Protecting Creative Rights

Creative professionals need experienced legal representation to protect their intellectual property and grow their businesses.

By Michelle Valigursky

Story Photo

Moore represents the intellectual property and work product of clients in connection with licensing agreements, gallery exhibits, consignment and commission agreements, and more. Detail of “Untitled” by client Herb Creecy.


Lisa F. Moore of The Moore Firm LLC in Atlanta. Moore is also an adjunct professor of law at Emory Law School.

Once upon a time, an artist simply brought vision to life in masterpiece. Not so, today. The artist’s business is complicated by copyrights, digital distribution, intellectual property concerns, contracts, and much more. Lisa F. Moore, adjunct professor of law at Emory Law School, manages the growing complexities of artistic representation so her clients can concentrate on what they do best: creating. In addition to having extensive experience in film, television, music, and book publishing, Moore is recognized as one of the handful of attorneys in the country practicing art law on a daily basis. Her firm currently represents numerous world-renowned artists and high profile galleries, like Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta.

“With the advent of the Internet, each and every medium through which content is created or disseminated has experienced a simultaneous renaissance and attendant struggle as the law valiantly, but often ineffectually, attempts to contain the explosive and uncontrollable expansion of the digital age,” writes Moore in her chapter “New Technology and the Market for Visual Art.” She notes, “New technology and the prevalence of online galleries and virtual art fairs have ushered in an era of unfettered access to the visual arts market previously out of reach to all but those inhabiting the upper echelons of society.”


Moore showcases clients’ work throughout their firm’s office space in King Plow Arts Center. Shown here is “Moore Sandhill Crane Migration” by Tom Swanston.

Cultivating enduring and beneficial professional relationships is one advantage for artists who seek legal counsel early in a career. In an industry that for generations was based on handshake deals and verbal promises, adding formality to the process heightens the chance of positive outcomes and long-term success for all parties involved. Moore views education and “preventative medicine” as critically important aspects of her practice. She and her associate Liz Wheeler spend a considerable part of their day advising clients with respect to the importance of copyright registrations, the concept of fair use, and the necessity of using carefully tailored agreements.

Moore explains in layman’s terms. “If I were buying a house, I wouldn’t handle my own contract negotiations, even though I’m a trained lawyer. Real estate law is not my area of expertise. For maximum benefit, I’d want to work with an expert in that field,” she says. “Likewise, when my clients come to me for assistance, they can trust that I will properly take care of their legal needs efficiently and effectively so they can concentrate on fulfilling creative expression. It makes good business sense to partner with someone who will protect your rights while you flourish.” 

In May, Moore and her colleagues at Georgia Lawyers for the Arts led an historic conference entitled “Visual Arts and the Law: Cutting Edge Legal Issues for Museums, Galleries, Artists and Arts Administrators” at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The conference drew participants from across the country and touched on issues relating to transformative use and the intersection of the First Amendment and the US Copyright Act, trademark law, provenance and appraisals, lost and stolen art, plus tax, trusts, and estates. 

Within an ever-changing business landscape, creative artists are increasingly seeking guidance from specialized professionals like Moore to assist with the finer points of their branding and community presence. Technological advances have had “a significant and profound effect on the art market and have forever changed the complex relationships between dealers, auction houses, artist, collectors, consignors, and galleries,” she writes. 

So can the art lawyer help mitigate financial complications? Absolutely. Moore has been successful in getting monies due to artists paid to them. Moore recalls a case in which she prevented unauthorized distribution of a client artist’s work. In another, the artist’s choice of raw materials for a piece led to a threat of exhibit shutdown by police, which, had the firm not intervened and resolved the matter to the artist’s benefit, would have resulted in a subsequent loss of reputation and income.

One particularly satisfying part of Moore’s work is the fact that she is frequently dealing with cutting edge legal issues as they affect clients representing all mediums of creative expression and content creation. She enjoys sharing this knowledge with other lawyers and law students (which may be one reason her Art Law class received such glowing reviews this semester).

The Career Path to Art Law

Creative-minded John Barlow 14L received his undergraduate degree in ceramics and worked both for a film special effects company and a glass artist. “In law school, I wanted to learn about the overlap between the art world and the law,” Barlow says. ”Professor Moore’s class on art law made me realize the law touches art in such a wide spectrum of categories, including international law, museums that hold art in public trust, and return of tribal artifacts to name just a few.” Barlow merged his interest and skills to work with Georgia Lawyers for the Arts and hopes to pursue the growing specialty upon graduation.

“Prudent practitioners must stay abreast of the rapidly evolving body of law as it concerns the virtual art market,” Moore recommends. “My advice for creative professionals is to seek legal counsel as a career emerges rather than when help is needed to right a wrong. Have the appropriate entity in place, protect your intellectual property portfolio, and always seek the services of an experienced lawyer so you can feel confident as you navigate your professional life in the world of fine art.”

Editor’s note: Moore and Barlow are both members of the Emory Alumni Creative, a new alumni industry affinity group designed for the creative community. As the immediate past chair of the entertainment section for the State Bar of Georgia, Moore is also the immediate past Executive Director for Georgia Lawyers for the Arts. In addition to her work at The Moore Firm, LLC. Moore also teaches art law at Emory Law School.

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Michelle Valigursky