On the September 21 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians,  “Kourt Goes A.W.O.L”, Kourtney decides she cannot handle her family’s rejection of her baby’s daddy, Scott. Sick and tired of how the Kardashian Klan treats Scott, Kourtney and Scott decide to go house hunting in New York City.

A real estate agent shows a posh NYC apartment to the couple. As the couple walks throughout the lovely residence, the artwork hanging in the apartment is blurred so that viewers cannot see the images.  This practice raises an interesting question. What legal problems might producers face when artwork inadvertently appears in background shots?

Literary works which include paintings such as the one in this episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, must be licensed for use from the people or institutions who own the rights. This is because the Copyright Act gives creators of artwork the exclusive right to sell and make money from their creations for the period of the copyright (if the creators haven’t transferred the right). Www.creativeclearance.com reminds us the Copyright Act provides substantial penalties for copyright infringement. Damages for accidental infringement are usually around $10,000 and willful infringement can cost the infringer up to $250,000.

Www.artbusiness.com tells us, “[w]hether the art appears in print, on television, in film, or on the internet, issues of copyright infringement are more prevalent than ever. Artists who realize that their art is being used without their permission almost always assume that their artistic copyright has been violated and that they must take corrective action, legal or otherwise.” This wave of suits has caused producers to err on the side of caution. Www.artbusiness.com points out a problem this has caused. “Now, less art by fewer artists is seen in high-profile circumstances due to fears that the artists may take legal action. The ripple effect here is that when people don’t get exposed to original art, they’re not inclined to buy it.”

However, legal issues aren’t the only reason artwork may be blurred. Artists may blur their work because they do not want others mimicking their styles or simply because they do not wish to receive thousands of calls requesting a copy of a work they no longer produce. Another reason artwork might be blurred may be because the network producing the show does not wish to have the artwork associated with its show.

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