An Introductory Guide to the California Art Preservation Act

Artists and anyone dealing in art should be aware of the California Art Preservation Act. The law in the state of the California dates to 1979 and has since been amended a few times. California Civil Code §987 or the California Art Preservation Act protects the moral rights of artists. It was one of the first such state laws to specifically secure the rights of artists in the country. Some of the provisions of this law overlap with those of Visual Artists Rights Act. In cases where provisions are in conflict, the statutes in the California Art Preservation Act will prevail in the state.

This law regulates injunctive relief, The Law Office of Michael Rehm, and civil penalties for any intentional or negligent mutilation or destruction of fine art, which is basically any artwork that is of a certain quality. Common examples are original painting, drawing and sculpture. The definition of fine art excludes works that are created or made for any commercial use by a buyer. The same law that provides the legal protection to the fine art scene in the state also ensures artists have the right to authorship and can disapprove modifications to their fine artworks. All rights as guaranteed by this law would subsist for the entire lifetime of the author and an additional fifty years.

There are lucid definitions of various terms used by the legislature while formulating this law. An artist is an individual or group of people who have created a fine artwork. Fine art is always an original drawing, painting, sculpture, work of glass or other material that is of recognized quality. Any fine art created under a contract for any commercial use is not covered by the act. A person or an entity in these cases may be an individual or a partnership, a corporation or an association, a limited liability company or group. There are other defined terms relevant in the exercising of the law, such as frame, restore, conserve and commercial use. These are effectively their literal meanings.

The law assures an artist the right to authorship and to even give up authorship, to seek injunctive relief or actual damages, punitive damages, fees for attorney and in cases where relevant for expert witness among other reliefs that the court may deem fit and proper in a situation. Since there is a little ambiguity pertaining to what qualifies as fine artworks of a recognized quality, opinions of credible artists and art dealers, curators of museums and art collectors would be considered. The rights enjoyed by an artist can also be passed on to a representative, usually an heir or beneficiary. The devisee will continue to be able to exercise these rights until the fiftieth death anniversary of the artist.

There are various implications of the law in the real world and in the art scene in California. Since artworks are handled, moved, displayed, bought and sold, preserved and restored, in some cases damaged and at times destroyed, the provisions of the law have to be exercised deftly by an expert attorney.