Without question, Sarah Bouchard’s story recounting the destruction of her sculpture is disheartening. There is a natural feeling of injustice when something of value has been damaged, in this case irreversibly. Whether faced with physical damage to a piece of art or infringement of one’s intellectual property rights, what remedies exist for artists? Where can a creative artist in Maine go to find legal help? What rights are at stake and how can they be enforced? Questions like these are surfacing with greater frequency as Maine’s arts and entertainment sector continues to grow and evolve.
Every artist’s situation is unique and highly dependent on the nature of their creative discipline and the particular stage of their career. Within the visual arts, music, photography, filmmaking, and the literary professions, there are entire industries devoted to administering and optimizing an artist’s creative output. Art galleries, music publishers, record labels, stock photo agencies, movie studios and literary publishers have invested in developing the in-house expertise to help artists navigate the commercial and legal world. As a result, many creatives share the proceeds from their work as consideration for outsourcing business and legal functions.
At the same time, many artists wish to remain independent, or need assistance navigating issues that are specific to their artistic goals. Alternatively, the costs of working within an established structure may outweigh the benefits. Like many regions across the country, Maine does not have formal access to pro bono legal aid for the arts, which is limited to larger cities, such as Boston, New York, or Nashville. Maine, however, is a special place for its size because of the widespread appreciation for the arts among Mainers. As a result, a number of lawyers within the Maine bar have become well-acquainted with the types of questions that commonly arise for artists, including the benefits of copyright registration, the process for enforcing intellectual property rights, and approaches to negotiating contracts involving creative work.
The list of names is not necessarily long, but the experience exists and can be found at many Maine firms. In addition to my own practice, I would be pleased to provide a list of names of others who have become familiar with this unique and rewarding area of the law.
Ari Solotoff, Esq.