The Present Status of Artlaw

What is the present status of Artlaw?
Jacqueline Morreau is by no means alone in asking this leading question (Art Monthly No. 83, p.25).
Since the demise of Artlaw Services in 1983, thousands of people have been persistently asking the same thing when they have finally penetrated the private lives of those of us left holding a baby which has refused to go down with the bath water. Let me explain for one and all.

Artlaw services
We closed the office in July 1983 when we received our draft audited accounts for the previous year which showed an accumulated deficit there was no reasonable prospect of us reducing in the foreseeable future. At that stage we were no longer funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, who had pulled out completely through the infamous cuts of 1981/2. It was the absence of that funding which made the accumulated deficit at July 1983 such an insurmountable hurdle for us to jump.

What has happened to the provision of Artlaw information, education, publications, legal advice and help, since then, in the absence of a freely-available national public service?

This column has continued, thanks to the wit and wisdom of the Editors, and for nearly nine years we have been giving out information. A great deal of correspondence reaches me directly and indirectly through this publication, ranging from simple requests for information, for teaching, writing and especially for legal advice and help. I cannot offer a public office, but I do respond as best I can to those who do get through.

So far as this column is concerned, I am currently researching the accessioning/ keeping/ conservation/ preservation/ deaccessioning/ moral rights area (see last month’s column). I would be pleased to hear from artists, administrators and any others with thoughts or experiences in this tricky area of practice.

The provision of copyright information in particular has been greatly facilitated by the establishment of DACS (see below).

A large number of the art schools have continued to offer Artlaw input to students, bringing in those of us who are still willing and able to take time out from our respective practices and present what we call professional studies lectures/seminars/courses. Many course leaders have been sufficiently stimulated to construct and offer their students a complete course of professional studies lectures, often drawing upon resources culled from other departments in the institution (legal, business studies, management, and so on), from industry, commerce and the professions, as well as the old Artlaw team.

For the practitioners in the field, the travelling Artlaw workshops have of course ceased, but there have been a number of encouraging developments. The recently reopened Blackheath School of Art, an independent body, this year started a ten-week Professional Studies Course for artists and designers (delivered by an ex-Artlaw team); this has proved so successful that a second one is now being offered, with more in the pipeline. (Further details from the School on 01- 852 3960.)

On the more academic side, Durham University, which offers a part-time and full-time MSc in Management Studies, has developed and incorporated into the course an Artlaw option. (Further details from: Durham University Business School, Mill Hill Lane, Durham City, DHI 3LB. Phone: 0385 41919.)

More encouraging still has been the success of the two- to three-day Artlaw workshop presented for the past two years at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with another taking place this year. (Further details from: Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, 170 High Street, Edinburgh, EHI IQS. Phone: (031) 226 5257.)

The Visual Artist’s Copyright Handbook, published by Artlaw Services, is still available from DACS (see below for address). For the time being. The Collected Artlaw Articles by Henry Lydiate, The Artist’s and Craftsman’s Tax Handbook and The Artist’s Studio Handbook – all published by Artlaw Services) are all unavailable. However, we have plans now in train to publish a great deal of useful Artlaw material in the near future. (Further details and/or to put forward suggestions, please write to Henry Lydiate c/o Art Monthly at the address below.)

Legal advice and help
The Artlaw Clinic of volunteer lawyers and the Artlaw Panel of solicitors in private practice, recruited and developed during the ten years up to 1983, have of course formally disbanded in the absence of a national co-ordinating agency previously provided by Artlaw Services. However, the scores of practitioners who did develop and offer Artlaw expertise have continued their work within their own practices, and in a profession now better able to offer experienced and sympathetic Artlaw advice and help. The problem for the visual arts still being, of course, how to find an appropriately experienced lawyer.

The revolutionary relaxation of the solicitor’s advertising rules by the Law Society last year gave, in theory at least, solicitors experienced in the visual arts a golden opportunity of advertising themselves. Curiously, I am still only aware of one firm that has advertised nationally in the art press, namely: Stephens Innocent, St Mary’s Clergyhouse, Whitechurch Lane, London El. Phone: 01-377 0464. [NB – this information appeared in the original article (published 1985) abnd may no longer be valid]

On the copyright front, Artlaw Services obviously dealt with thousands of problems brought by infringed and infringing artists and others dealing with visual artwork. We were always conscious of the need to establish a comprehensive visual art copyright monitoring and enforcement service, the aim being to defeat the exploitation, by publishers and others, of the impossibility of any individual artist’s total monitoring of published visual material.

Artlaw Services worked hard before its demise, and its ex-personnel did so afterwards, to help with the establishment of the Design and Artists Copyright Society which now successfully provides this much needed service throughout the world. (Further details from: DACS, Freepost, London E1 7BR. Phone: 01-247 1650.)

Arts Law Centre of Australia
One of the ironies of the Artlaw story was the successful establishment of the ArtsLaw Centre of Australia in 1983. We were and still are proud of our involvement with this remarkable project which was developed (with important modifications) from the Artlaw Services model, to provide Artlaw information, education, advice and help across a continent and for all the arts. One vital difference, apart from the latter two, being that the Australia (Arts) Council recognised the need to provide funding on a long-term basis -unless and until the Centre achieved financial self-sufficiency. God bless them all. (Further details can be obtained from: ALCA, 11 Randle Street, Surrey Hills, NSW 2010. Phone: (02) 211 4795.)

© Henry Lydiate 1985



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This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.