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Copyright and art in divorce

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2021 | Divorce & Legal Separation |

When people create pieces of art in the United States, it falls under copyright protections immediately. This is grants exclusivity to artists regarding what they do or do not do with the art.

Artistic expression encompasses a lot of concepts and mediums. Novels, paintings or music may come to mind first, but copyright on authorship also includes computer programs or architecture. When it comes to divorce, these rights and assets represent a complicated vein of property division on account of their intangibility.

Individuals and copyrights

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, it issued more than 443,000 copyright registrations in 2020. This does not sum up every copyrighted work created in 2020 as registration is voluntary — though going to court over copyright disputes requires registering it with the Office.

Once registered and evaluated, divorce courts may divide these intangible assets like any other marital property. The complicated part comes from there being little in regards to standardization when it comes to copyright valuation.

Art and copyright valuation

As Intangible Business describes, there are three widely-accepted methods of valuation:

  • The income method revolves around estimating current and future money earned from possessing a copyright or piece of art
  • The market approach compares similar copyright to determine the value
  • The cost approach examines the estimated cost and time required to create an equivalent copyright

Copyright division in divorce

Since copyrights are intangible, courts have many options of dividing the value. If one spouse prefers to retain all rights, there may be an equivalent amount of marital assets to give to the other spouse. In other cases, it may be prudent to split ownership of the copyright a certain way. When navigating this complex and potentially high-value asset division, it is helpful to learn everything about the topic with informational resources.