Intellectual property and divorce property division


When artists are going through a divorce in Arizona, they may not be aware that the art and other works which they have created during their marriages is subject to property division just as all other community property held will be. Often, artists are surprised by this, as they may not view the artwork as marital property.

The artwork that will be subject to a property division order may include ongoing reprint rights for work created during the marriage. It may also include unsold works that the artist has in storage and believes are the artist’s by virtue of his or her creation of them. Courts view such works and rights as community property owned equally by the spouses, however, and that right extends to works that are copyrighted.

An artist who is preparing to divorce should inventory all of his or her artwork, listing each piece according to the date it was completed, the licenses, copyrights and any ongoing rights. Artwork that was created prior to the marriage should be excluded from the marital estate, as should any commissions or license payments that may have been received after the marriage but which were accrued or earned prior to it. In the case an artist is divorcing, both parties may want to consider having a professional appraisal conducted of the collection in order to derive a valuation of it. While the divorce is pending, artwork cannot be sold, destroyed or loaned out for display without consent from the other spouse.

Artists often are surprised by this facet of property division in divorce. Those whose marriages are ending may want to get help from a family law attorney in negotiating an agreement that would cover this type of property.