Since 2003, Artquest has been helping artists with their legal problems via our Artlaw service.

Individual artists living and working in England can send us a legal query, which we pass to our arts legal specialists Henry Lydiate and Lubna Gem Arielle.

In this section we present responses to some of their most frequently asked questions, covering many aspects of an artists career – contracts, copyright concerns and other general queries which we are asked most often.

Legal queries sent to Artquest may be rewritten (to preserve confidentiality) and placed in this section.

What should I know about copyright as a freelance artist/educator who facilitates workshops?

As a freelance artist/educator who develops and facilitates workshops and projects for institutions, what should I know about copyright and how can I protect my copyright and intellectual property (IP …

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What does creating an Inventory or Catalogue Raisonné involve?

The inventory should relate to all works of art, copyright (the artist should be aware that unless there is an agreement to the contrary, he/she will have retained copyright ownership in any works he/ …

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If I sell artwork through a gallery based abroad, can they deduct ‘withholding tax’ on my earnings?

‘Withholding tax’ is an amount held by the party making a payment to a payee, which will be paid to the taxation authorities. It is usually withheld from payment because the paying party has an agreem …

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Do you any up to date information regarding VAT treatment on commission owed to individual non-VAT registered artists from galleries that may or may not be VAT registered themselves?

The legal and business situation discussed in the 1979 article posted in the Artlaw Archive has been overtaken by many and various events over the past 36 years, and especially Directives on VAT intro …

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What should I consider when deciding whether or not to sign a written agreement with a gallery?

In particular, should I agree to a 12 month notice period and a commission on sales at exhibitions outside the gallery? The wisdom of signing any business agreement, and especially such a sensitively …

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Can I sell an artwork that uses letters from an existing font, e.g. from a word processing program?

There are two key legal issues to consider here: whether the work will infringe copyright and the terms of the licence under which fonts are used. The position will vary according to which font is use …

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Can I illustrate a mass-produced object such as a toy in an artwork without infringing copyright laws?

The answer is highly complex but an indication of the issues involved is given by the following simplified comments on a highly complex set of copyright provisions under UK law, chiefly governed by th …

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Is it discrimination under UK law to advertise an opportunity for artists under a certain age?

An opportunity states that it is only open to artists under or over a certain age. Is this discriminatory under UK law? UK equal opportunities legislation exists alongside various EU Directives and po …

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My gallery had agreed to return my work months ago but now they seem to have lost it.

Where a gallery holds works that are owned by the artist, the gallery holds them as a “bailee” under what is known as a duty of bailment. The effect of this duty means that the gallery, as bailee, is …

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Are you licensing your work for free if you upload it on social media sites?

Many of us overlook reading the terms of service in relation to the social media outlets we use, and yet this is what determines our legal relationship with the site in question. Understanding these t …

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