Public sculptures & copyright law
Public sculptures can easily be reproduced without the knowledge of the copyright holder be it in photographs or on postcards. These reproductions can then go on to be sold. A recent lawsuit looked to uncover the rights of the copyright owner in these instances.
Arturo Di Modica is the creator of the Charging Bull statue that is set in the terminus of Broadway in Bowling Green Park in New York City. It has become one of New York’s most prized features and often is used in images of the city. Di Modica owns the copyright to the piece and in September 2006 filed a law suit against Wal-Mart, North Fork Bancorp and several other companies for infringing on his copyright by using images of his work in their advertising and for producing unlicensed replicas of the statue to sell to the public. Di Modica claimed that he was losing out on significant financial income as a result of these companies using his work without permission and sought court orders banning them from using it in the future and for financial compensation.
Under US copyright law, only architectural works that are ‘ordinarily’ visible are allowed to be reproduced in a two dimensional format without the previous permission of the copyright holder. Public sculptures are protected from any type of reproduction without the permission of the copyright owner. This means that the designer of a building cannot file legal action against anyone who reproduces their work in a two dimensional form. They can however take legal action if someone attempts to recreate their work in a three dimensional form.
While the UK law mirror the US law in terms of architecture, it has a completely different set of laws for copyright concerning public sculpture. In the UK public statues can legally be reproduced in any two dimensional form including TV broadcasts without the copyright owners permission. The reproductions can also be used for commercial reasons. There are however specifications that people who wish reproduce the work must stick to. To begin with, they must give an acknowledgement to the copyright owner on their new image. They must also not make any reproductions which use the original work in a derogatory way. They can also not make any changes to the original image in any way by, for example, adding or removing parts of the image. The original copyright owner has the moral right to disallow the use of their work in reproductions if they believe that their work is being treated derogatorily.
It is illegal in the UK however, for any 3D reproductions of public statues to be made without the consent of the original copyright owner. Any 3D reproductions that are made without the consent of the copyright owner would be seen as a breach of copyright and the person making the reproductions would be liable for legal action to be taken against them. This law also means that the owners of the copyright of a public statue can sell licenses to people who wish to reproduce the statue in 3D form which can form a considerable income for the copyright holder. It also means that a copyright holder can keep control of how and where their work is reproduced.
In the UK it is important that artists and commissioners are aware of the copyright laws which will affect their work once it is put in a public place. Most public statues are permanent fixtures and become important landmarks in the areas of which they are sited. Thus UK copyright law works in favour of the public as it would be impossible to govern the 2D reproduction of such works.
Share your experiences
Please note: The views expressed in community areas of this site do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Law on the Web, its owners, its staff or contributors.
A trademark can be defined as the logo, sign or phrase that represents an organisation to the mass market. It is an essential part of brand identity.Find out more
For an idea to get a patent it must first be granted by the patent office, part of the Intellectual Property Office which deals with this kind of thing.Find out more
In the UK, copyright law is used to enforce various protections over the creative work of individuals or collaborators, covering a broad range of industries.Find out more