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    Can I legally sell my deceased mother's copyrighted artwork/creative works?

    Jurisdiction / State: California

    Can I legally sel my deceased mother's copyrighted personal drawings/creative works?
    My mother passed away several years ago and is survived by only my brother and me, her daughter. She was a very talented artist (specializing in teddy bears and paper dolls, etc) and many of her creations have been published in various magazines. Approx 15-17 years ago she created a home-based business called "Whimseys" and copyrighted her work because people were reproducing her artwork and making money off of it. The business was only "active" for 4-5 years until she decided to return to work - although she continued to publish occasional articles and drawings here and there. Since she has passed away I have been asked by previous customers of hers if I have any of her original artwork they can buy but I'm not sure if I can legally do so because of the copyright. Please note that a lot of her originals that I have we done before she became copyrighted. I would also like to know about the legalities of selling her pre-copyright works, as well.

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    If you own her work, you can sell it.
    I presume you're not asking to sell her "copyright", only her copyrighted work that you hold title to or possess ownership of, correct?
    If the latter is true, sell away!
    You own something, you can sell it.

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    nunya3261 (03-21-2012)

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    Thanks for the quick response. In answer to your question, I only want to sell her copyrighted work not the copyright itself. One final question, if you don't mind... Some of her copyrighted artwork and greeting cards were commissioned by a magazine company for them to use as their "mascot". Would I also be able to sell those as well, or are those particular items "owned" by the company and to be used by the company only?

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    Quote Originally Posted by nunya3261 View Post
    Thanks for the quick response. In answer to your question, I only want to sell her copyrighted work not the copyright itself. One final question, if you don't mind... Some of her copyrighted artwork and greeting cards were commissioned by a magazine company for them to use as their "mascot". Would I also be able to sell those as well, or are those particular items "owned" by the company and to be used by the company only?
    Don't know enough (nor do I wish to know more) to offer an opinion.
    I suggest you consult an attorney.
    Take the documentation you possess and get him/her to write a legal opinion on the matter!


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    If you intend to only sell the item and not a right to create prints or "derivative works", you'll need an appropriate written agreement. As army judge mentions, you'll need to speak to an attorney to do this properly.
    Forum posts are not legal advice, are for educational purposes only & are not substitutes for proper consultation with legal counsel.

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