture should have a mission...

International Copyright

Is my Copyright Internationally Protected?

There is no international copyright protecting creative work in countries around the world.  Each country has its own laws and regulations.  However, most countries have signed on to one or more international treaties that provide protections for works within those contracting countries.  The...

Terms of service

How Important Is Reading the Terms of Service?

Or maybe you should ask yourself if you still want to maintain the exclusive rights to your art? That may sound severe but it is something people need to consider, especially for sites like Flickr, Facebook, or SoundCloud where artists may be uploading their visual work or musical compositions. Yet...

Don't Steal My Art

Don’t Steal My Art! Webinar is Available On Demand

Thank you to the more than 225 people who watched our Google Hangout.  We hope everyone found the program entertaining and the information useful.  For those that missed it, the show is now available On Demand, right here on our site or on You Tube at .  So if you want to find out more about...

Eames Chair Patent

Design Patents. An Unused Gem of IP Protection.

Most designers, whether they make clothing, furniture, automobiles or any other non-functional ornamental products, don’t realize that they might be able to patent those designs and keep other people from using them for 14 years.  Sounds pretty good right?  In Part 1, I discussed the...

Design Patents

Should You Consider a Design Patent?

Design patents can give designers broad protection over their creations not available by other means.   On the downside, design patents are not always easy to get and can often cost a few thousand dollars.  But, depending on the product and potential size of the market, it may be well worth the...

Leonardo Hidalgo

Parody, Fair Use, and Kiss My Ass

We talk a lot about copyright infringement on this site, but not every use of someone else’s work is an infringement. Copyright is subject to certain limitations found in the Copyright Act.  One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of  “fair use.” This doctrine was developed...

Happy Birthday Copyright

Singing Happy Birthday Could Be a Copyright Violation

Did you know that putting your child’s Happy Birthday candle blowing performance onto YouTube is a copyright violation?  Well, that is if you believe Warner/Chapell Music, the claimed copyright holder for this timeless song.  It does seem a bit preposterous that a song which is over 120 years...

Online Piracy

An Invisible Watermark? So cool.

In my last article, I discussed the advantages of adding a small watermark or signature to the corner of any image even though it could easily be cropped out. But then what? You are still left with your image being used without permission on a site you may not even be aware of.  So in the best of...

Watermarks and the DMCA
Online Piracy

3 Reasons to Use a Digital Watermark

Watermarking has been the artists’ bane since the early days of the computer revolution. We all want to protect our images from unauthorized use, but at the same time, we don’t want to do anything to detract from the visual appearance, since that is the whole point of posting the work in the...

Copyright Online Piracy

Etsy: A Home for Copyright Infringement

Part 1: Etsy, the online e-commerce website focusing on handmade goods, crafts and vintage items, has continually come under fire due to incessant copyright infringement.  Here is a typical scenario: An artist is surfing through Etsy looking for a Mother’s Day gift, when on the screen they are...

work for hire in copyright

Who Owns the Copyright in a Work Made for Hire? Part 2

In part, I discussed the ownership of copyright for those artistic creators that were employees at the time of their creation.  But what if you are an independent contractor hired for a particular creative endeavor?  This is where the rules get a little messy and are often in favor of the artist...

Work for Hire

Who Owns the Copyright in a Work-for-Hire? Part 1

Most people believe that when they hire someone to create an artistic work, that the work is fully owned by them for their unlimited use.  It makes sense; you contracted for that work, paid for it, so you own it and can do whatever you want with it. However, this is not always the case.  The...

Apple Denied Trademark

Apple Denied “iPad Mini” Trademark

The US Patent and Trademark Office has denied Apple a trademark on the term “iPad mini.” Despite the popular notion, trademarks are not easy to obtain. Even with all its experienced high-powered attorneys, Apple now finds themselves without a trademark on one of their main product lines...

Online Piracy

Find Your Stolen Online Photos?

Have you ever wondered if your copyright protected images are being copied for use on other websites? As a photographer, I post many of my photos to the web. Some are on sites that have legally paid for their use, some are posted to my own website, while others are posted to photo networks such as...