Why ideas are worthless in copyright terms

Intellectual Property (IP) for artists is a notoriously difficult and commonly misunderstood area, and artists can easily find themselves caught-up in its web.
a colourful graphic of a person with 'ideas' scrambling in their mind, also writing in a notebook

Consider this scenario… let’s call it Situation A. An artist applies for a large commission with a high profile arts institution. Their application includes detailed plans of their proposed project. Yet after receiving news their application was unsuccessful, they realise another applicant has been engaged by the same institution to deliver a project with similarities to their proposal.

Then there’s this circumstance – let’s call it Situation B. An emerging artist opens a dialogue with an esteemed curator about their work. Their discussions, which take place over a number of months, include the artist divulging plans for future artistic projects. After conducting these seemingly trustworthy talks over time, the artist sees that one of the curator’s forthcoming exhibitions has used the artist’s independently conceived ideas as the basis for that show.

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ArtsHub's Arts Feature Writer Jo Pickup is based in Perth. An arts writer and manager, she has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre, STRUT dance, and the Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA, as well as being a sessional arts lecturer at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).