Artists often ignore the legalities involved in exhibiting or publishing their original works, to their detriment. It is essential to protect your rights to the work you have created, and to ensure that you are paid a fair price for your labours.
If you wish to retain your ownership interest and copyright in the work, you need to establish those rights and then protect and preserve them. For instance, if you are submitting an original work for publication, have the publisher sign an Acknowledgement of Copyright prior to publication.
You can find information about registering your copyright at the following websites:
- United States Copyright Office
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
- UK Intellectual Property Office
- Australia Copyright Council
If you are creating a commission work for a client, then you want to make sure that you will be fairly compensated, that payments will be made on time, and that you have a legal means to pursue the client for any amounts that have not been paid. A good agreement template, like this Contract to Commission an Artwork form, contains provisions to deal with those matters and with other aspects of the artist-client relationship.