Who Owns Student Artwork?

Huffington Post

Going to college (for art students and everyone else) is an opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of ideas, academic and practical pursuits, but by enrolling in a college both the student and the institution enter into a legally binding agreement. Actually, it is more than one agreement. Students sign contracts to pay tuition and all required fees, to behave in a certain way while attending classes or living in a dormitory ("I shall conduct myself in a manner which demonstrates respect for the University, myself, and my classmates" is one of six statements in the agreement that students at Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pennsylvania are required to sign) and to abide by some spelled-out code of conduct while using school-owned computers and software. Additionally, there may be other legal documents to sign for those involved in athletics, internships and foreign travel.
For art students, there also may be other contracts to sign, such as agreeing to pay the cost of art materials provided to them (comparable to "lab fees" in the sciences), adhering to rules involving the safe use of art materials and tools (the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University requires the signing of a "shop access contract" for the wood shop, which states that students read and abide by all health and safety regulations) and when they seek to use an exhibition space to display their work. As an example, the exhibition contract at the Lamar Dodd School of Art of the University of Georgia describes the type of permissible use and required clean-up for those requesting a gallery:
Exhibition Contract
Applications must be completed in full, including your
signature, to be considered. Submit completed and signed
forms to the gallery director. Check the online calendar for
confirmation of your exhibition.
NAME _______________________________________
PHONE _______________________________________
EMAIL _______________________________________
FACULTY SPONSOR (Students only)
(print) (sign)
___ Plaza
___ Bridge
___ Suite
___ Foyer
___ Foyer Glass Cases
___ Glass-Topped Pedestals (#___)
1. You may NOT write or paint on the walls.
2. Exhibitions cannot be installed until afternoon on the approved date.
3. Exhibitions must be removed before noon on the final day of your
4. You are responsible for any costs related to your exhibition.
5. Tools such as ladders, levels, tape measures, etc. may be checked out at the
discretion of the Gallery staff. Return all such materials to the Gallery
storage area. You will be responsible for any lost, stolen, or broken tools or
6. Spackle and paint over holes made during your exhibition using only
Gallery approved paint. (Sherwin Williams - Promar 200 Interior Latex Flat
- B30 W 251 - 6405 12703)
7. You MUST get final approval from the gallery staff regarding the cleanup
of your exhibition.
1. You are responsible for the cost of your reception.
2. You must clean up and dispose of trash following your reception.
3. You may borrow reception tables from the Gallery staff. These must be
cleaned and returned following your reception. Do not take tables and
chairs from any other rooms without permission.
1. You MUST comply with the University of Georgia's alcohol policy.
2. Only wine is permitted at receptions. No bear or liquor.
3. Your faculty sponsor must be present for the entire duration of the
4. Do not permit self-service of alcoholic beverages. You must have a
qualified server (at least 18 years of age) for alcoholic beverages.
5. Proper identification must be provided to the server before he or she serves
alcohol to guests.
6. There must be a balance between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at
any event.
7. When alcohol is served, there must be plenty of food available.
8. Service of alcoholic beverages must be discontinued at least an hour before
the event is scheduled to conclude.
1. You are not authorized to remove an exhibition without
permission of the exhibitor or gallery staff.
2. Any exhibition or installation that may constitute a threat to the
safety of persons occupying that space or that violates any
University of Georgia policies will be removed without
3. Please note that a request for space does not guarantee that
space. Only exhibitions posted by the gallery director on the
on-line confirmation schedule will be honored. Applications
must be completed in full to be considered. Students should
request a faculty sponsor from their area.

Art students may have one more document to sign, ceding ownership of their work or effectively waiving a portion of their copyright claims for artwork they create while enrolled in the institution. As part of the registration process, students sign a limited release allowing the school to display their works in exhibitions, to use images of their work for promotional purposes (in printed publications and for the college's Web site), and to retain the work temporarily for those purposes.
For example, the Department of Art in the University of Montevallo's College of Fine Arts in Alabama "reserves the right to retain examples of student work for instructional purposes. The Department of Art reserves the right to reproduce examples of student artwork in its web page and any other promotional materials the department produces or approves." Similarly, Pratt Institute's Department of Digital Arts "retains the right to re-produce and distribute documented projects for promotional purposes only." All of this is without compensation.
Just so you know.

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