Robbing the Banksy - a look at the intellectual property considerations for museums and galleries

19 Jan 2018

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery seem rather confused over intellectual property rights.

Elusive street artist Banksy created the “Angel Bust” an angel sculpture with a tin of pink paint tipped over it for the Museum in 2009.

The Museum has been selling huge amounts of copies of £5 prints of the bust.

The Museum has said that since they own the sculpture they had assumed that would allow them to produce prints. Banksy’s management have advised them that they do not have that right.

Museums and other exhibitors need to appreciate that the question of ownership of a sculpture itself is separate from the ownership of the copyright in that sculpture. Whilst the Museum may well own the sculpture itself they would not have the right to make and distribute photographs or posters of the sculpture unless the sculptor had either assigned the copyright in the sculpture or had given them permission to do so.

This emphasises the importance of written agreements between commissioners, exhibitors and museums and the artists involved regarding ownership and exploitation of intellectual property rights. 

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