It is not the owner. It is the owner’s heirs, by inheritance, gift, or by law, if it is a work of artistic excellence.
For example, if an artist has a copy of a painting for which no rights are in his hand, he may be able to claim ownership over the entire work.
What about an individual’s family members? Who owns them?
A person’s heirs generally have exclusive rights to such works after death. This is the principle behind the family trust laws.
This is so because these heirs typically have financial interests in the works and they have certain rights. These rights may include the exclusive right of use or reproduction.
What if an individual has a work not owned by his estate?
In general, there is no legal ownership right in private property owned by an individual. Rather, the estate is usually the owner of the particular piece of property.
For example, if an individual owns a photograph and it is placed in a library, then his family (including children) has the right to photograph and copy that specific item. This is true even if it’s not in his own library.
What if the ownership of a particular piece of property changes?
Once the owner of a work acquires some new ownership rights, there may be legal implications. These include but are not limited to:
What happens to the property if the owner changes his mind and decides to sell it?
What if the owner changes his ownership rights in the property without any further purchase from the owner?
Under these circumstances, the new owner may be required to pay any compensation that has been made to the person to whom the work belonged prior to the change in ownership. This is generally calculated using the fair market value established by the original buyer.
In addition, if the new owner wishes to continue to use the work after selling it, he or she is required to make reasonable efforts to obtain a new owner that agrees to the restoration and re-use of the property.
Can the estate make payments to the prior owner at any time?
The estate is generally the owner of the work and the payment must be made by the estate. If the estate did not receive payment, then, as noted earlier, it has no legal entitlement to make payments to the prior owner at any point in the past. The estate retains all rights to the work once it has been donated to the U.S. Government. Therefore, it is
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