Copyright material cannot be used without permission, with the exception of a small number of legally permitted acts.  These exceptions are known as “Fair Dealing” and includes the following:

  • Research or Private study, provided the use does not prejudice the rights of the copyright owner.
  • Criticism or review, provided that the work is accompanied by an acknowledgement identifying the author and title of the work.
  • Reporting current events, provided that the work is accompanied by an acknowledgement identifying the author and title of the work. This exception does not apply to photographs.
  • Incidental inclusion, for example, an artwork featuring in the background of a  televised News report. The use must be unintentional. If the artwork is deliberately included then the use cannot be considered incidental.

Sculpture on Public Display

Uniquely for visual arts, there is also an exception for works of 3D art, such as sculptures, permanently situated in a public place. These may be photographed or reproduced in 2D without the permission of the artist, so long as the artist is sufficiently credited on any reproductions.  This does not apply to other types of public art such as murals.

Public Domain

Copyright in visual art lasts for the creators lifetime plus 70 years after their death. After this point the artwork enters the public domain and can be freely used by anyone without requiring a licence or permission.

However, it is important to be aware that while an artwork might be in the public domain, the specific medium by which it is reproduced might not. For example, a photograph of a public domain artwork may be protected by copyright. This is because there may be a new copyright in the photo belonging to the photographer.

If a work is not in the public domain, and there is no applicable fair dealing exception, then it is necessary to get the rights holders permission before making copies or adaptations. Permission should ideally be secured in writing.

Using another artists work

Appropriation of artwork, where all or a substantial part of the work is copied, without permission, may expose the artist to an action for copyright infringement or, even worse, prosecution for forgery.