Commissioned Art: Copyright Threat, or Copyright Menace?

Standard Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I am probably not your attorney. Nothing in this post is legal advice and nothing in it should be applied to the facts of any real-world dispute. Copyright law is heavily fact-dependent. Consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction and familiar with the relevant law before making legal decisions.

I am in the market for some artwork to use on the cover of a book I wrote. Being a good Internet citizen and neighbor, I have been trying to find an artist who is a member of one or more of the communities I am part of, or at least adjacent to (shut up, @boozybadger) on the Internet to provide said art, in exchange for which I propose to provide cold hard cash, or at least the digital equivalent thereof. I have done this before: for instance, the logo I use for my law firm, I commissioned from a student who makes logos to earn money for school. Cool, huh?

Legal Inspiration Logo!

However, this is not a request for quotes on artwork, this is a post about the legal questions related to commissioning artwork. Mostly, the copyright question. And it’s a doozy.

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