In an earlier post about copyright law, I wrote about how an artist’s failure to observe certain “formalities” under copyright law resulted in the work falling out of copyright protection in the United States.
This loss was not permanent for many foreign artists. On January 1, 1996–as a result of the international agreement that established the World Trade Organization–copyright was “restored” in the United States for many foreign nationals whose works had fallen out of copyright for failure to follow the formalities of United States copyright law. Importantly, a work restored to copyright had to have been first published outside of the United States and had to still be protected by copyright in the source country. The copyright was restored for the remainder of the term the work would have enjoyed if it had never fallen out of copyright.
Consequently, many of the foreign works found in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing–which might have otherwise been affected by the old formalities of United States copyright law–are still protected in the United States. For example, The Eventuality of Destiny (pictured above) by Giorgio de Chirico (an Italian national) was first published in a French periodical in 1927. As a result of copyright restoration, it does not matter now whether or not de Chirico complied with all the formalities necessary to maintain copyright protection in the United States. The copyright, like de Chirico’s artistic legacy, is safe for many years to come.
The foregoing does not constitute legal advice and is offered for informational purposes only, with no representations or warranties as to accuracy.