The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Kimberly Peaslee. Courtesy photo.

McGowan Fine Art Artist’s Legal Series

McGowan Fine Art (10 Hills Ave., Concord) also hosts a series of informal seminars for artists focusing on legal issues presented by Kimberly Peaslee, intellectual property lawyer at Upton & Hatfield. They’re held the third Tuesday, Sept. through April, except in December. These are free, seating limited; call 225-2515 to RSVP. Visit for details/descriptions and more information.
Upcoming seminars include:
• Design Protection Options/Overlapping IP Strategies Tues., Oct. 20, at 5:30 p.m.
• Copyright 101 Tues., Nov. 17, at 5:30 p.m.
• Copyright Registration: A Practicum Tues., Jan. 19, at 5:30 p.m.
Attend “What Artists and Fine Crafts People Should Know, But Don’t”
Where: Mill Brook Gallery & Sculpture Garden, 236 Hopkinton Road, Concord
When: Saturday, Sept. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission: $25; bring bagged lunch, beverages and dessert provided
What: Peter and Kate McGovern and Amanda Nelson will talk about copyright laws, contracts, consignments and estate planning.
Contact:, 226-2046,


What artists need to know
Local attorneys provide advice

By Kelly Sennott

Copyright laws. Contracts. Consignments. How much do you know about these topics?

Artists who get into trouble usually know very little. Sometimes next to zilch. Which is how, locally, husband-wife team Drs. Kate and Peter McGovern found a market for their expertise. They present a workshop along with Amanda Nelson, Esq., “What Artists and Fine Crafts People Should Know, But Don’t,” at the Mill Brook Gallery & Sculpture Garden Saturday, Sept. 19.
The pair are art connoisseurs themselves, as are their children — one son is a gallery owner married to an artist, another a Currier Museum employee. They hate seeing talented professionals getting robbed for their work, yet they have, time and time again. 
An artist walks into a gift shop and sees her art printed on note cards. A photographer finds his work on a poster, a songwriter discovers his music posted by someone else online. All without permission.
“[Artists] need to approach the fact that they’re in the business, and what their principal asset is is their creativity. So consequently, we go through discussions about how to protect that creativity,” Peter McGovern said. “It’s a question of learning how to do business as an artist and craftsperson.”
The couple are adjunct professors at the University of Connecticut School of Law, but they also teach the subject to UConn fine art undergraduates and have been bringing their workshops to New Hampshire the past two years. They saw that among artists, there was little education on the topic and so many urban legends — like the poor man’s copyright.
“People are still putting their precious work into an envelope and posting it to themselves,” Kate McGovern said. “There’s just so much misinformation.”
Luckily there are easy things you can do yourself. The Copyright Act of 1976 ensures artists’ work is copyrighted as soon as it’s completed, but in order for it to truly be protected, it needs to be registered.
“They don’t realize how easy it is,” Kate McGovern said. “Copyright, in a sense, becomes automatic. But if you want to go to trial, you have to have your work registered with the Copyright Office. It’s $35. You can go online to, send along a photo, or if you’re working with text, you would find your form — everything’s on the title page! ... And artists can do it themselves. That’s the beauty of it.”
Yet most creative people they talk to don’t do this because they don’t know they should or they don’t know it’s that simple — or that it lasts your entire life and then 70 years after that. 
Kate McGovern’s expertise is in copyright, while Peter McGovern will tackle contracts, consignments and commissions. Nelson will cover estate planning. 
But the most important thing for artists to do, they said, is to be aware, because it’s so easy to have work stolen today. Social media, for instance, is how most artists market their work, but the effect is a double-edged sword: when you put something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’re essentially giving other people permission to use it.
“People have to look at the terms of agreement, the terms of service,” Kate McGovern said.
There’s some effort to spread the word — Kate McGovern mentioned Benedict Cumberbatch, who asks audiences to please not record before every Hamlet stage performance. She also talked about Jay Z’s Tidal, an online music service that looks to better benefit artists, and Richard Prince, who took photos from several Instagram accounts for an art show and sold some for as much as $100,000.
The pair put out a reminder at the end of the interview that this is legal information, not legal advice, and that they do it because they love art.
“We laugh and tell people we’re like Jake and Elwood on a mission from God. We do collect art ourselves. My background is in theater, and Peter does a bit of pastel and  oil work. We just feel that it’s our responsibility as attorneys, and in this particular area, it’s something people should know,” Kate McGovern said.

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