Disavowal of a work of art by the author and its limits

The law protects the author, but with some important limits. An example of this is the case in which the artist decides to repudiate one of his works due to a change in artistic or philosophical conception, etc. If the work has already been circulated, the law safeguards the rights acquired by third parties and, more generally, the certainty of legal relations.

Lawyer Gilberto Cavagna, associate partner of the firm and specialized in the valorization and protection of intellectual property rights, has analyzed the issue of the disavowal of a work of art by the author and the limits of the author’s right to repudiate a work in the article published in the legal review Il diritto industriale (issue 5/2020).

Cavagna analyzes and comments on the judgment of the Court of Milan which pronounces – pursuant to law no. 633/1941 – on the limits of the author’s right to repudiate one of his works, when the work has been circulated with the consent of the artist himself. Andersen’s lawyer highlights the protections of the law towards the artist but also towards those who acquire the rights (collectors, gallery owners, etc.).

Obviously, the artist can dispose of his work – as long as he does not give up his rights – as he sees fit: keep it secret, modify it, destroy it. However, when the works are put into circulation with the artist’s consent, the artist loses the right to freely dispose of them and therefore to ask that they are no longer attributed to him.

The action of disavowal does not presuppose a prior formal recognition of the work; in fact, the artist is the author of a work because he has created it. The protection of the law arises automatically from the moment there is a creative character in the product and no formality (not even a signature) is required for the copyright to apply.