“Artists should never feel intimidated, helpless, or victimized” by legal or business issues, Tad Crawford writes in Legal Guide for the Visual Artist. The book “seeks to introduce artists to the legal issues of both art in commerce and artists’ rights. It deals with each of the sequence of issues that begin as soon as the artist contemplates creating a work of art, including copyright, contracts of all types, taxes, estate planning, and public support for artists.”
Each of the book’s 28 chapters covers one of these topics (or a facet of one of them—there are, for example, four chapters addressing tax laws and issues). Crawford includes copies of common forms and tips for filling them out, histories of how laws and regulations evolved, and tips for dodging common pitfalls. He believes that “the artist’s increased awareness of the general legal issues…will aid in avoiding risks and gaining benefits that might otherwise pass unnoticed.”
The subject matter covered in this volume is broad—Crawford addresses a wide variety of art forms, writing for “cartoonists, craftspeople, graphic designers, illustrators, painters, photographers, printmakers, sculptors, and textile designers.” He believes, however, that “the very definition of an area of the law as ‘art law’ is an encouraging sign,” enabling artists to get better advice from lawyers. The book also features an appendix of artists’ groups and listings for California Lawyers for the Arts, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, established groups dedicated to providing legal advice to artists.
Crawford includes his personal opinions and discusses nuanced issues, particularly questions—such as aspects of digital copyright law—that are still being decided, analyzed, and refined by U.S. courts. These asides are helpful and thought-provoking, but because of the inherent complexity of the laws, the discussions occasionally grow dense for most lay readers. Legal Guide for the Visual Artist is a very useful reference volume, but most significantly, it may give artists a better perspective on when to ask for professional advice.