Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ottawa Panel: Copyright For Artists

I am a blogger and I love to blog about art and art events that I attend. My blog states that "I love exploring new art techniques and learning about other artists."

I believe that "Copyright For Artists" is unclear to most artists in Ottawa - including me!

My deleted "Art On The Grass" blog post

I recently attended two art events where artists who were showing their work appeared not to know rules around privacy rights and copyright as well as photography, blogging and the law.

  • I attended "Art in Strathcona Park" and was photographing the crowds and the art booths and a woman artist and her companion at one booth said that I was prohibited from photographing her art and booth due to copyright law and demanded that I erase the photo that I had just taken! She stood over my shoulder to make sure the photo was deleted. Now, I knew she was completely wrong. It was a public event that I had intended to report as a news item on my blog and I knew that no one can make you delete a photo (see Ontario Photographers Rights). But I did delete it for her anyways.
  • I participated in the West Carleton Art Society "Art On The Grass"  as my first "plein air paint out" experience. I later created a blog post about my experience. I received an email from a woman artist who said she wanted me to delete the picture that I had posted that included her and she said that I should not have posted a photo that included her to my blog without her permission. I responded to her by email telling her that I did not require her permission to post a picture that I had taken at a public event. I sent her a copy of Ontario Photographers Rights and then told her I had deleted the blog post.
Now these two scenarios muddy the waters between an artist's copyright and personal privacy rights but truthfully - the waters are quite muddied naturally. This is why I was eager to attend a free expert panel on the subject at the Art Gallery of Ottawa.

The "Copyright for Artists" panel 

Artists’ Legal Services Ottawa (ALSO) held their quarterly free panel at the Art Gallery of Ottawa on the subject of "Copyright For Artists" on September 17, 2015 from 6 to 7:30 pm.

According to Apt613"ALSO was founded over five years ago by a small team of people who saw the need for such services in Ottawa, as other similar legal clinics exist in other Canadian cities, but not Ottawa."

The panel featured:
Left to right: Gilles Daigle, Claudio Marzano, Matthew Estabrooks, Raymond Murray and Ariel Thomas.

The panel discussed:
  • protecting and receiving royalties for your work, 
  • knowing what content you can use to create new works, 
  • understanding copyright is an important part of any artist’s practice and livelihood. 
And answered questions like"
  • How do you obtain copyright protection? 
  • What rights do you have as a copyright owner? 
  • What do you do if someone is using your work without permission? 
  • What fees can you charge for allowing others to use your work? 
  • Are there instances where copying is allowed?
My sketch of the superb panel and some of my "take-aways"
This panel could have gone on well past 7:30. There were many questions from the full house in attendance. The experts stayed for refreshments at the end of the panel to answer any additional questions.

Bottom line: copyright law IS very complicated. If you need someone to talk to, a great place to start is by contacting the Artists’ Legal Services Ottawa ( E-mail them at: or message them using the form on their website)

"Usually lawyers on the ALSO roster list agree to give a half hour of summary legal information for free, although the artist and lawyer will work this out between themselves. These consultations don’t usually constitute legal advice in the sense that a formal solicitor-client relationship isn’t established, but they do often provide enough information to give the artist a sense of what their rights are, and whether they do need to hire a lawyer if their issue is serious enough."

I am grateful for this panel and look forward to the next one planned for late fall 2015. Check the ALSO website for details

I will close with an interesting Jim Jarmusch quote that Claudio Marzano shared with the group:


In Canada, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42) which regulates the use and reproduction of intellectual and artistic creations.

Fair use is a doctrine that exists in the U.S. and other countries; it does not exist in Canada. The Canadian Copyright Act contains the principle of fair dealing which is often compared to the U.S. fair use.

P.S. I am always nervous about blog posts that I create where I take screenshots or imbed art from another artist or group but I do so under the belief that if I am not making money from it and I am posting or using it for news or educational purposes and I properly attribute the artist - I am NOT violating copyright laws. (see "Blog Basics: Copyright and Fair Use" AGAIN - note that "Fair Use" is an American term; the Canadian Copyright Act contains the principle of fair dealing).

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