Artists in the Black is a program of the Arts Law Centre of Australia.
Arts Law Staff, Planning Day 2016. Photo: Lucie Treguier
Provenance and Authenticity Issues
A frequent issue which arises in relation to Indigenous visual arts is the provenance and the authenticity of artworks. A problem faced by Indigenous artists and communities is how to protect authentic artworks from rip-offs made by non-Indigenous people. Consumers and commercial operators are also concerned that they are dealing with authentic Indigenous artworks.
- Provenance: provenance deals with the source of the artwork.
In order not to buy fake Indigenous artworks, consumers must check the provenance of the artwork. For example, whether an artwork really comes from the Indigenous art centre, or from the community or region the vendor claims it comes from is an issue of provenance.
- Authenticity: authenticity deals with the truthfulness of origins.
In the case of Indigenous artworks, authenticity means artworks that have been made by an Indigenous person. Authenticity can also relate to the circumstances in which the artwork is created. Therefore, a painting made in the dotted style of some Aboriginal art cannot be sold as an authentic Indigenous art if the artist is not an Indigenous person. Likewise, it is questionable whether artifacts created on a large scale solely for the tourist market (such as didgeridoos) can be considered as authentic – even in circumstances where the person creating the object is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
The provenance and the authenticity of Indigenous artworks is important not only for ethical and legal reasons but because Indigenous artworks have significant value in the art market.
As there is no longer a label of authenticity managed by a functional administrative body, many art centres, galleries, retailers and individual artists provide purchasers of Indigenous artworks with certificates of authenticity. Those certificates include the artist’s name, date of birth, artwork name, and photographs of the artist painting the artwork. However, these certificates of authenticity do not guarantee that work is authentic. In fact, in most instances artworks have not been through an independent assessment process.
In July 2010 the Indigenous Art Code (the Code) was opened to members. While the principal focus of the Code is on ensuring that dealers working with Indigenous artists do not engage in unconscionable conduct towards those artists, it will have an impact in ensuring authenticity through the issuing of a Code Certificate for artworks sold. This Certificate will incorporate many of the features of authenticity schemes currently being used by Indigenous art centres.
Several other propositions have been made in order to guarantee the provenance and the authenticity of Indigenous artworks in the future, including:
- a trade mark that recognises and protects Indigenous culture and intellectual property.
- World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)'s work on protecting Indigenous intellectual property
- UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues
- Pacific Islands Forum
- Other work being done overseas
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)'s work on protecting Indigenous intellectual property
The Intergovernmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions/Folklore
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations which is dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property system.
The need to protect Indigenous cultural heritage does not stop at Australia’s borders; it is relevant to Indigenous communities all around the world. Accordingly, WIPO has created an Intergovernmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions/Folklore (the IGC) which has been deliberating on this issue for 10 years. Australia has been actively involved in the IGC's work from the start of discussions.
The IGC has developed draft documents covering the core principles and objectives, as well as other substantive provisions in relation to traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).The work in relation to traditional knowledge and genetic resources has progressed in different directions. With the document relating to TCEs, whilst there is still quite a bit of disagreement about many of the issues amongst participating nations, progress has accelerated with WIPO having set a deadline for September 2011 to present the text of any international legal instrument for the consideration of its General Assembly.
The aim of the instruments is to ensure the effective protection of traditional cultural expressions (TCEs)/folklore both at domestic levels and across international borders.
Some aspects of the draft instrument might be difficult to apply inthe Australian context. For example, a requirement for registration of TCEs in order to get the highest level of protection might be difficult to satisfy given the remoteness of some Indigenous communities, their level of literacy in English and the lack of means of communication.
WIPO is also involved in capacity building work with some member States, and will provide legal-technical assistance to States, regional organisations and communities, with respect to:
- developing and strengthening national and regional systems for the protection of TCEs
- through the Creative Heritage Project, the strategic management of IP rights and interests in specific practical contexts such as:
- IP and the Documentation and Digitization of Intangible Cultural Heritage
- IP Management by Museums, Libraries and Archives
- Community Cultural Documentation
- IP and Handicrafts
- IP Management related to Arts Festivals
- IP and the Documentation and Digitization of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Report of the secretariat on Indigenous traditional knowledge by Michael Dodson, Special Rapporteur, 2007. This report was commissioned by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which appointed Michael Dodson to prepare a concept paper on the extent to which customary laws should be reflected in international and national standards addressing traditional knowledge.
For further information go to Permanent Forum's website
UNESCO has developed the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The convention includes principles and articles which deal with promoting and protecting Indigenous cultural expressions.
Article 2 – Guiding principles
1, 2 …
3. Principle of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures
The protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions presuppose the recognition of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures, including the cultures of persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples.
Article 7 – Measures to promote cultural expressions
1. Parties shall endeavour to create in their territory an environment which encourages individuals and social groups:
(a) to create, produce, disseminate, distribute and have access to their own cultural expressions, paying due attention to the special circumstances and needs of women as well as various social groups, including persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples;
2, 3 …
For further information about UNESCO's work on the convention and cultural diversity go to their website.
The Pacific Islands Forum is a political grouping of 16 independent and self-governing states.
In 2002, the Pacific Islands Forum adopted a Regional Framework for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture which contained a Model Law for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture (Model Law).
The Model Law is a draft document establishing a new range of statutory rights for traditional owners of traditional knowledge and expressions of culture. The model law provides a basis for Pacific Island countries wishing to enact legislation for the protection of traditional knowledge and expressions of culture.
In order to further the protection of traditional knowledge, the Pacific Islands Forum launched in 2009 the Traditional Knowledge Action Plan. The aim of this Action Plan is to support the effective implementation of domestic efforts for protection along with developing regional efforts for the protection of ownership rights and the effective commercialisation and economic use of traditional knowledge.
The following nations have introduced legislation to provide better protection of Indigenous intellectual property:
- Trade Marks Act, 2002 (see Section 17(1))
- Law on the Special Intellectual Property Regime Governing the Collective Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the Protection and Defense of their Cultural Identity and their Traditional Knowledge, 2000
- Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples, 1997
- Regimen de Proteccion de los Conocimientos Colectivos de los Pueblos Indigenas y Acceso a los Recursos Genticos (Regime for the Protection of Indigenous peoples' Collective Knowledge Associated with Biodiversity July 2002)
Republic of Azerbaijan:
- The Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On Legal Protection of Azerbaijani Expressions of Folklore", 2006
Links to these laws can be found on the WIPO website.
Negotiation is a discussion intended to produce an agreement or to resolve disputes in order to satisfy various interests.
Artists must keep in mind that, during negotiations, they are one of the parties. As one of the parties, they need to ensure that they express any disagreements or ask for modifications of any unsatisfactory terms. In an arts context, the parties are likely to have a relationship after the negotiation phase so it is important to keep this in mind.
Most of the time, commercial operators will provide artists with a pre-written document. In this case, you are still able to negotiate. Don’t rush to sign the document.
Below are some helpful tips for negotiation:
- Be professional
Separate the person from the problem or the issue you are discussing. Leave your emotions out of it.
- Be focused
Focus on what it is you want to achieve and what your interests are. Try to focus on the positives rather than the problems. Be specific about what you want. Try to see the other point of view (without necessarily agreeing to it).
- Be creative
Think of the possibilities and try to come up with alternatives that may be a good outcome for everyone. Look for mutual gain and the benefits for everyone involved.
Be aware of you rights.
- What are the rights I am giving away and what are the rights I keep?
- What is the duration of the agreement?
- Who am I giving my rights?
- What area can these rights be used in?
- Find out about the person you are negotiating with.
It is useful to know as much as possible about the person you are dealing with and for them to find out about you. If you can establish a relationship based upon respect and understanding this will help your dealings with each other in the future.
- Read any documents carefully and make sure that you understand everything.
In a legal document, you will find legal vocabulary which you may not understand. In law, each legal word has a specific meaning and implied consequences. So ask for explanations.
- Have a look to see if there is any Indigenous heritage or ICIP clause in the document.
Due to the absence of Australian legislation protecting all aspects of ICIP, it is important to include clauses in agreements which specifically protect Indigenous heritage.
- If you want to be paid, check that the amount of the fees or the royalties are fair.
You are entitled to a reward for your work and should ensure that the fees or the royalties agreed are fair. Inform yourself of the current industry rates.
- Get legal advice on agreements.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia may assist you to understand the proposed agreement.
Negotiation is also used in the process of mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which aims is to resolve disputes between two or more parties by negotiating a solution which is acceptable for the parties. Arts Law has a mediation service.
Commercial operators should ensure they do not take advantage of their position in their dealings with Indigenous artists. Commercial operators should endeavour to make sure they use effective communication with Indigenous artists, especially where English is their second language. It is important to ensure that both parties contribute to the negotiation. This means the commercial operator follows a process that allows the artist to have a say. As a commercial operator, make sure that Indigenous artists understand how their intellectual property rights are being used. It is important that commercial operators use translators when required. Commercial operators should adhere to the standards which are set out in the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct. If you are operating outside the visual arts and crafts area this may still provide a useful guide. Otherwise you should be mindful of the various Indigenous protocols available to provide assistance in your dealings with Indigenous arts sectors.
Arts Law Centre of Australia:
This checklist covers many of the issues which need to be considered and decided on by artists and galleries when negotiating their exhibition arrangements.
This checklist outlines issues which musicians and bands need to consider before entering into a management agreement. It is recommended for use in negotiations, before artist and manager sign a written agreement.
This checklist outlines the basic concepts of music publishing agreements. Music publishing is one of the most complex areas of the music industry. Music publishers are an integral part of the contemporary music industry as they act as an interface between songwriters or composers and the rest of the music industry.
This guide outlines the basic concepts of a recording agreement. It explains the different types of recording contracts and briefly states the formalities of forming and negotiating a deal with a record company. The checklist also has a glossary of common terms which will help you understand what is being offered in a recording deal.
This information sheet explains what mediation is and its strengths as well as describing the Arts Law's mediation service.
Income and Pricing
- Ongoing benefits: royalties and collecting societies
- Employment: useful guides to minimum hourly rates
Pricing of Indigenous artworks can be difficult. Some art centres have developed pricing models based on factors such as the seniority or status of the artist (e.g. established having had successful solo exhibitions, mid-level, new or emerging) coupled with the size of the canvas. There are limited resources available to assist art centres or dealers with the pricing of artists' works. The following resources may provide some assistance. It may also be useful to speak to the peak Indigenous art organisations (Desart, ANKAAA, Umi Arts, Ananguku Arts, AACHWA) for further assistance with pricing models. The Indigenous Visual Art and Craft Resource Directory 2006 provides state by state contact details to art centres.
This website provides useful information about pricing Indigenous artworks, with links to data about the current art market and current prices of Indigenous artworks.
This web-based resource provides skill based training for people working in Indigenous art centres. It has useful sections dealing with most aspects of running an art centre including the business issues.
Artists can receive ongoing benefits from their artworks through royalty payments. One major way in which these royalties are obtained is through the use of copyright collecting societies, which collect royalties on your behalf and distribute them to you. Australian copyright collecting societies include:
- Copyright Agency Limited (CAL)
- Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)
- Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners' Society Ltd (AMCOS)
- Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA)
- Screenrights—The Audio-Visual Copyright Society Ltd
- Viscopy (Visual Arts Copyright Collecting Agency)
For more information on which collecting societies are relevant to you, and how royalties work, visit the information on licensing.
The Australian visual artists’ resale royalty scheme commenced on the 9th June 2010. The Australian visual artists’ resale royalty scheme entitles visual artists to receive payment of a 5% royalty on certain resales of their works. To participate in the scheme, you need to register. You can register online.
The Australian Government has appointed Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL) to manage the scheme. For more information about the scheme and what it means for artists, visit their website.
If you have any enquiries about the scheme please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 066 844.
In “Beyond Guarding Ground”, Terri Janke suggests, on the basis of specific examples, the limitations of Australian law to protect Indigenous arts and cultural expressions. She proposes the creation of a National Indigenous Cultural Authority to implement the rights of Indigenous people under Article 31 of the Declaration on the rights of Indigenous people to maintain, control, protect and develop cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. Terri Janke suggests that the National Indigenous Cultural Authority could also administer rights either directly or by establishing a rights clearance framework (similar to a collecting society) for Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights.
The Australian Society of Authors is the professional association for Australia’s literary creators. The ASA sets minimum rates for pay and conditions for authors and illustrators, and publishes books, papers and lists for emerging and established writers. The most recently updated ASA guidelines on rates and conditions can be viewed on their website.
The Australian Writer’s Guild (AWG) is the professional association for Australian performance writers including film, television, theatre, film and radio. The AWG provides members who work in these areas with information on minimum hourly rates.
The Alliance is the union and professional organisation which covers everyone in the media, entertainment, sports and arts industries. There are over 36,000 members which include people working in TV, radio, theatre & film, entertainment venues, recreation grounds, journalists, actors, dancers, sportspeople, cartoonists, photographers, orchestral & opera performers as well as people working in public relations, advertising, book publishing & website production. MEAA can provide information to members about minimum standard hourly rates.
NAVA is the national peak body for the visual arts, craft and design sector working through advocacy and service provision, to achieve a flourishing Australian visual arts sector and a more vibrant, distinctive and ethical cultural environment. NAVA undertakes advocacy and lobbying, research, policy and project development, data collection and analysis. It also provides a direct service to its members and the sector generally by offering expert advice, referrals, resources, professional representation and development and a range of other services.
NAVA provides a useful fee schedule for artists in its publication The Code of Practice for the Australian Visual Arts and Craft Sector. The schedule sets out approximate rates of pay for trainees, a standard rate of pay, and rates for senior practitioners in the three main categories of artist’s employment – studio artist, public artist and new media artists.
“To obtain the best use of legally enforceable rights it is important to understand their strengths and their limits. This can encourage informed choices about the way in which Indigenous art and culture is managed. This can help reduce the instances of the use of Indigenous people’s art, cultural expression and cultural knowledge without permission, or for purposes which are inappropriate”
- Robynne Quiggin, 2008
It can be difficult for Indigenous artists, their organisations and communities to appreciate that in most instances no one is going to monitor and enforce their copyright and Indigenous intellectual property interests on their behalf. If an artist or organisation becomes aware of any of the following:
- copyright infringement
- moral rights infringement
- breaches of the trade practices laws (e.g. fake Aboriginal art)
- misuse of Indigenous intellectual property
then it is up to the artist or the organisation to do something about it, at least initially. There are no "Copyright police" who will do this for them.
If the artist is a member of a collecting society, the collecting society may in some cases take action to collect the fees the artist should be paid. For further information see section dealing with collecting societies.
Some agencies may be able to help once they become aware of a problem, e.g. the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has power to bring an action against someone involved in misleading and deceptive conduct.
Copyright is an important asset for artists, who should know and assert their rights. Therefore, any artist who becomes aware of a copyright infringement of his or her work should get legal advice and find out what to do to resolve the problem. Arts Law may be able to assist through Artists in the Black program may be able to assist. The Australian Copyright Council can also advise on copyright matters.
See case studies about Indigenous artists who took steps to address infringements of their copyright and moral rights:
Artistic projects often involve collaboration between a number of individuals and organisations. This can raise numerous issues for Indigenous artists, as well as other creators and organisations involved in collaborative projects. Issues that arise include ownership, copyright, moral rights, acknowledgement and respect of Indigenous intellectual property and the processes for working together (protocols). Collaborative projects can be either projects whereby a number of Indigenous artists are involved in the one project, intercultural partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals and organisations, as well as group projects being worked on by non-Indigenous artists which have Indigenous content.
When numerous people contribute to the creation of a new work (e.g. a sculpture), it needs to be made clear who owns the physical item and who is responsible for its maintenance. It is best if this is set out in writing. It may be that an organisation provides all the materials and makes payment for the work, owning the final work that is created, however the creators will still own the copyright unless this is otherwise agreed, in writing and signed by the artists.
When an artwork is created jointly by a number of individuals, i.e. in a manner such that the work of one creator is inseparable from the work of the others, the creators of the work have joint ownership of copyright. This means that no creator can deal with the work as if he/she were the sole creator of the work. The creator needs permission from the other copyright owners to do the things covered by copyright. This position may be altered by contract so it is important that the ownership of copyright is discussed in collaborative projects so everyone is informed about their rights.
More information about copyright.
When an artistic work is created collaboratively moral rights belong to each of the joint creators. These moral rights are personal to each individual artist. This means that if one creator consents to an act which affects his/her moral rights, this does not necessarily affect the moral rights of the other creators. For example, if one artist in a collaborative artwork consents not to being attributed, this does not mean that the other artists have also given this consent.
More information about moral rights.
Not all ICIP is automatically recognised and protected under Australia's copyright and other laws. In order to ensure that ICIP which is incorporated into collaborative creative projects is properly respected and protected, it is important for participants to address this issue. There are a range of Indigenous protocols which help people involved in collaborative projects to work through the ICIP issues.
More information about ICIP.
When collaborative projects involve either non-Indigenous and Indigenous individuals or organisations working together on a project, or non-Indigenous artists or organisations working on a project with Indigenous content, it is important to be respectful of any Indigenous cultural and intellectual property involved. Indigenous protocols provide useful guidelines and principles to follow when undertaking collaborative works. Protocols can help everyone to identify the Indigenous cultural material and the processes which need to be put in place to ensure that the materials and its custodians are treated properly.
More information about Indigenous protocols.
A Code of Practice for Creative Collaboration is currently being developed by an advisory group led by Kevin Murray to help manage craft and design collaborations.
UNESCO’s "Designers Meet Artisans – a practical guide" provides useful information about managing design and craft collaborations.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia has a number of sample agreements which may be useful in managing some aspects of your collaborative projects.
In “Beyond Guarding Ground”, Terri Janke suggests, on the basis of specific examples, the limitations of Australian law to protect Indigenous arts and cultural expressions. She proposes the creation of a National Indigenous Cultural Authority to implement the rights of Indigenous people under Article 31 of the Declaration on the rights of Indigenous people to maintain, control, protect and develop cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. Terri Janke suggests that the National Indigenous Cultural Authority could also act as a clearing house, with the task of negotiating and holding collectively rights to culture.
This sample INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION AGREEMENT should be used when a designer in the fashion, textile or home furnishing industry, or a business that is involved in the production of articles for the fashion and furnishing industries (the Designer) wishes to work together with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island visual artist/ or group of visual artists (the Artist) to create and produce clothing, textiles and/or furnishing items based on or incorporating or inspired by the artworks of that artist or artists.
Look out for a new Arts Law template contract to manage collaborative works, coming soon!
Buying Indigenous Art
Buying Indigenous art
In general, Indigenous art centres tend to pay a substantial percentage of the sale price of a work by an Indigenous artist to the artist, so buying Indigenous art directly from Indigenous art centres can help to maximise the return to artists.
Useful guides for being an ethical consumer:
The Consumer Guide is a joint initiative between ANKAAA & the Arts NT Indigenous Arts Development Unit with other key stake holders including Desart, ArtsMARK, Arts Law and Copyright Council of Australia. The guide is aimed at informing consumers about the ethical purchase of Indigenous art and is available in four languages including English, German, French and Japanese.
This information available on the Aboriginal Art Online website contains a useful summary of information on buying Aboriginal art ethically.
The Indigenous Art Code (the Code) aims to ensure fair trade with Indigenous artists. The Code establishes a set of standards for commercial dealing with Indigenous visual artists, provides a benchmark for ethical behaviour and builds greater certainty for consumers that the artworks they buy come through ethical processes.
This information has been produced by the Indigenous Art Trade Association and contains highlights some of the things to consider when purchasing Indigenous art, including authenticity, integrity and value.
Indigenous art centre peak bodies:
Desart is the Association of Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Centres. Its mission is to support Central Australian Aboriginal artists and art centres working together in a vigorous, ethical Aboriginal arts industry.
UMI Arts is the peak Indigenous arts and cultural organisation for Far North Queensland. Its mission is to operate an Indigenous organisation that assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to participate in the maintenance, preservation and protection of cultural identity.
ANKAAA is the peak advocacy and support agency for aboriginal artists and art centres located in the regions of Arnhem Land, Darwin/Katherine, the Kimberley and Tiwi Islands.
AACHWA (Aboriginal Art Centre Hub WA) is a peak body for Aboriginal art centres in WA established in late 2009. AACHWA's role is to support the development and growth of art centres, provide professional development opportunities and coordinate services and resources. The Hub's services respond to the challenges facing art centres as they build the artistic and economic potential of their respective communities.
Ku Arts is an Aboriginal owned peak body for artists of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far northwest of South Australia.
This online resource contains up to date best practice information for all arts centres which are a member of one of the above four leading peak bodies: UMI Arts, Desart, ANKAAA and Ananguku Arts.
Photograph by Ian Morton
Indigenous Australians’ culture and artistic practice is a highly regarded and much publicised feature of Australian society. This section contains useful information to equip you with the skills to support and respect Indigenous culture by engaging in ethical working relationships with Indigenous artists.
- How to ethically buy Indigenous Art as a consumer
- Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property
- Working in collaborative projects
- How to protect and enforce your rights
- Appropriate income and pricing of artworks
- Cultural Protocols when working with Aboriginal artists
- Provenance and authenticity issues
- Resale Royalty
- International Issues
- Wills & Estates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists
Knowledge is power: about our education program
Arts Law runs tailored seminars or workshops for tertiary education institutions, councils and arts organisations to help their artists understand more about their rights. We have been doing this for over 30 years and last year delivered 100 sessions nationally to 2381 artists or arts organisation workers. We believe that knowledge is power and the more artists know about their rights, the closer they get to protecting themselves in business and creating a sustainable arts practice.
How do we do it?
Arts Law can come to you and deliver the education face to face as a series of workshops, an intensive day covering a number of topics or a single session. We can also deliver a session online. It all depends on the needs of your local artists, how many topics you’d like covered and your budget.
Some session ideas:
We’re open to working with you to create education that meets the needs of your artists. Here are some ideas:
- A session series running over a few weeks on all the essentials plus sector specific talks;
- A two day series on copyright, contracts, and setting up and running an arts organisation; or
- An introductory copyright law workshop for artists with some practical tips on dealing with copyright
How to do it:
Contact Arts Law on 02 9356 2566 or email email@example.com to talk to us about running a workshop for yourself or your organisation.
What they say:
“I was attending the event to gain specific knowledge on areas of copyright law and moral right law. I was very happy to leave the session with a basic understanding of such law, and my specific queries were answered! A+++” – participant at Cassowary Council seminars in September 2014
“It was a great overview of contracts and I learned about so many issues which I hadn't been exposed to before which will help me prepare for future projects. I loved it. Thank you so much” – participant at Marrickville Council Artists’ Rights 6 week series March 2014
“I liked the clear presentation format. The presenter was approachable and answered questions clearly.” - participant at Gorman Art Centre workshops, ACT, June 2014
”Building Stronger Organisations” seminar, Melbourne, October 2014
“Artists’ Rights” seminar, Deniliquin, NSW, March 2014
“Wills workshop”, Hermansburg Potters, September 2014
The Arts Law Difference
Our education program empowers and engages artists and arts organisations because we understand their legal needs and can communicate complex legal concepts in a common sense way. Arts Law prides itself on delivering culturally appropriate education workshops for Indigenous artists, art centres and organisation all over Australia. We tailor our education workshops to suit the needs of that organisation to empower the community throught the law.
Knowledge is power: about our education program
Arts Law runs workshops for local councils, tertiary education institutions and arts organisations on a wide range of legal issues. Our aim is to leave participants confident about understanding their legal rights and responsibilities through an accessible, targeted session developed specifically for that audience. We have been doing this for over 30 years and have delivered thousands of education workshops over this time. We believe that knowledge is power and the more artists know about their rights, the closer they get to protecting themselves in business and creating a sustainable arts practice.To find out more about running a workshop click here.
“I was attending the event to gain specific knowledge on areas of copyright law and moral right law. I was very happy to leave the session with a basic understanding of such law, and my specific queries were answered! A+++”
– participant at Cassowary Council seminars in September 2014
Volunteer & Pro Bono
(Arts Law volunteers at annual Pro Bono Awards 2015 © Arts Law)
Arts Law would not be able to provide the range of services it offers without the pro bono assistance of many law firms and individual lawyers who donate their skills and time to assist artists and arts organisations. Many law students also provide valuable assistance as daytime volunteers, helping Arts Law in various ways, including legal research and administration tasks. If you are a lawyer or law student and are interested in volunteering at Arts Law you can find more information in the Support us section.
Become an AITB Volunteer
Arts Law advertise for volunteer law students throuhgout the year and are particularly interested in recruiting those students who have a genuine interest in working closey with the AITB Coordinator in a volunteer AITB Paralegal Position. This position involves assisting the administration of casework files and the AITB wills project as well as working on specific advocacy projects on Indigenous issues. The AITB volunteer paralegal must commit to working one day per week at Arts Law's Sydney office for a minimum period of 6 months.
To apply for the AITB volunteer paralegal position, please fill out the online application form at the Arts Law website here with a copy of your CV and recent academic record.
Pro Bono Awards
Arts Law gratefully acknowledges this support and thanks all the people involved in its services delivery. In 2004, Arts Law introduced Pro Bono Awards to recognise the considerable contribution of individual lawyers throughout the year. The recipient of a Pro Bono Award receives an artwork from a limited edition of prints specially commissioned by Arts Law from an emerging Australian artist.
Each year Arts Law commissions a talented artist to produce a limited edition print which they award to 34 lawyers or other professionals who have made a significant pro bono contribution to Arts Law’s clients – the artists and arts organisations of Australia. This year the print, entitled Iceberg, was by Meg Herbert an artist and former lawyer, who studied at Central St Martins in London and Curtin University in Perth.
The Winners of the Arts Law Pro Bono Awards 2014 are:
- Jonathan Adamopoulos (Allens Linklaters)
- Stephen Boyle (Stephen Boyle Media & Entertainment Law)
- Elizabeth Burrows (Influence Legal)
- Mandy Chapman (Beyond International)
- Annabel Clemens
- Stephen Digby (Digby Law)
- Jamie Doran (Clayton Utz)
- Michael Easton (Michael Easton Legal)
- Stephanie Faulkner (Wrays Lawyers)
- Vincent Floro (ABC Legal Services),
- Katherine Giles (ABC Legal Services)
- James Gonczi (Allens Linklaters)
- Melissa Goode (Herbert Smith Freehills)
- Mark Harley (Boss Lawyers)
- Julian Hewitt (Media Arts Lawyers)
- Raena Lea-Shannon (Entertainment Media Technology)
- Harold Littler (Harold Littler & Company)
- Tracy Lu (Allens Linklaters)
- John MacPhail (NDA Law)
- Ian James McDonald (Simpsons Solicitors)
- Clare Rumboll (Allens Linklaters)
- Darren Sanicki (GI & Sanicki Lawyers)
- Jeremy Storer (Storers Lawyers)
- Michael Tucak (Creative Legal)
- Mandy van den Elshout (ABC Legal Services)
- Matt Vitins (Allens Linklaters)
- Marcus Walkom (Media Arts Lawyers)
- Geetha Nair (Australian Government Solicitors)
- Jodie Wauchope (Gadens)
- Jane Witter (Telstra)
- Deborah Jackson (Allens Linklaters)
- Garey Campbell
- Tom Hakkinen
- Allegra Day (Hearts for Arts Law)
- Kate Cuthbertson (Malthouse Chambers) (Community Service Award Recipient)
Board Member Profiles
Adopt a Lawyer Program
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned and controlled art centres provide more than just a place to paint and their role extends far beyond the scope of nurturing artistic talent and supporting the production of authentic Indigenous art. They are an integral part of community life in remote Indigenous communities. Art centres not only provide much needed income and employment opportunities, but also financial advice, health assistance and other basic needs such as food and after school care. They have a broader social and economic function in remote communities and support the preservation of culture by providing a focus for family connection and the means to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity.
Our Adopt a Lawyer Partnership Program
To continue expanding upon the success of the Artists in the Black program, Arts Law launched the pro bono initiative, “Adopt a Lawyer” in 2013. The program partners Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Art Centres with a single law firm for a three year partnership. It is designed to streamline the existing Artists in the Black support of art centres by facilitating a strengthened relationship between an art centre and a single law firm. We envisage that the art centre can contact the pro bono lawyers at one firm directly for advice on issues and lawyers will develop a more detailed understanding of the art centre’s operations which will position it to provide timely and relevant commercial advice. Throughout the partnership, Arts Law will provide ongoing support and mentoring including an annual cultural understanding training workshop to the law firm and an additional workshop on best practice issues and Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP).
This is an extraordinary opportunity to forge an ongoing relationship with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander owned art centre in a remote community by providing essential pro bono support which is beneficial to the growth of the entire community. At the same time, the program presents a valuable cultural branding exercise for your firm and also provides your lawyers with the chance to engage in meaningful pro bono work. The type of work involved in the program and the impact that the relationship will have for the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community will allow your firm to meet targets in your Reconciliation Action plan and will comply with best practice ethical standard for your lawyers.
For more information and to find out how your art centre or law firm can participate in this exciting program, please contact the Arts Law Centre of Australia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1800 221 457.
Current partnerships include:
Art Centre PPSA Registration
Wills & estates
About Wills & estates
For many artists, their intellectual property in their artistic and creative output is one of the most valuable and enduring assets in their estate. If they pass away intestate, this asset is often neglected or not understand, which can lead not only to a failure to protect the artist’s artistic legacy, but to unchecked copyright infringements and a loss of value to the artist’s family. This is particularly true for Australia’s Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists living in remote and regional areas. Arts Law has delivered educational wills workshops throughout Indigenous communities in all states helping artists to make wills and, through its casework service, assisted many Indigenous families to manage intestate estates. It has campaigned tirelessly for amendment to the discriminatory Western Australian legislation which takes the right to manage the estate of a deceased Aboriginal person away from family and vests it in the Public Trustee. Arts Law also advocates for improved education about the importance of wills and how to draft a will, especially among Indigenous artists and artists from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds.
Mabel King exhibition to take place after agreement is reached with the Public Trustee
The long-awaited Mabel King exhibition will be held at the Japingka Gallery, Fremantle from 4 May until 6 June 2012. King was a respected Ngarinyin Elder who painted at the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre. Sadly, in 2006 she passed away intestate. Following negotiations between the Arts Law Centre of Australia and the WA Public Trustee, the remaining paintings have now been released for sale. We are excited to see these beautiful works, which offer a bold expression of her cultural story. This work was undertaken as part of the Artists in the Black pro-bono casework service.
West Australian Aborigines challenge ‘racist’ law on wills
Executive director Robyn Ayres is quoted today in the Australian newspaper's article calling for the Western Australian government to repeal laws discriminating against Aboriginal people who die without making a will. Read the full article here.
WA Governments administration of Aboriginal wills and estates
The board of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC) passed a resolution last week urging the Government of Western Australia to act to repeal those provisions of the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act of 1972 which discriminate against Aboriginal people. When an Aboriginal person passes away without a will in Western Australia, their estate can only be administered by the Public Trustee in contrast to the estates of non-Aboriginal people. The Board’s resolution stated: “We regard this provision to be discriminatory and anachronistic and to have no place in modern society in the year 2012.” This issue was first highlighted in the September 2006 Report of the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia. Wes Morris of KALACC observed that “the issue of course impacts particularly on Aboriginal visual arts centres and affects the families of those artists who do not have wills.”
ABC Radio National's Law Report program recently produced a story discussing the importance of drafting wills for Indigenous Artists. Arts Law's executive director Robyn Ayres was a guest on the program.
The Law Report - "Where there's a will, there's a way"
Freehills Advises on The Aboriginal Planning Authority
In February 2009 the Arts Law Centre of Australia approached Freehills to provide legal advice, on a pro bono basis, concerning the application of certain provisions of Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 (WA) (Act) to Indigenous persons. Read more here.
Arts Law seeks improved intestacy laws for Indigenous West Australians
Arts Law is lobbying the West Australian Government for changes to the laws concerning the administration of the estate of intestate Indigenous people. Delwyn Everard explains why these changes are required. Read more here.
Arts Law seeks improved intestacy laws for Indigenous West Australians
Arts Law is lobbying the West Australian Government for changes to the laws concerning the administration of the estate of intestate Indigenous people. Delwyn Everard explains why these changes are required. Read more here
If you want to work with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities and you have questions around how to do this, there are a number of protocols that have been developed as a best practice model for artists. You may also want to start by reading our information sheet about Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property so you have an understanding of the the rights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have, and want to have, to protect their traditional arts and culture.
It is important to be aware that Indigenous protocols cannot answer all the questions you may be faced with, as every Indigenous community, organisation and individual is different. However, Indigenous protocols are an excellent resource as they provide:
- a starting point for solving problems,
- a set of guidelines and principles to help you think about a project or the nature of collaboration,
- questions to ask the Indigenous participants, and
- legal and non-legal issues to be considered.
There are a number of different types of Indigenous protocols:
- Protocols for artists
- Protocols for arts dealers
- Protocols and information for consumers
- Protocols for cultural institutions
- Protocols for language projects
The Australia Council for the Arts published a set of Indigenous protocol guides in 2002, written by Indigenous lawyers Robynne Quiggin and Terri Janke. Those protocols provide information and advice on respecting Indigenous culture and heritage.
There are five sets of protocols specific to the following Indigenous art forms which you can download at this page:
- Visual arts
- Performing arts
- Media arts
- Music arts
National Association for the Visual Arts – Valuing Art, Respecting Culture: Protocols for Working With the Australian Indigenous Visual Arts and Craft Sector
Under NAVA's Code of Practice, Other Codes section, this document sets out protocols both to guide non-Indigenous people in their relationships with Indigenous artists and communities, and assist Indigenous artists to define their rights.
Screen Australia (Terri Janke) – Pathways and Protocols: A filmmaker’s guide to working with Indigenous people, culture and concepts
Screen Australia’s guide provides comprehensive information for all filmmakers working with Indigenous content and communities, providing advice about the ethical and legal issues involved when transferring Indigenous cultural material to the screen. The guide includes information on documentary and drama productions, including short dramas, feature films and television drama. Drawing upon real case studies as practical examples, the guide assists and encourages recognition and respect for the images, knowledge and stories of Indigenous people.
Arts Tasmania - Respecting Cultures, Working with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community and Aboriginal Artists
This publication provides a specific Tasmanian perspective as a companion text for the Australia Council's protocols. Respecting Cultures promotes greater awareness of the protocols needed to ensure that Aboriginal artists are acknowledged and their intellectual property and culture is respected and protected.
The Indigenous Art Code is a voluntary code to regulate the conduct of participants in the Indigenous art industry. Its main aims are to ensure fair and ethical trade with artists, transparency with the promotion and sale of artwork as well as a fair and equitable dispute resolution system for disputes arising under the code.
The City of Melbourne has developed a code of practice for galleries and retailers of Indigenous art. The code is a guide outlining ethical and appropriate ways to display and sell authentic Indigenous art and work with Indigenous artists.
National Indigenous Consumer Strategy - Taking Action, Gaining Trust: National Indigenous Consumer Strategy – Action Plan 2014-2016
The National Indigenous Consumer Strategy (NICS) was developed by the Standing Committee of Officials of Consumer Affairs (SCOCA), who represents all the Commonwealth, State and Territory government consumer protection agencies. The NCIS aims at improving the consumer outcomes of Indigenous Australians by encouraging consumer protection agencies to share information and education materials, collaborating in the enforcement of consumer rights and laws, and co-ordinating research, policy development and consumer education initiatives. The NCIS was originally created in 2005 as a three year strategy. However an updated action plan for 2014-2016 has recently been developed.
Australian Government, Department of Environment and Heritage – Welcome to Country: Respecting Indigenous Culture for Travellers in Australia
This information brochure is aimed at providing travellers in Australia with some key protocols to follow in order to ensure respect for Indigenous culture. It is framed around three main principles:
- Relationship – Recognise Indigenous people’s relationship and connection to the land.
- Responsibility – Acknowledge the ongoing responsibility Indigenous people have to their country, and recognise your own responsibility to travel thoughtfully.
- Respect – Respect Aboriginal beliefs associated with country and culture. As a visitor, respect the wishes of your hosts and and restrictions that you have been asked to observe.
These resource guidelines are aimed at assisting cultural institutions in developing links with the broader community. They are intended to be used to support non-Indigenous cultural heritage workers in small museums throughout Australia who wish to work with culturally diverse communities, including Indigenous communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information Resources Network (ATSILIRN) – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services
The ATSILIRN Protocols are intended to guide libraries, archives and information services in appropriate ways to interact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the communities which the organisations serve, and to handle materials with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content.
They are a guide to good practice which will need to be interpreted and applied in the context of each organisation’s mission, collections and client community.
Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia (IPRIA) - Cultural Institutions, Law and Indigenous Knowledge: A Legal Primer on the Management of Australian Indigenous Collections
This document examines some of the legal issues which arise for cultural institutions and other bodies in the acquisition, use and reproduction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural material. The term ‘cultural material’ is used broadly to refer to collection items that reproduce, record or depict Indigenous people, cultures, knowledge and experiences; in some cases, this is highly sensitive of restricted information. It includes artistic outputs and archival research material.
Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) - Guide for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies
The AIATSIS guidelines provide recommendations and suggestions for achieving the best standards of ethical research in Indigenous studies. The document is laid out with a series of principles, which are accompanied by a brief definition and some practical applications.
Museums Australia – Continuing Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities: principles and guidelines for Australian Museums working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.
The Continuing Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities document is intended to guide museums and galleries in framing their own procedures for dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the management of their cultural heritage.
The Australian Heritage Museum guide provides a practical tool for land developers, land users and managers, cultural heritage professionals and many others who may have an impact on Indigenous heritage. This title – ‘Ask First’ is intended to highlight the guides focus on consultation and negotiation with Indigenous stakeholders as being key to addressing heritage issues.
This protocol is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their consultants working together to produce language materials, for example linguists, schools and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) specialists. The FATSIL guide covers protocols for producing language materials at a local level, rather than through one of the major publishing houses. The aim of this protocol is to encourage positive working relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their consultants. Any language materials produced should recognise the cultural and intellectual property rights of the language community. The FATSIL protocol accompanies, and should be read in conjunction with, the model language agreement prepared by the Arts Law Centre of Australia
1. Arts Law Centre of Australia 2014 Annual Report
2. Evaluation of the Artists in the Black Education Program 2009
To read this report, please click here.
Other useful organisations
These organisations may also have useful arts related information to assist you in your queries.
Other useful organisations
These organisations may also have useful arts related information to assist you in your queries.
Subscriber terms & conditions
The following terms and conditions apply to you (the Subscriber) when you purchase a subscription to the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law):
- The Subscriber acknowledges that Arts Law does not:
- represent clients in litigation, arbitration or mediation proceedings;
- negotiate contracts or other deals on behalf of clients; or
- draft contracts or other documents except in exceptional circumstances.
- Subject to paragraph 3, Arts Law agrees that legal advice will be given only by lawyers who are qualified solicitors or barristers.
- The Subscriber understands that work may be done on a file by law students or paralegals but only under the supervision of a qualified lawyer.
- Arts Law agrees not to charge fees (including professional costs and office expenses) for any legal advice which it provides apart from the fees set out in paragraph 10, and any fee payable by the Subscriber for the purchase of Arts Law publications.
- The Subscriber understands that:
- Arts Law must avoid a conflict of interest. In order to do so, Arts Law may decline to advise the Subscriber in certain circumstances including where the Subscriber is in a dispute in which the other party to that dispute has made prior contact with Arts Law for legal advice. Where a conflict prevents Arts Law from advising a Subscriber, Arts Law may, in its absolute discretion, endeavor to source a pro bono consultation for the Subscriber with an external law firm;
- Arts Law has an ‘artists first’ policy. Where a commercial or government organisation seeks legal advice from Arts Law concerning a matter affecting the rights of an artist or artists, Arts Law may decline to advise the Subscriber organisation. In limited circumstances, and its absolute discretion, Arts Law may agree to provide the Subscriber organisation with best practice advice on a contract affecting the rights of artists.
- If Arts Law provides a referral to a lawyer on Arts Law's panel of referral lawyers, the Subscriber understands that the referral lawyer is completely independent of Arts Law. Any arrangement or advice or representation that the Subscriber makes with a referral lawyer will be in the nature of a commercial relationship between that referral lawyer and the Subscriber in a solicitor/client relationship. The Subscriber is solely responsible for the fees or charges of the referral lawyer and Arts Law is not liable to contribute or pay any amount whatsoever towards those fees and charges.
- The Subscriber is responsible for providing Arts Law with all documents and information relevant to the advice sought. Unless clearly stated in writing at the time of seeking advice, Arts Law will assume that all documents and other materials provided by the Subscriber are copies and that the Subscriber does not require their return. Arts Law will be entitled to dispose of such documents without notice to the Subscriber and will not be responsible for loss, theft or damage to such document if a request for its return has not been made within six months of Arts Law completing its advice or review.
- Arts Law will archive and keep closed files for seven years. It is entitled to destroy a file after that period without notice to the Subscriber.
- A Document Review Service is a single advice session with a lawyer which relates to the construction or interpretation of one or more related documents. If Arts Law determines that the documents provided by the Subscriber deal with separate legal issues, or the quantum of material provided exceeds the scope of a single advice session, Arts Law may notify the Subscriber that two or more Document Review Services are required.
- Upon payment of the annual subscription fee, each Subscriber is entitled to two (2) Document Review sessions (DRS) and five (5) Telephone Legal Advice (TLA) sessions in the twelve month subscription period. During the subscription period, additional Document Review Service advice sessions are available for a fee of $80 each. There is no limit on the number of additional Document Review Services available during that subscription period.
By subscribing through Artists in the Black you become a subscriber of Arts Law which gives you further access to advice and information on law and the arts and keeps you informed about legal issues affecting the arts in Australia.
The benefits of subscription are:
- generous discounts on Arts Law's publications including guides, checklists, sample agreements, seminar papers and books;
- access to Arts Law's document review service;
- free quarterly electronic publication ART+law which includes updates on recent issues affecting creators;
- discounts on admission to Arts Law's seminars;
and, where appropriate:
- ongoing legal advice, assistance and information;
- access to mediation services;
- referral to Arts Law's national referral panel of arts and entertainment lawyers;
- invitations to "subscriber only" events.
Click here to read our Subscriber Terms and Conditions.
Artists in the Black gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance and investment of the following organisations and programs:
The Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body
The Australian Government through the Ministry for Arts
The New South Wales Government through Arts NSW
The Victorian Government through Creative Victoria
Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Arts Queensland's Backing Indigenous Arts program
The State of Western Australia through Arts WA in association with the Lotteries Commission
The State of South Australia through Arts SA
Advocacy and Law Reform
Arts Law aims to provide targeted, quality advocacy on law and policy reform for the benefit of the creative sector. This is done through:
- identification and prioritisation of issues affecting the arts community;
- research and making of submissions;
- development of relationships with the government, media, arts sector and other relevant bodies; and
- lobbying to influence the decision making of government and other bodies
Arts Law has been actively involved in Indigenous-specific advocacy work on the following issues:
Audio & video
ART+law is Arts Law’s flagship quarterly publication. It provides up-to-date* information on the legal world as it relates to the arts.
Each issue includes an Artists in the Black section with articles on Indigenous arts issues. All Indigenous articles are FREE to access. Please use the browse functions on this page to search for Indigenous-specific articles.
ART+law also has a range of general (non Indigenous-specific) articles that are relevant to all artists. To go to the general ART+law page please click here.
Arts Law has also developed a resource about respecting and protecting Indigenous intellectual property called Solid Arts. You can find these resources by searching for Solid Arts below or find them in under the Legal Topics and Arts Form of the Info Hub.
*The information in archived ART+law articles was correct at the time of first publication. Contact us to find out if the law has changed since then.
Sample agreements & templates
The Arts Law website has a number of sample agreements available for purchase, which are designed to cover a variety of common relationships in different arts sectors. To find out more about what agreements are available, please click here.
Artists in the Black has also developed a number of sample agreements which specifically relate to Indigenous artists. Some are available for FREE download, while some are LOW COST with a further discount rate if you are an Arts Law subscriber.
Please refer to Arts Laws' terms and conditions before using any of the sample agreements.
Arts Law publishes a number of information sheets to help inform you about your rights as an artist. The Artists in the Black program has produced a series of information sheets to address legal issues that relate to Indigenous artists and communities, and are available for FREE download.
You may print a copy for a non-profit purpose, provided you print the whole information sheet and do not alter it in any way. Contact Arts law to reproduce any information sheet for any other purpose (including for educational purposes).
For a more extensive list of information sheets available from the Arts Law website please click here.
Please refer to Arts Laws’ disclaimer before using any of the information contained on this page or in the information sheets.
Frequently asked questions
Coming soon: a series of answers to common questions asked by Artists in the Black clients.
The Artists in the Black (AITB) program at the Arts Law Centre of Australia has created a series of comics to address legal issues that relate to Indigenous artists and communities. You can view the comics online or download a PDF to print.
The comics help educate you about your rights to moral, intellectual property and copyright ownership of your artwork and contracts you might have with other parties.
Note: Please be patient when downloading the PDFs for print as they are quite large in size.
Musicians in the Black
The Musicians in the Black program is specifically developed and geared toward Indigenous musicians. It is designed around a workshop program, and also includes online information sheets and resources. The program is generously funded by the Sidney Myer Fund, APRA and PPCA.
In the following situations Arts Law may not be able to advise:
- you are not eligible to access Arts Law's services
- the matter is outside the scope of our services
- the matter requires a solicitor to act on your behalf
- Arts Law must decline to advise you because of a conflict of interest or a policy conflict.
Arts Law will assist you by recommending an appropriate organisation or professional from our national referral panel. We may refer you to:
- a suitably qualified lawyer
- arts organisations
- tax and accounting advisers
- another Community Legal Centre (CLC).
We can arrange access to both limited free and reduced fee advice.
If you act upon Arts Law's referral, any arrangement, in particular in relation to fees, is a matter between the lawyer and yourself, and has nothing to do with Arts Law. We recommend you clarify the terms of any arrangement with the lawyer when you contact him/her.
For more information and to seek a referral please contact us.
Best practice advice
Artists in the Black and Arts Law have an 'artist-first' policy. Sometime organisations (councils, festival organisers etc.) call Arts Law for advice when working with Artists, such as the terms and conditions of competitions. However Arts Law cannot advise on these matters, as providing legal advice on these issues would mean that we would be unable to provide legal advice to an artist related to the same agreement. This is because this would be a potential conflict of interest.
Despite this, in seeking to enhance the rights of artists, Arts Law can sometimes offer best practice advice to organisations, instead of legal advice. For example, helping an organisation improve the standard of their contracts and ensure fair conditions for artists. For more information on best practice please click here.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Arts Law can assist you in resolving your dispute with another party through its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service, through which parties can access experienced and low cost mediators and experts.
View Arts Law's comprehensive ADR Guidelines.
- What is AITB?
- Who does AITB help?
- How is AITB funded?
- How can AITB help me?
- How do I request advice?
- How long does it take to receive advice?
- Is my information confidential?
- What educational services does AITB offer?
- What else does AITB do to protect artists’ rights?
- How can I support AITB?
The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts law) established the Artists in the Black (AITB) service in 2004, in response to the needs of the Indigenous arts community. AITB aims to increase access to advice and information about the legal rights of Indigenous artists, communities and artists organisations. Arts Law provides these services to Indigenous artists in a culturally appropriate way.
The AITB service provides legal help to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their organisations.
If you are a non-Indigenous artist requiring legal help, please visit the Arts Law website to find out about our other services.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) is a not-for-profit organisation. Arts Law receives funding for its services, including the AITB program, from a range of sources. This includes grants from government and non-government organisations.
Click here to see our funding supporters.
Arts Law provides Indigenous artists access to our full range of services, including:
- Free telephone legal advice
- Review of contracts
- Access to culturally sensitive resources and information
- Referrals to other qualified solicitors across Australia where Arts Law is unable to assist.
- Lobbying for law reform where necessary
- Educational workshops and seminars on your rights as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
You can request advice in two ways:
- Ask for help online by filling out our online legal query form
- Call: 1800 221 451 (TOLL FREE)
We do not accept requests for legal advice by post or direct email.
To find out more information about what types of legal advice we can provide, and the legal advice process, please click here.
We will endeavour to return any telephone message or email within 3 working days, although in periods of high demand it may take up to 10 days. You will speak to an Arts Law administrative officer or volunteer who will record the relevant information in relation to your query.
If you are requesting legal advice which does not involve a document, your request will be placed in a queue. You should receive telephone legal advice from an Arts Law lawyer within 5-10 working days. If your legal query requires a document to be reviewed this will usually be organised within 2-3 weeks of your request.
Yes, Arts Law respects your rights to privacy and confidentiality. All information you provide to Arts Law will be kept confidential unless you give us permission to disclose information about you to a third party or we have a legal obligation to do so.
Through the AITB program Arts Law prepares and presents educational workshops and seminars on your rights as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist. Arts Law’s solicitors are also available to assist in curricula development and review for tertiary and vocational training purposes.
To enquire about this service, please email email@example.com.
Arts Law aims to provide targeted, quality advocacy on law and policy reform, for the benefit of the creative sector. Because of the lack of other services dealing with Arts Law issues for Indigenous artists, Arts Law plays an important advocacy role, particularly in relation to Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP).
This advocacy work is done through:
- Identification and prioritization of issues that affect the arts community generally and Indigenous artists specifically;
- Research and making of submissions;
- Developing relationships with the Government, media, arts sector and other relevant bodies; and
- Lobbying to influence the decision making of Government and other bodies.
To find out more information about our current advocacy work, please click here.
The AITB service would not be possible without the support of many generous individuals and organisations. There are many ways you can assist us in continuing to provide this service:
- You can make a tax free donation to Arts Law to assist us continue to provide Indigenous artists and arts organisations with legal assistance. To make a donation, please click here.
- Volunteer your skills and time as a volunteer lawyer on our Document Review Service Panel, as a volunteer note-taker at a document review consultation or as a daytime volunteer administration/research assistant.
Seminars & workshops
Through the AITB program Arts Law prepares and presents educational workshops and seminars about your rights as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Artist. Arts Law’s solicitors are also available to assist in curricula development and review for tertiary and vocational training purposes.
Fee for service
For a fee Arts Law can also tailor-make presentations and workshops to meet your specific needs.
To enquire about these services please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2010 and 2011 Artists in the Black provided seminars and workshops to Indigenous artists involved with the following:
- Tandanya SA
- Tranby NSW
- Kidogo WA
- ANKAAA NT
- Desart NT
- Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre Qld
- Yarrabah community Qld
- The Dreaming Qld
- Corrections Victoria
- Koori Business Network Vic
The Artists in the Black educational program has a national focus and delivers in metropolitan, regional and remote communities. In 2010 we visited Fremantle, Wiluna, Albany, Geraldton, Roebourne and the Western Desert in WA; Tweed Heads, Lismore, Grafton and Redfern in NSW; Bairnsdale, Mildura and Melbourne in Victoria; Cairns, Woodford, Brisbane, Cardwell, Yarrabah, Lockhart River in Queensland; Adelaide and the APY Lands in South Australia; Darwin, Daly River, and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Legal query form
We recommend writing and saving your query in a word document before you fill in this online form. There are character limits in place within the form.
To request legal advice from Arts Law please submit the form below and fill out the details. We operate on a queue system and deal with all queries in the order we receive them. Please be aware that due to limited resources there may be a delay in the turnaround time for legal advice, however we will keep you posted via email as to the status of your query.
We recommend writing and saving your query in a word document before you fill in this online form. Please note there are character limits in place within the form.
Before completing the form please note the following:
1. We can only advise artists and arts organisations on arts-related matters.
2. Arts Law is an independent, non-profit organisation with limited resources.
4. Arts Law cannot provide advice on foreign law or on how a foreign court will interpret a contract governed by the law of a foreign jurisdiction. If a document review is requested for the purpose of reviewing an agreement which contains a clause stating that the governing law is that of another jurisdiction, Arts Law will recommend that the governing law be changed to Australian law and its advice as to the meaning and effect of the agreement will proceed on that basis of an Australian law interpretation. If the agreement has already been signed or the draft cannot be changed, the caller must understand that Arts Law cannot advise on the position under the foreign law and that the caller would need to seek advice from lawyers in the relevant foreign jurisdiction. However, where requested, Arts Law can provide advice on how the contract would be interpreted under Australian law – generally a ‘plain English‘ explanation. While you cannot assume that the same interpretation would be applied by a foreign court, this often provides a useful guide and can assist clients in a general understanding of their position and in developing strategies for further negotiations.
5. Before receiving advice, arts organisations and individuals who do not meet our means test are asked to subscribe to Arts Law and pay the subscription fee. The Subscription fees are $150 for individuals, $220 for bands and $300 for Arts Organisations. This subscription then entitles the subscriber to two (2) Document Review sessions (DRS) and five (5) Telephone Legal Advice (TLA) sessions in the twelve month subscription period. Click here for more information.
6. Arts Law does not have the capacity to review too many documents or a document which is too large. This situation may arise, for example, where an author requires the review of their manuscript for defamation issues. We cannot review the entire manuscript but only specific extracts, upon the understanding that this is not a complete review of all the relevant material and that our advice will be limited to the specific extracts.
If you are an Indigenous artist, Arts Law through our Artists in the Black service can give you legal advice about legal and business matters related to your art practice. Some of the things you might need to talk to us about include:
- written contracts (agreements),
- moral rights
- trade marks
- business names and structures
- insurance and employment
We also provide advice to Indigenous arts organisations.
If your query is related to copyright you may wish to contact the Australian Copyright Council for assistance.
If you have already logged a query, we are dealing with all queries in the order we received them. Please be aware that we are currently experiencing lengthy delays in the turnaround time for legal advice but we will keep you posted via email as to the status of your query. Please check this page for updates to our legal advice service.
Once we have processed your query we will call you back. If you would prefer, please phone 1800 221 457 and leave a message, and we will call you back.
Arts Law has an Artists in the Black Coordinator who you will speak with you about your matter. If they are not available one of Arts Law's administration staff can take your request, or we can have the Indigenous Liaison Officer to call you back.
Types of legal advice
Arts Law will deal with your enquiry by providing either telephone legal advice or a document review depending on whether giving you legal advice involves reviewing any documentation.
i. Telephone legal advice
If your enquiry does not involve a document we will take down all the details of your query. After lodging this request an Arts Law lawyer will contact you by telephone and give you legal advice about your query.
The telephone legal advice service is subject to Arts Law’s legal advice guidelines as well as other policies which will be explained to you upon contacting Arts Law.
ii. Document review
If your enquiry involves the review of any document related to your matter, for example a formal contract or an exchange of correspondence, Arts Law recommends the use of its document review service.
Under this service, you send any document which you want explained to you to Arts Law. An Arts Law lawyer (in-house or external volunteer lawyer or law firm acting on behalf of Arts Law) then reviews the document and holds a review consultation with you to explain the document and provide you legal advice in relation to that document.
The document review service is subject to Arts Law’s legal advice guidelines as well as other policies which will be explained to you upon contacting us.
Limits to Arts Law’s legal advice services
In some circumstances, Arts Law is unable to provide assistance even if you are generally eligible for our services. For example, we will not advise you if another party in your dispute or transaction has already contacted us for advice; or if we consider it more appropriate for your matter to be referred elsewhere. Further, Arts Law can only advise on arts-related matters.
In accordance with its mission, Arts Law operates under an "artist first" policy. As a result, we cannot unconditionally provide legal advice to organisations if doing so would later preclude us from advising the artist. In such situations we may, at our discretion, provide best practice advice under our best practice guidelines.
For Legal Advice
Arts Law provides a number of legal advice services. For information regarding these services, please see our Legal Services page.
To submit a legal advice query, please use the legal query form.
If you are seeking legal advice it is preferable that you use our online legal query form. If you need to contact us via phone, please note that requests for legal advice are answered in the order that they are first received; priority is not given to telephone messages.
To speak with our AITB Coordinator
As part of the Artists in the Black service, Arts Law has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program coordinator, who is able to take your query and give you information about our service, ask to speak with them when you call or email email@example.com.
If they are not in the office, all of our general administration staff will listen and help find the best way to assist you.
(02) 9356 2566
1800 221 457 (toll-free)
+61 2 9356 2566 (mobile/international)
Arts Law Centre of Australia
The Gunnery, 43-51 Cowper Wharf Road
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
(02) 9358 6475
Artists in the Black Online
National Relay Service
Clients who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment can call through the National Relay Service.
- TTY or computer with modem users phone 133 677 then ask for (02) 9356 2566.
- Speak and Listen (speech to speech relay) users phone 1300 555 727 then ask for (02) 9356 2566.
- TTY or computer with modem users phone 1800 555 677 then ask for 1800 221 457.
- Speak and listen (speech to speech relay) users phone 1800 555 727 then ask for 1800 221 457.
Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)
A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is about organisations from every sector turning good intentions into real actions and rising to the challenge of reconciling Australia. A RAP is a business plan that uses a holistic approach to create meaningful relationships, enhanced respect and promote sustainable opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
An Innovate RAP is for organisations like ours that have developed strong relationships with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and are ready to develop or implement programs for cultural learning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and supplier diversity. The Innovate RAP will give the Arts Law Centre of Australia the freedom to develop and test new and innovative approaches, and embed our Innovate RAP into our organisation.
Our Innovate RAP will allow our organisation to focus on building relationships both internally and externally, and raise awareness with our stakeholders to ensure there is shared understanding and ownership of our RAP within our organisation. Development of our future RAPs will involve consultation with staff across our organisation including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and/or stakeholders to achieve our vision for reconciliation.
For more information on Reconcilation Actions Plans or Reconciliation Australia, click here.
Success stories from the AITB program provide an insight into the nature of our work and illustrate some of the legal issues we deal with.
To find resources relevant to you search by Legal Topic or Art Form.
Click on one of the topics in the panel to the left to start!
Support & Involvement
As the national legal centre for the arts and cultural sector, Arts Law is at the forefront of providing legal advice to Australia’s artists and arts organisations and advocating on law reform issues for the arts community. With limited Federal and State funding, Arts Law cannot carry out its work without your support, either in kind or financial.
The Artists in the Black service would not be possible without the generous support of various individuals. The funds, input, and assistance that these individuals provide us with is what enables us to continue to provide a great service for Indigenous artists and arts organisations.
There are many ways you can assist us:
There are several ways you can support Arts Law, the Artists in the Black Program and the work we do for artists and the arts community of Australia. Increasingly Arts Law needs your financial support and you can do that through donating.
To make a general donation, click here.
Assist us by volunteering as a panel lawyer, note-taker or daytime volunteer.
3. Adopt a Lawyer
The Adopt a Lawyer pro bono program partners Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community arts centres with an experienced law firm for period of three years, fostering partnerships that enable art centres to secure greater access to legal advice as well as building a closer relationship between law firms and Australia’s ancient Indigenous culture.
Learn more here.
4. Guardian Angels
As a passionate supporter of the arts you can play an important role, helping Australian artists by becoming a Guardian Angel. Our Guardian Angels are an elite group of individuals and businesses committed to ensuring artists and organisations receive correct and excellent information and advice about their rights, responsibilities and importantly how to secure an income from their creative work.
For more information on the Guardian Angels, click here.
The Adopt a Lawyer pro bono program partners Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community arts centres with an experienced law firm for period of three years, fostering partnerships that enable art centres to secure greater access to legal advice as well as building a closer relationship between law firms and Australia’s ancient Indigenous culture.https://www.artslaw.com.au/support/#sthash.Dl39oi0W.dpuf
The AITB service aims to provide informed advocacy work on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) issues and other arts law issues which affect the Indigenous community. We lobby Government for legal reform which would improve the protection of, and respect for, the Indigenous Arts.
This is done through:
- Identification and prioritisation of issues which affect the Indigenous arts community;
- Research and making of submissions
- Developing relationships with the Government, media, arts sector and other relevant bodies; and
- Lobbying to influence the decision making of Government and other bodies,
Click on the options below to find more find information about Arts Law’s advocacy work.
The Artists in the Black service produces a number of FREE and low cost resources to help Indigenous artists protect their rights:
- Information sheets on legal issues specific to Indigenous artists
- Free and low cost sample agreements
- A number of resources assisting Indigenous artists to create and manage their will
art+LAW is Arts Law’s quarterly publication many articles with helpful legal information, including a dedicated section about Indigenous issues.
You may print a copy of these resources for a non-profit purpose, provided you copy all of it and do not alter it in any way. To reproduce for any other purpose (including for course materials) please contact Arts Law.
For more general (non-Indigenous specific) legal resources for artist please go to Arts Law’s legal resources page.
Arts Law’s Artists in the Black program (AITB) endeavours to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, communities and arts organisations with access to our full range of services. Arts Law gives legal advice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and arts organisations all over Australia on a wide range of arts-related legal and business issues. We give legal advice on a wide range of arts-related legal and business issues, including contracts, copyright, moral rights, trade marks, business names and structures, defamation, insurance and employment. In order to be fair to all artists who seek our services we operate on a queue system and take queries through our website. Submit your legal query and learn more about our legal advice services.
By subscribing through Artists in the Black you become a subscriber of Arts Law which gives you further access to advice and information on law and the arts and keeps you informed about legal issues affecting the arts in Australia. You can subscribe here.
If we are unable to offer you legal advice ourselves we can refer you to a private lawyer for assistance. We are also able to refer you to suitable accountants and insurers if that's what you need. To find out more click here.
Arts Law can arrange mediation to assist you in resolving your dispute with another party. To find out more click here.
In certain circumstances we may be able to advise arts organisations, local councils or other agencies who work with artists about making their artist contracts fairer. We call this 'Best Practice' advice. For more click here.
Want to know more about how we help Indigenous artists?
For more information about eligibility and guidelines for our services, please click here.
News & events
Recent news from Arts Law:
Anne Dixon with Tjanpi Baskets 2010. Copyright Tjanpi Desert Weavers
Artists in the Black (AITB) is a specialised service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, communities and arts organisations. It is operated by the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law), the national community legal centre for the arts. The AITB service aims to provide access to free or low cost, culturally appropriate, specialist legal resources to support and strengthen the Indigenous arts sector. We do this in order for Indigenous creators to achieve professional excellence, a sustainable income in a non-exploitative environment and to achieve better recognition of Indigenous intellectual property.
The name “Artists in the Black” is a play on the expression to be “in the black”, meaning to be financially profitable and not in debt, rather than being “in the red”. This name encapsulates the nature of this service, which helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to be “in the black” through access to legal advice, information and education about their rights so that they may gain financially from their artworks.
AITB aims to:
- Increase access by Indigenous artists, art organisations and Indigenous communities to legal advice on arts law issues, including Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP).
- Increase access to legal information about arts law issues and develop appropriate publications.
- Increase understanding and awareness of Indigenous artists and communities of arts law issues through an education programme.
- Provide informed advocacy work on ICIP issues and other arts law issues affecting the Indigenous community.
- Develop arts-specific law expertise within the Indigenous community.
The other key focus area for AITB is responding to the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists on the better protection of, and respect for, Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP). The misuse and misappropriation of ICIP causes significant distress and harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their cultures and we continue to look at legal and advocacy strategies to provide protection and remedies in this regard.
RAP - Arts Law’s Commitment to Reconciliation
In 2016 we launched our Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, 2016-2018. An Innovate RAP is for organisations like ours that have developed strong relationships with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and are ready to develop or implement programs for cultural learning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and supplier diversity. The Innovate RAP will give the Arts Law Centre of Australia the freedom to develop and test new and innovative approaches, and embed our Innovate RAP into our organisation.
Contact our AITB Coordinator
Since the commencement of our Artists in the Black program, we have engaged Indigenous staff to assist our Indigenous clients and manage the AITB Program. To speak with our AITB Coordinator please call (02) 9356 2566 or 1800 221 457 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More About Artists in the Black
Arts Law has been providing legal services to the arts community since 1983. However, when we looked at the rip-offs and exploitation of Indigenous artists still occurring, the case for a specialised service for Indigenous artists was overwhelming. AITB was established in 2004 and has been building upon the initial seed funding we received from the Australia Council so that our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts communities now accounts for over 35% of Arts Law’s work. This is indicative of the high level of need in these communities but it also reflects the growth and diversity in the Indigenous arts sector and the increasing complexity of the type of advice and support we are asked to provide.
Displaying images and voices of those who have passed away
The Arts Law Centre of Australia conducts all its programs and services with the knowledge, sensitivity and understanding of cultural protocols to the best of our ability.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia endeavours to consult with communities and staff associated with our programs and services so that we are aware of the particular Sorry Business protocols that may arise. We are aware that in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities it is offensive to mourning practices to reproduce the names or images of deceased people. Sometimes these restrictions may last many years.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia will not use a deceased person’s name or image unless the centre has obtained permission either from the individual at the time of meeting the individual or subsequently from relevant family members or elders.
If the Arts Law Centre of Australia becomes aware of an individual’s death and is not able to obtain permission to use their materials, we will not publish any new images and will take reasonable steps to remove any images from the website. No materials will be used without a consent form that specifically provides consent in the case of death. This may involve seeking permission from relatives, community or Elders.
Permission to use a deceased person’s name and image will be delivered in writing and outline whether the permission is ongoing, restricted to a particular person/company or for viewing in a particular area. Written permission will outline these particulars and clarify whether the individual wishes to use a mourning name.
Please contact the Arts Law Centre of Australia immediately if you do not see these protocols embodied throughout our website and/or publications.
Written in alignment with the Australian Human Rights Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Engagement Toolkit 2012.
Arts Law CEO, Robyn Ayres, and King & Wood Mallesons pro bono lawyers, John Swinson and Karen Litherland travelled to remote Northern Territory earlier this month to visit three First Nations art centres.
Visiting the art centres of Jilamara and Munupi on Melville Island and Bula’bula Arts in Ramingining, Arnhem Land, Robyn, John and Karen worked with local artists and art centre managers to assist with contracts, draft wills and deliver education workshops.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia. In essence, our submission is that a prohibition on the sale of inauthentic products at all levels of the supply chain is the easiest and most efficient approach to address the problem.
Arts Law launched the Fake Art Harms Culture campaign in 2016, along with the Indigenous Art Code and the Copyright Agency. The campaign aims to stop the sale of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products and merchandise in Australia, as it harms culture, an income stream for artists and consumers.
We will be at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair calling on Government to respond to Federal MP Bob Katter's proposed bill to stop the fakes.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia and the Indigenous Art Code contacted Chanel to request an apology to Indigenous communities over their ‘boomerang’ product that was recently circulating on social media.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Indigenous Art Code and Copyright Agency | Viscopy welcomed the proposed introduction of legislation to end the practice of the production and sale of art products and merchandise which misappropriates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture.The Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Indigenous Art Code and Copyright Agency | Viscopy today welcomed the proposed introduction of legislation to end the practice of the production and sale of art products and merchandise which misappropriates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture.
Bob Katter, federal member for Kennedy in Queensland, has thrown his support behind and the campaign to stop fake Indigenous art being sold in Australia.
Fake Art Harms Culture, and we're taking our campaign to the Sydney Opera House as part of the Homeground Arts Markets on October 8 and 9.
Arts law is particularly concerned by some of the proposals in the draft report. The undervaluation of artists' contributions and the lack of consideration of Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property issues, the suggestion that the optimal copyright term is 15 to 25 years after creation, the proposal to remove parallel import restrictions for books and the fair use provisions proposed in the draft report. You can read our full submission here.
Submission on the Intellectual Property Arrangements - Productivity Commission Issues Paper Oct 2015
The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) is pleased to comment on the Productivity Commission Issues Paper.