I had someone call me and ask if I could create an award for them. Not unusual, but they wanted my to recreate an award that they already had. My response to them was, “I am sorry, but I cannot recreate your award unless you have written permission from the artist.” I was unclear as to why they could not have the artist do the award, and they were in a hurry. “We paid the artist to create this sculpture,” they said. “Unless the artists contract states that you have the rights recreate or pour from a mold you cannot cast this piece. If you get permission from the artist I would be happy to help you out. ” Because of their time frame I quickly sent a photograph off to the foundry to see if they could give an estimate, then we would be ready if they could receive the permission. They recognized the artists work. It turns out the client could not reach the artist, and the foundry said they would help.
Copyright is a bit confusing.
All of my work is by commission. Though clients pay me a lot of money to create sculpture, and many times in the likeness of their loved one, I retain the copyrights. They do not have the rights to recreate, cast or pour other pieces. Sometimes a contract may state it is a one and only sculpture, usually this costs more. Note the artist can still cast an Artist Proof (AP). This is just like the clients sculpture but is used as a proof by the artist. AP can also be in an edition. Often AP’s are sought after by collectors.
Typically I request that I have the rights to pour up to 10 additional pieces of my work and sell them at what I feel is a reasonable price, which is often much lower than my client originally paid. The reason is that the client is paying for the design, the personal likeness, and the original creation of the piece. Creating pieces as an edition of 10 is a wonderful way to gain a body of work.
Copyright is tricky and really not understood by many. It is there to protect the artist, their careers and their work.