Copyright Survey Results

Disclaimer:  This survey was designed and complied by the Town of Lacombe. The questions and responses of this survey does not necessarily represent the opinions and / or views  of Mural Routes. Mural Routes role is to learn and share information that is useful to artists and managers of mural projects, we invite responses to the questions and other queries that we may post.


Compiled by the Town of Lacombe



23 responses were received to the following question.  Of these, 14 are artists and 9 are administrators.  Many responses were in the form of a narrative, without direct answers to the questions.  Where there are direct answers, I have reported them.  Responses from Artists are highlighted in blue, while responses from Administrators are in red.


  1. The artwork, all drawings, specifications, photographs, documents and materials whatsoever pertaining to the artwork become property of the Town, including any and all copyrights. The Town retains the right to reproduce the artwork and to make use of said artwork for the purposes of identifying, marketing, promotion or for any purpose whatsoever. This provision does not preclude the Artist from making a personal history record. If the Artist wishes to use the artwork, drawings, specifications, photographs, documents, or any materials whatsoever pertaining to the artwork for self-promotion or other commercial purposes, the permission of the Town must first be obtained, which permission shall not be unreasonably withheld.

1.  Do you think fair representation has been given to the Town?


Do you think fair representation has been given to the Artist?

7 artists

2 admin.





2 artists

1 admin.


2 artists

2 admin.





2 artists

1 admin


2. What type of an agreement do you use as an Administrator?


What type of agreement do you use as an artist?



No commiss”nd contracts.



Commission to artist.

Tailored to project.


3. If you use a contract such as ours, have you as an Artist ever had difficulty obtaining permission to use the work?

1 artist

1 artist


4. As an Artist, why do you feel that you should own the copyright and not the purchaser of the mural?


See attached comments

  1. Do you think fair representation has been given to the Town?


·       More than adequate in my opinion.  The possible restriction of self promotion feels threatening.


·       The town has the right to use the image.  It is public domain, but the artist has presumably done much of the research, photography and has creatively designed the image from the results.  Possibly the artist has had to get permission from owners of photographs before he can use them.  Why would that be different than the town seeking permission from the artist to use his/her image.


·       Good for the town bad for the artist.  As a professional muralist I usually share copyright with my client, mostly in the sense of representation.


·       Yes it appears the town is well represented in this contract.  It is normal for clients who engage in large contracts with the artist to wish to clearly identify their intentions with respect to use of public artwork commissions, especially when there is intent to promote tourism.  The win win aspect is such that the client also agrees to promote the artist, identifying the creator of the artwork in promotional material.  The aspect to this clause which seems to out of sorts is that which claims the artist must seek permission from the client to use the artwork for self-promotion.  This clause appears to be to be somewhat unfair, yet mostly just awkward and unworkable.  Every time the artist submits an application or proposal for future projects they must first consult with a prior client before showing their samples and experience?  Other than that, as long as the artist is being fairly remunerated for their work and wishes to proceed with the project, they are responsible for negotiating the value of their work.  This includes values associated with design work and intellectual property.


·       No – town is not acknowledging the value of the artist’s work and designs, etc. and is being greedy.



·       Yes


·       You have taken more than fair.  You have ripped off the artist.  You may ask for a license to use and promote, etc., the copyright of work with certain terms.


I do not think the town should have any issues since it is demanding the copyright.

·       Very fair


·       I do feel there has been little rights given to the artist.  I always thought that the artist might want to put certain restrictions on transferring copyright of the image to the ‘town’ whether the town gets copyright for a certain period of time or whether the artist gets a small fee for any reproductions sold.  I am assuming that by giving copyright to the town, this does not impact upon the moral rights of the artist.  Thus the town will not be able to modify the design or presentation of the artwork.


·       Our contractual obligations re copyright can be summed up in one sentence from the contract under the patron’s obligations:  The Patron may authorize third parties with the right to reproduce the image for promotional purposes.


·       Our society retains the right to use the mural artwork, etc., in any way we wish.  The artist is welcome to promote and advertise the mural artwork in any way he/she sees fit.  The only stipulation the mural society makes is that the artist does not make a profit by selling mural renderings, prints, or any other souvenirs of the mural.


·       It is my understanding, based on the following information provided to my by the Federal Canadian Intellectual Property Office some time ago, that the Town having commissioned and paid the artist owns the copyright.  Clause 17 of the town’s contract would appear appropriate.

Do you think fair representation has been given to the Artist?


·       As long as compensation has been agreed to it seems fine


·       Definitely not.  The town should own the finished product but the artist retain the copyright, giving the town permission to use the mural designs and photographs of the same to promote or advertise the community and the mural, etc.  This protects the integrity of the artist’s design and creation, so that the town cannot hire another artist to change or add something to the artist’s creation without the consent of the artist.  This is basic respect for the artist and the artist’s creations.  Unless the town is willing to compensate the artist adequately for all the work put into, and the inherent value of, the design, maquettes, and all related materials, those are to be retained by the artist.  These are the artist’s creation and are used in the production of the finished work – the mural – but are not a part of it all.


·       Yes


·       Absolutely not!  The artist is entitled to royalties.  See Carfact for a schedule of such royalties  The artist needs to have control of how his or her artwork is handled to protect their artistic image.  They also have a right to license the copyright to others and make money from it. 


·       No but it really depends on what was written in the contract.  If it was clearly stated that the town would retain the copyright, up-front, and the artist agreed to those terms, then the artist would not have any grounds to complain.  That much being said, an artist usually retains copyright for his/her work unless he/she agrees to do otherwise.  The contract could include a section which specifies the royalty to be paid to the artist in the event that the Town should want to reproduce the work.  But to say here’s $3000 paint us a mural, oh, and by the way we will retain copyright, doesn’t do it for me.  Personally, I would decline the contract.


·       The artist should either be given an added bonus to sell the copyrights to the city or the city should agree to include the artist’s name in any promotional materials depicting the mural.  As a gesture of good will, the city should also give the artist any commercially developed samples of products produced by the city which are derived from the mural.  We do not think the artists needs permission from the city to use the mural in any self-promotional materials.



·       We feel fair representation is given to the artist with the exception that we do not require our artists to ask permission to use the mural, etc., in promotion of their work.  Actually the more exposure of their work, the better for your community and for the reputation of the artist.  My concern on asking the artist to obtain permission for each use of his/her artwork is that Town boards change from year to year, and their ideas also.  This could cause a problem for the artist years down the line

 2.What type of an agreement do you use as an Administrator



·       Other than a labour contract, our project does not have commissioned contracts with the artists.  The City does however sign contracts with the landlords stating that the City owns all copyrights to the murals our studio produces.


What type of an agreement do you use as an Artist.


·       If the town wants to use the mural for salable items with the mural image on it, all sales will be subject to a 5% commission to the artist.


·       I do not wish to share any contract I had with previous clients but that is generally how it works for me.


·       My company is involved in the creation of public art and exhibition, as well as private contracts and commissions.  Once again, as the terms vary from one client to the next, all contractual agreements are tailored to each project with some basic guiding principles of fairness, equity and common sense.


·       I have not made any agreements to give up my copyright, and don’t anticipate doing so, I am not sure why I would require an agreement of this type.

3      If you use a contract such as ours, have you as an Artist ever had difficulty obtaining permission to use the work?


·       I had something similar and I would never do it again.

·       I myself have never had trouble getting permission to use my work for self-promotional purposes, and have never attempted to use any of my previous work for any purpose not desirable to the respective clients.

  1. As an Artist, why do you feel that you should own the copyright and not the purchaser of the mural?

·       Moral copyright should be artists.  Financial/usage copyright belongs to client for public works like these.

·       A mural is no different than a smaller oil painting.  The wall is the canvas.  The art work is a unique, personal expression of the artist.  He/she leaves a part of himself in every painting.  Many people have said to me, “I knew it was one of yours because you have a unique style and certain consistent and recognizable elements built into every painting.”

·       As artists we have income level lower than the national average.  Protecting our copyright and moral right is crucial in order to building body of work, self promo marketing, etc.  I personally think that sharing is fair to the artist as well as the town.  Added to that specification about ownership not moral right to protect the municipality without taking advantage of the artist.  I think the town should be worried more about a)  free to eventually upkeep the art work or event change it, etc. b)  free to profit from the sale of the art work (post card, booklet, etc.. (not the artist), c)  ownership

·       Aside from the actual labour, materials and physical artistic value of a mural, there is the basic value of intellectual property.  Intellectual property may exist independently of the physical object, and it’s value may be difficult to define without some coherent application.  Does the artist own it, when working with a client?  It depends on the nature of the project, how much independence was involved in the creation of the artwork, did the design exist before the project was conceived; what are the conditions surrounding the project.  As an artist, however, it is in best interest to own the copyright I hold by default on my creations in as many cases as possible as this constitutes the intellectual property of my company for now and up until 50 years after my death.  The reality is, if I were to hold on to this premise to the letter, I would not have completed half of the projects I’ve done in my career.  Each projects is different

·       It is quite simple.  You are buying a mural, not the right to reproduce a work of art.  If you want to reproduce the artwork to raise revenue for your town, then the artist should receive a royalty?  The artist should also maintain control over how the image is used.  When a musician writes a song, he or she is paid a royalty every time it is played on the radio.  When you commission an original piece of artwork it does not gibe you the right to reproduce the artwork.  That remains with the artist.  If you decide that you want to reproduce it and sell copies, it should be with the permission of the artist and you should be prepared to pay royalties to the artist.  You didn’t create the artwork.  It is not your intellectual property.

·       Unless otherwise stated in the contract, the artist should own the copyrights.  I think that, unless the artist is hired full-time by an ad-agency, production house, move studio, etc. and the mural is an original design created by the artist, the artist should retain the copyrights

4. Do you have any other comments?

·       If the artist has already agreed to the deal, there should be no issues..that’s what contracts are for.

·       It’s really unacceptable in copyright law for the Town or anybody but the artist to have the copyrights on artwork, drawings, etc.  I’ve never heard that before, the copyright belongs to the artists.  Ownership might belong to others but not the copyright.  I am finding it problematic because it might create a precedent that again, as in many other cases, does not protect the right of the artist.  I am really  passionate about this as my partner is an artist painter so I’ve studied (informally) copyright laws in Canada, USA, and other countries.

·       I don’t question that the town would give permission to the artist, but so would the artist be glad to give permission to the town.  It shouldn’t be a case of either, or.  Both the artist and the town have something they can be proud of and use for their benefit.  These murals are public art and are photographed thousands of times by passersby.  We have no control over that.  Photographers call me one hundred percent of the time, not the town, as to whether they can publish the image on a magazine cover, etc.

·       If there is a good relationship between the client and artist they should be able to agree to a shared ownership of copyright as each would benefit from any promotional material, the worded document seems fair to me.

·       I doubt highly that I would agree to your contract as you mention,  especially if you have to ask permission to use your own art work, specifically original design for representation..(that is actually your moral right). 

·       In practicality, copyright only really matters when money or seeking profit come into play.  With public art, that usually means reproduction rights in the form of prints, posters, postcards or printed books for sale.  If the mural is created for tourism, all of these are items of interest to the client and as such are genuine motives for creating the project in the first place; they are implicit.  These sorts of activities are normal.  Things such as limited edition high-priced giclees or mammoth reproduction projects are not, and the creator should be considered in such matters.  There is a definite quality of ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ philosophy in most of my agreements as they are mean for the benefit of both parties.  Public art is public domain.  It is impossible to regulate documentation of public art, as anyone may photograph the art, post it on a website, include it in a newspaper article, magazine review and other such general information networks.  Once again, it’s money matters; use in a TV ad, movie, calendar or other commercial venture constitutes copyright infringement and permission must be sought after from the owner of the copyright.


·       My perspective is that of a commercial artist, in my work, ownership of rights is a separate agreement from the commissioning of the work.  These are British and American links, but I think they are good practices in Canada also, or anywhere.  The pdf from Illinois has a section that spells out the royalties that the artist would receive, and I think that this is where a commissioner and artist have to negotiate a clear agreement

·       Many people involved in sponsoring murals do not understand or appreciate the importance of artists’ rights.  This is understandable as it is not something they have come across before.  But creating a mural is not like building a building or designing a landscape for a park.  The mural is art and is the artist’s creation, and as such is afforded protection under copyright laws.  Under copyright law in the USA, copyright is automatically assumed to belong to the artist, unless specifically agreed upon and a “work for hire” agreement, to be valid requires that the artist be compensated adequately for all aspects of the work: time, materials, labor, creativity, value of the inherent rights in the work that the artist is giving up (copyrights, etc).  When you buy sheet music to a popular song or a recording of the song, you buy the right to that particular manifestation of the song (on paper or in the recording) but you do not buy the song itself.  You are not entitled to change it or to collect royalties on other sales of the work.  The original song still belongs to the creator – the songwriter.  The US law considers artwork much the same way.  The finished product and things used in the creation of the finished product are considered to be a part of the original creation and therefore are inherently the property of the creator.  The finished product can be purchased and enjoyed, but cannot be altered or added to without the creator’s specific approval.

·       I think that the town and the artists should share the copyright.  Any financial benefits that come from ownership should be shared equally.  If the town wants to buy these murals from the artist, I believe that the price they pay should take this into account and be higher.  I believe you will find the above to be common practice.

·       I think the town should examine why it wants to retain copyright over the murals.  Is it to prevent others from using the images for their own purposes, such as advertising?  Do you want to put the images on regalia, such as coffee mugs or T-shirts?  These kinds of details could be put into the contract.  For example, the contract could prevent the artist from using the images for other murals or artwork.  An agreement could also be reached regarding royalties to be paid to the artist for regalia with the images on them, or if they are used in advertising for the town’s tourist bureau, etc.  but, to just demand the copyright without an agreement regarding royalties is a bit heavy handed.  As an artist, I would just walk away from this kind of contract.

·       We never ask for exclusive copyright as we are not in a position to pay what that might be worth.  Instead our contracts with artists leave the copyright with them and give us the right to use the images for promotional purposes.  We sometimes have a clause that states, if we wish to use the image for fundraising or commercial purposes, a separate contract will be entered into.  This usually entails having a contract for sale of prints or other merchandise.  We give the artists 10% of profits from those sales.  I believe that Karl Shutz from Chemainus strongly urges municipalities to own the copyright outright.  Many artists that I have spoken to disagree strongly with that as it gives them no control of how their work will be represented  I have found however that artists are always willing for their images to be used for promotion of the town or community where their work is created.


·       Our city has been producing murals since 1998 as a partner in government sponsored Job Creation projects.  We have trained over 50 mural artists.  Part of their work-term includes using images of the murals in their portfolios which we also help them develop.  The copyrights belong to the City and artist participants are not required to ask permission to use reproductions of their work for self-promotion.


·       We are in the preliminary stages for our city.  I do think the statement is fair but can’t answer any of the other questions at this time. 


·       Our agreements, both mural committee and artists, is modeled on the ones published by Mural Routes a couple of years ago.  The issue of copyright has not come up.


·       It is a very complicated issue, but I really think if committees and towns want to say that their mural is “art”, they have to start treating the producer of the mural as the “artist”.  The more respect you have for the artist and their work, the more your mural will be worth in many ways.  The artists should always retain “moral copyright” and negotiate reproductions rights.  I strongly suggest to communicate with CARCC for any copyright issues.  They are the experts.



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