This chapter, focusing on language as a signature style of conceptual art, argues that copyright law struggles to protect the artistic authorship inherent in text instructions used to communicate the work to those who execute its final visual form. Looking at the early works of Sol LeWitt, it will be contended that, irrespective of whether more traditional or progressive approaches to the legal definition of art are employed, more systemic forms of artistic production, particularly those that involve a literary to visual ‘translation’ of the work as part of that process of production, will currently struggle to be fully protected by copyright law.
Despite their relationship often being characterised in terms of polarity and antagonism, art and law have many synergies and upon further examination would appear to enjoy a reflexive and symbiotic relationship. Artists such as Superflex, Jill Magid and Carey Young have developed an approach with legal form becoming central to many of their works. Such artists have also looked to intellectual property law, a potent means of legal regulation of the arts, as a source of artistic raw material. They do so as a means of critiquing such regulation itself, the art world more generally, or to advance broader social and political concerns. This chapter will examine the law in art and art in law interface and explore how intellectual property law has shaped the form of many contemporary art works, while such works have simultaneously helped to shape interpretations of the law.