The right to name your work


In rechtReeKs, the Kunstenbond, union for artists and everyone who works in the cultural and creative sector, takes a closer look at a legal topic that is essential to the artist's professional practice. In this edition, attorney Jet Hootsmans discusses the right to have your name mentioned with your artwork. Where and when can you claim it?

Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries, Daer a status holder/Khalid washes his hands. Himmelsbach de Vries won in 2023 in the Free Category in episode 1 of The New Vermeer


The TV program The New Vermeer I followed with great interest. Both lazily on the couch and critically from behind my desk, because for years the Arts Union has been fighting for the fair payment of artists who participate in these kinds of programs. For those who missed it: in The New Vermeer make artists and creatives ONEn of the six lost paintings by Johannes Vermeer or give their own interpretation of them. There is one winner per broadcast.

There was quite a stir about the program. For example, the lead actors received no compensation for their contribution and had to sign away most of their rights to the artwork. In the participation agreement, the participants grant the broadcaster and producer the "unconditional, unlimited and perpetual" right to use the artwork within the framework of the program. This in any manner and including new and future uses.

Participants also had to waive their rights to name recognition, and the broadcaster unfortunately complied with this nicely

You would think that these great opportunities to publish the artworks could benefit the - mostly professional - participants nicely. Over a million people watched the program and the accompanying name recognition is worth a lot. With this, at least something could be gotten out of the program by the artists.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The contestants also had to waive their right to name-calling, and the broadcaster unfortunately adhered neatly to this. Even the winners were mentioned only by their first names ("Maria from Delft"). National fame therefore remained out.

Oh dear, how I would have loved to advise participants in advance. Attribution is a right! It comes from the ideële desire to protect the personal connection between the creator and his work and is contained in the Copyright Act.

In principle, you can simply claim attribution. Think of a sign with your name next to your work and the mention of your name next to a photograph of it. The request to have your name mentioned in those cases is often perfectly justified. Indeed, you can even specify how you want to be mentioned. Only where naming is unusual, or an undue burden on the person disclosing the work, need it not be done. For example, when designing the packaging of a bar of chocolate.

Sputtering pays off

Unlike your copyright, the right of attribution cannot be transferred to someone else. However, you can waive it, as in the contract about The New Vermeer. Often this waiver is not even that noticeable. In fact, most contracts do not say that you waive the right to name calling, but rather your rights as listed in Section 25 (1) (a), (b) and (c) of the Copyright Act. Who is saying that?

It happens to say a lot to me. What strikes me about this is that waiver of naming rights is often not at all necessary for the client to use the work. The same goes for a transfer of rights or extended license. Such agreements are often in a contract for convenience or out of habit. This is partly why sputtering pays off. And if you do so with the right arguments, your professionalism often reflects positively on you as well.

So it is not only at The NewVermeer That this kind of arrangement is the starting point. It is also common in design competitions and festivals. Be well advised in advance about the agreements you make. Now I only got to see the contracts afterwards and there was little I could do. Because unfortunately, agreement is really very often agreement.

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