The ADAGP or “Société des auteurs dans les arts graphiques et plastiques” is the French collective rights management society in the field of the visual arts. The ADAGP enables a centralized management of the copyright of the authors of graphic and plastic works of art.
The authors of graphic and plastic works of art have on their works economic rights namely reproduction rights, distribution rights, collective rights and resale rights. In practice, the individual management of these rights by an author is very complicated because of the variety of potential media and exploitation of the works. Many artists chose to become members of a collective rights management society in order for it to manage their economic rights and pay them back money.
The ADAGP represents over 110 000 authors in different fields of visual arts including photography, painting, sculpture, but also comic books, design, digital creations and street art.
The system of centralized management of copyright has an undeniable interest for authors but also for everyone who wishes to exploit graphic or plastic works of art. You can access an online image library to first check whether the work of art or the artist you are looking for are registered in the database. It is online on the website of the ADAGP and is updated regularly: http://bi.adagp.fr/IB/index.php.
If you cannot find a work of art or an artist in the database, you can contact the ADAGP who can for example check with her “sister” collective rights management societies in other countries. The ADAGP will ask for the authorization to exploit the works of art and indicate to you the conditions under which you may exploit them (media, prices, territory, duration…). If the artist is registered but not the specific work that you are looking for, the ADAGP can ask the author or the right-holder directly for their prior authorization. Sometimes your contact will be a lawyer in charge of intellectual property rights of an artist, a foundation or an endowment fund. The authorization to reproduce the work will be granted if the exploitation you intended is accepted or an assignment of rights specifying the exploitation conditions is signed before any exploitation. In the event of prior exploitation of the work, it is possible in some cases, to prevent litigation, to provide for a retroactive assignment of rights to the date of first publication of the work. However, this situation is best to avoid since it means that you were infringing copyright.
Indeed, when you publish photographs representing works of art, or any photographs which are in themselves works of art, without prior consent of their author or their right-holders, even if they are published on a non-commercial personal website with which you make no profit, that publication is a non authorized reproduction which is an infringement of copyright. Pursuant to Article L.335-3 of the Intellectual Property Code, “any reproduction, representation or distribution, by any means whatsoever, of an intellectual work in violation of copyright, as defined and regulated by the law” is an infringement offense. You may be held liable even if you plead your good faith, as this argument is not accepted in matters of infringement. Therefore, it is very important to ensure yourself that you hold the rights on the images you publish whether on digital or paper format.