OSLA provides reviews of arts-law self-help books. These books can be used to help you in your business ventures and to make you more knowledgeable while reducing future legal expenses. There will still be times when legal advice is necessary, and hopefully these books will help you understand when such a time has come. Always obtain the latest editions of these books as the law of the arts is one of the fastest changing legal fields.

Alphabetical Index of Books Reviewed:

The Artist's Friendly Legal Guide

The Beginning Filmmaker's Guide

Business and Law on the Internet

Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists, Illustrators, etc.

This Business of Music

The Copyright Handbook

How To Make and Sell Your Own Record Legal Guide for the Visual Artist

Licensing Art & Design

The Market Books (Songwriter's, Photographer's, etc.)

Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (Graphic Artist Guild)

Protecting Artists and Their Work The Rights of Authors, Artists, and Other Creative People

THE ARTIST'S FRIENDLY LEGAL GUIDE, 1991 Ed. by Conner, Gilcrest, Karlen, Perwin & Spatt

This paperbound book is geared towards the visual artist. It is broken up into four sections: 1. Copyright Law; 2. Moral Rights and Good Business Practices; 3. Contracts; and 4. Record keeping and Taxes.

It is a good self-help book for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is mostly up-to-date. It also includes a special section explaining the application of the copyright laws to computer- generated artwork.

Finally, a number of form contracts are included, along with a proper warning that the forms should be used only to assist you in tailoring a contract to fit your specific needs and circumstances. Unfortunately, one of the problems with this book is that there is little, if any, explanation of the meaning and use of of the terms in the form contracts. Without such explanation, it will be difficult for the inexperienced contract negotiating artist to get much use from the forms. In all fairness, this is a failing in many books of this kind - plenty of form, not enough educating content.


The publisher calls this book a basic business primer on questions of financing, marketing, distribution and law, and it does provide alot of basic information. For instance, a press kit for purposes of promoting your film while still in production is mentioned, but the only discussion of such a kit is that "you will need a still photographer to shoot stills throughout the production." Purchasing of literary property and screenplay writing are discussed, but only in a cursory manner.

If you are looking for the actual contracts to use when developing a literary property or hiring actors or a director, this is not the book for you. In fact, there are few, if any, books that will take you from novice film producer to movie mogul in ten easy steps. What this book offers is a look into many of the issues that you should be aware of before you jump into the world of film making.

You will become acquainted with distribution deals and costs, financing 101 and the basic nature of a few of the contracts that you may run into along the way. The details of these contracts are not included and an attorney is often needed for such matters anyway. Many of the obstacles that may arise in your quest to make film making history are also left out, but as I said, this book does not attempt to cover all the bases. There are other sources for much of that additional information.

The Beginning Filmmaker's Business Guide provides a jumping-off point to start you on the road to Hollywood or, perhaps, it will help you realize that the whole adventure is more than you bargained for. Not bad for an initial investment of $14.95

First Published Version of review, Copyright 1996 David M. Spatt

By Olivier Hance (Mcgraw Hill, 1996)

Business & Law on the Internet is not a book for the casual surfer nor for the visual artist who is considering the net as a marketing/exhibition opportunity. Rather, it is written for business managers, entrepreneurs, and their attorneys who plan to do business online instead of on paper or in person.

There is considerable discussion of how transactions and business contracts can be accomplished via the net and even consideration of how general rules of contract law can be applied.  The laws of different countries are also considered since e-commerce is not only interstate, but international.

For those who are inexperienced in the net and/or international business transactions, this book can be pretty technical, for instance its discussion of cryptography techniques for purposes of online security.

There are also more legible discussions of copyright infringement and freedom of expression, though I would not recommend this book for the normal artist working in traditional mediums of painting, sculpture, music or film.  On the other hand, if you plan to enjoy a career as a webmaster or webpage designer, this would be a good place to start. For that person, the technical explanations are no longer confusing, but simply important and necessary business information.  For that person, Business & Law on the Internet is one the few games in town to help one do business online.

© 1999 David M. Spatt


These books, by a well known self-help arts attorney, supposedly provide the artist with a "complete set of business and legal forms, including sample contracts, for your every need.." Tear-out pages are also included for easy photocopying. It is the opinion of this reviewer that no form contract is easily applicable to your "every need."

A contract must be tailored to every specific situation. Therefore, the use of these, or any, form contracts should not be encouraged. On the other hand, these books provide more information on how to negotiate a contract than any other book this writer has yet seen and for this reason alone, they may prove useful in your business library.

First Published Version of reviews, copyright 1991 David M. Spatt.

THIS BUSINESS OF MUSIC, Seventh Edition by S. Shemel & M. W. Krasilovsky

This book, and its companion work MORE ABOUT THIS BUSINESS OF MUSIC, are excellent tools for any musician, music publisher, agent, writer, producer or independent record company. THIS BUSINESS contains easy-to-read information about copyright laws and forms and many kinds of contracts with some explanation of what the contract terms mean. It also explains many kinds of licensing and give some information about taxes. Finally, there is a large section filled with forms that can be used to educate the inexperienced, as well as for examples of what can be negotiated into your own contract.

Unfortunately, since it discusses some many diverse topics, it does not fully explain any of them, but it is an excellent overview.  There are other books that would be more specific on such matters as licensing, recording, publishing, etc.  Perhaps an attorney would be needed at that stage anyway.

The seventh edition of THIS BUSINESS OF MUSIC is every bit as informative as the prior editions. Published in 1995, it contains more forms, updated legal information and the same easy-to-read format. It is highly recommended at $29.95.

(c) 1991-1998 David M Spatt

THE COPYRIGHT HANDBOOK: How To Protect And Use Written Works (Nolo Press, 1992) by Stephen Fishman

This book is aimed at instructing the non-lawyer as to the ins and outs of copyright law in the United States elsewhere, as it pertains to writers of literary works only. Considerable attention is also given to the correct procedures for including copyright notice on your works and for registering your copyrights.

I have lectured many groups and clients on these subjects and, unfortunately, the presentation can be very dry, but understanding of these issues is mandatory for any writer (or other artist for that matter) to protect their rights to own and exploit their works. The Copyright Handbook provides as much information as most artists will need on copyright law and procedure and numerous examples are included throughout to facilitate its application. In fact, it wouldn't hurt some lawyers to review this material.

Depending upon where you reside, or where your attorney's office is located, the legal fee for just filling out a copyright form can be $75 to $125 and up. When the issue of ownership or other matters are complex, paying an attorney for this service is usually unavoidable. On the other hand, many copyright registrations can be done by the writer alone, with this book's assistance. That alone justifies the 24.95 retail price (even for non-writers) and the analysis of copyright law and procedure can be considered icing on the cake.

First Published Version of review,Copyright 1992 David M. Spatt

HOW TO MAKE AND SELL YOUR OWN RECORD by Diane Sward Rapaport 3rd. Ed., 1988

This book may be out of print, but if you can get a copy, go for it. It is a how-to manual on being your own independent publisher. Chapters cover such diverse, but important, subjects as Promotion and Sales, Graphics and Printing labels and Covers, Recording, Manufacturing, Costs, Business Questions and Worksheets to help you get organized. Although there is a chapter on Song Rights, legal questions are not a major selling point of this book, although there is advice on finding a good lawyer.

"How To Make And Sell Your Own Record" is a primer of the independent record business and it will answer many questions you haven't even thought to ask yet. Look for this book and avoid many pitfalls before they occur. UPDATE: This book is in print with a 1992 edition at $29.95.

First Published Version of review, Copyright 1992 David M. Spatt

LEGAL GUIDE FOR THE VISUAL ARTIST (4th Ed.) By Tad Crawford (Allworth Press, 1999)

Having noticed that a review of an earlier edition of the LEGAL GUIDE FOR THE VISUAL ARTIST was posted to the OSLA ARTS & LAWS website, the publisher provided this writer with a copy of the new (4th) edition, published in 1999. I must admit that this edition has been updated and upgraded on every front.  As one of the first art law books, perhaps THE first, it now contains info on new mediums and current laws.

PROS: Like the earlier edition, there is a significant discussion of copyright law, though this time it includes specific court decisions with case citations (lawyer-stuff).  This will enable the artist to explain to their attorney what’s going on and the attorney will already know where some of the law is located.  Perhaps this will lower your legal bills.  There is a bit of legalese in the book, but the information should still be understandable.

One of my criticisms of the earlier edition had to do with the inclusion of contract forms, but little explanation of their use.  This is a problem with many of the art-law self-help books.
The new edition gives a lot more info on contract terms  and it is mostly written in normal English, which is not an easy task.

CONS:  Some of the chapters give little more than lip-service to important aspects of an artist’s business and survival, such as Grants and Public Support for the Arts; and How to Avoid and Resolve Disputes with Clients, but you can’t expect to learn everything from one book.

Another criticism is that one medium, the internet, has been largely ignored.  The net promises to be a great marketing opportunity for visual artists due to its ability to display graphics, but it may also prove to be the bane of their existence due to the ease of reproduction of works placed online.  It deserves discussion in a book published in 1999.  Unfortunately, to discuss the net is also to get involved in speculation over evolving laws and perhaps that is why it was left out.

 On the whole, THE LEGAL GUIDE FOR THE VISUAL ARTIST gives a good account of what an artist should know to survive and, hopefully, thrive.  It is highly recommended for artist’s and lawyers alike.

© 1999 David M. Spatt

LICENSING ART & DESIGN, 1990 by Caryn Leland

This book is limited in scope in that it only covers issues relating to the granting of licenses to use your artwork or the artwork of another. If your interest lies in this specific direction, then this book is recommended for its coverage of various contract terms and definitions which might not be available elsewhere.


These books are published every year. They provide various kinds of artists with the names, addresses and phone numbers of prospective clients and employers. The listings also include, when available, the names of a contact person at each company and comments about the company and what kind of material it is seeking.

These books are excellent references for an artist seeking to make contacts within the business world, but the artist should beware. The listings are written by the companies themselves and are not cross-checked by the publisher. They may also be outdated as it is the company's responsibility to provide updates. In any event, before sending original materials to a listed company, try to learn something about whom you are dealing with, and use a written contract in any business transaction.

PRICING & ETHICAL GUIDELINES, 7th Ed. 1991 by the Graphic Artist's Guild

This book was one of the first self-help manuals published for artists and it is aimed specifically at the visual artist. There is a wealth of information on: pricing for graphic design, cartooning, animation, computer-generated art, illustration and salaries; and business management. Little emphasis is spent on the subjects of copyrights, moral rights, taxes or law.

There are also numerous contract forms provided, but little information is offered as to the correct usage of the forms or the meanings of the legalese contained in the contracts. Overall, this book is one of the better self-help guides for visual artists.

PROTECTING ARTISTS AND THEIR WORK published by People For The American Way.

This small paperback is subtitled "A Summary of Federal and State Laws," and that is a good description. It is a summary of the statutes which govern the works of visual artists mostly, including copyright law as well as state legislation. There is also considerable mention of the recent federal Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) which protects, to a certain extent, the rights of visual artists to protect their works from destuction or alteration, and to be credited as the creators of their works. Some discussion is included of other laws such as The Trademark Act and the laws of the state courts regarding defamation and unfair competition.

This book is a bare-bones treatment of the laws affecting visual artists, but it is a good introduction to those laws, although it is not an artist's self-help business book and there might be a bit too much legalese which could get in the reader's way. The listed retail price is $6.95.

First Published Version of review, Copyright 1995 David M. Spatt

THE RIGHTS OF AUTHORS, ARTISTS, AND OTHER CREATIVE PEOPLE (2nd Ed., 1992) /The Basic ACLU Guide to Author and Artist Rights by Kenneth P. Norwick & Jerry S. Chasen

This book is set up in a question and answer format, providing information on copyright, contracts, libel, the right of privacy, obscenity and other business and tax issues. Don't look here for contract forms, though. This is a law book, not a form book. It's a law book, though, in a small convenient package. Although it attempts to cover alot of ground, it doesn't spend to much time on any particular subject. This could be good for some as to much legal detail can get pretty dry, but sometimes those details are necessary to give a complete answer to a legal question.

One problem I found with this book was that a non-lawyer might find it hard to cross-reference the information from one section to another, i.e. the section on remedies for infringement, some of which can be lost if registration is not done in a timely manner, could have referred the reader to the section on copyright registration. Another problem is the lack of an index or detailed table of contents. In order for a normal person, read non-lawyer, to use this book , it would be helpful to know where to look for the desired information. One must read much of the book to answer even the simplest question.

A very good aspect of this work is that there are references to actual court decisions. This is something that few self-help books contain. With this information, an artist can become more knowledgeable about copyright and other arts-related issues than most attorneys. Also, the price is right - around ten dollars. This book offers alot for the money.

First Published Version of review, Copyright 1995 David M. Spatt


THIS WEBSITE CANNOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR SOUND LEGAL ADVICE FROM A COMPETENT ARTS OR ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY. In the event of a legal problem or question, specific legal consultation is advised. This website is intended only as a means of educating arts organizations and artists of all disciplines as to their potential legal rights and liabilities. The information provided is made available with the understanding that neither OSLA nor the office of David M. Spatt is engaging in the rendering of legal counsel.

copyright 1997-2000 David M. Spatt, All rights reserved
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