Top 5 Copyright Mistakes Artists Make

Lawyer Greg Kanaan speaks about the top 5 mistakes he sees artists make regarding copyright and business.

This video covers copyright, intellectual property, trademark, fair use, and more.


Greg discusses with Art Prof Clara Lieu what types of legal actions are necessary in certain situations that artists might encounter while working professionally.

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Video Walkthrough

  • Mistake #1: Not having a signed contract in writing.
  • Requesting a contract be written can be intimidating, many artists are very worried about asking for one.
  • If you can’t hire an attorney to review your contract, look for items such as when you will receive payment, the schedule for the job, etc.
  • Mistake #2: Not registering your art with the copyright office.
  • If you sue someone for copyright infringement, you can’t do so until your artwork has been registered with the copyright office.
  • Most artists don’t register all their artwork, it gets very expensive.
  • Once a work has been “published,” placed online, etc. that’s when registering your artwork becomes more necessary.
  • Mistake #3: Using other artists’ artwork without getting or trying to get permission.
  • Don’t follow the “it’s better to ask for forgiveness later,” saying, you’ll regret it!
  • You’d be surprised that sometimes artists will give you permission to use their artwork, so ask!
  • Mistake #4: Not thinking about your art in terms of business.
  • It’s tough for a lot of artists to see their artwork as a business with transactions.
  • Making the art is a completely separate process from the business side of being an artist.
  • Mistake #5: Doing all the business stuff totally by yourself, or outsourcing without understanding any of it.
  • You need to know what is going on with your business! Ask your attorney/accountant questions.
  • It can be expensive to hire an attorney or an accountant, but it’s a gigantic burden off your shoulders and is absolutely worth it if you can remotely afford the expense.
Guest Speaker

Greg Kanaan

The [Legal] Artist

Greg Kanaan is a New England-based attorney who focuses on intellectual property, business law, and contract issues for artists, filmmakers, and creative entrepreneurs.

Greg Kanaan

On top of providing legal services and counsel to a wide variety of creative people, Greg regularly speak at colleges, non-profit arts organizations and professional associations about how the law affects their artistic endeavors.

Greg writes for a variety of publications including a two-year stint at MovieMaker Magazine and is the founder of the blog The [Legal] Artist® which was chosen in 2015 by the ABA Journal as one of its top 100 legal blogs.

Greg Kanaan
Photo credit: RISD Alumni Association

Before earning his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Greg received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and was a documentary television producer for seven years

Greg has worked for Discovery Channel, TLC, Court TV and A&E. Greg is licensed to practice law in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

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