Help...Need legal advice...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Tung, Oct 25, 2003.

  1. Tung


    Jun 26, 2003
    Hi everyone,

    I could use a little legal advice.

    So here is my story. Some 13+ years ago I did some art work and had a major instrument maker put it on a custom instrument for me.

    Today I open up a mass mailing music catalog and find that my artwork is now an option on their instruments.

    What do you think I should do? Anyone know the laws on this.

    I know that I am not very happy about this. I don't usually read the music catalogs that are mailed to me so I have no idea how long this has been an option.

    I could be completely off on this but I view my situation as if I were a painter and took my painting to a lithographer to have copies make. Then he uses my art for the cover of his ads.

    I know that I will never buy anything from this company every again.

    I spoke with a few friends and they asked some of the obvious questions so I though I would include them. Sorry that I am so vague about who and what this is. I think the reason is obvious.

    Q: Are you sure that is your art?
    A: Yes, it's not "close to my art" it IS my art EXACTLY.

    Q: You have proof?
    A: I have the drawing. I still have the instrument. The store owners and several friends were around when I was designing this thing.

    Q: Did you sign any paper work when you had them make it for you.
    A: No I didn't. I went to my local store and they faxed my drawings to the maker. Other than the check I wrote and my drawing, not a single piece of paper was involed in this.

    Let me know what you think. I know there are some buisness people out there that read this site. Even if you don't have a suggestion. How would you feel about this if you were me?

  2. Unless you have the Patent or copy right then sadly there is nothing you can do.

    Their legal department has more money then you could possible have to fight this situation.


  3. since it was 13+ years ago that you had this done, and they did the work. I don't think there is any legal action you could take. unless you have a copyright for the art work. if images are not copy righted anyone can use them for whatever. and some places have it is thier contract that if they do a design for you, they have the rights to use that design again for their own purposes. it is a crappy deal, but that's the way things go. they should have at least asked you if it would be ok.
  4. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    I'm no expert on this, but I think it comes down to if you got paid for the work.
  5. As the other people have posted, legally I think you're SOL. I don't think you'll get any money for your design.

    However, you may get some recognition, at least that's some consolation. it may be beneficial to write the company, and politely point out that their design is the design you had commissioned them to do for your instrument many years ago (and also politely suggest that yes you do have proof that this was your design, not theirs). Suggest that you would be willing to forego any legal claim for restitution in exchange for public acknowledgement of your work. In other words, ask them to put your name on that design option in their literature, in exchange you won't sue them, but be polite. It's worth a try.
  6. You should get legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property. Call your local bar association and get a referral. Initial consultations are usually free or cheap. It'll be worth it for your piece of mind.
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    As a painter, copyright laws involving artwork is something I'm fairly knowledgeable in. Something most people don't realize is that your signature IS your copyright when it comes to artwork; you don't have to file for copyright or get a patent or anything of the sort. An image is copyrighted as soon as you create it (copyright laws involving art are different than other items), and unless you've given permission for them to, it's untrue that they can use your image for whatever they want. You can sell your painting outright, and the buyer still has no legal right to reproduce images of the piece unless you sold them the copyright as well, and this has to be specifically spelled out.

    The problem that you may have is if you never gave them a statement with the sale of your painting stating these things, they can probably claim ignorance on some of the issues, or say that since it was sold thirteen years ago you haven't made a fuss until now, so there may be some statute of limitations of some sort. Laws involving art and art copyright vary from state to state, but they have gotten increasingly better on the artist's behalf over the years. There are groups of lawyers who work pro bono on behalf of artists-if you are serious, I would advise you to contact one of them.
  8. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Bryan is absolutely coorect on this issue. The copyright is yours on the creation of the work. The problems are:

    proving it - you have the original drawings, witnesses, etc

    Fighting it - are you prepared (read $$$) to fight the legal battle

    You might want to have an attorney call on your behalf and see what they have to say. It might be an innocent mistake that they are willing to compensate you for. You might be able to get some free gear out of it in the least. If they act like a**holes, than you hve legal options

  9. DW


    Jun 22, 2000
    Copyright law is federal law, it does not vary from state to state. There is no statute of limitations on filing a copyright infringement action. You might not have a strong case if you knowingly allowed them to use it for years, but that's not the case here.

    Copyright disputes are all about proving authorship. That's why registering a copyright is always helpful. But still, if you are the creator and you can prove it, you will establish yourself as the copyright owner.

    As Mr. Goody Good said, see an intellectual property attorney.
  10. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    My apologies for my incorrect statement. I believe I had it confused with reproduction rights (such as fair use) involving artwork, which vary from state to state.
  11. canopener


    Sep 15, 2003
    Isle of Lucy
    Did you mail them the artwork? From my understanding, a postmarked envelope is somewhat of a generic patent of the contents of the envelope...
    I'm probably wrong, though...
  12. Tung


    Jun 26, 2003
    I want to thank everyone for giving me advice. I think it might be in my best interest to have a chat with an attorney. If I had been asked to guess what would happened to me when I woke up that day. A copyright issue would have been the last thing I would have guessed. Life sure is funny sometimes.

    I will say this has given me a certain insight to an issue that you hear a lot about but don't really think that much about.

    Thanks everyone.
  13. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    I agree that you should find an attorney. Don't just assume you're S.O.L. Good luck, buddy. I for one am rooting for you (stick it to those corporate a*****es)!