Monday, September 24, 2007

VARA Not Violated by Viewing Very Incomplete Artwork

A contemporary art museum in Massachusetts has the right to display an unfinished artwork even over the objections of the artist, rules a federal court, as reported in the NY Times.

The Visual Artists Rights Act is one of the few U.S. laws that deal with "moral rights" - rights such as the right to attribution, that the creator retains even if he sells a work and its copyright. VARA also allows an artist to remove his name from a work in the event of a "distortion, mutilation, or other modification" of the work.

However, the judge ruled, VARA says nothing about works that are unfinished, so the museum can display the work so long as it includes a disclaimer that the work is not complete.

VARA applies only to fine art works, sculpture and art photography, but not to writing, motion pictures, or other works protected by copyright. Moral rights in Europe are much broader.

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