The arts have become a very visible issue recently, as evidenced by increased activity of state and Federal legislators, the ACLU, NEA and other private and public sector parties. Even Native Americans are having an effect on the world of arts and museums due to the recently-enacted Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The Internet is like the wild frontier, copyright protection is being increased, censorship is on the rise and, these days, you can't even be sure that you own the rights in reproductions of your own work.

These are issues that affect all artists and art organizations, working or dealing in all media. Operating without this knowledge is like driving at night without headlights. Disaster may be the result. In response to the increasing need for legal assistance for the arts community, many branches of the non-profit network of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organizations have been established nation-wide.

The Rhode Island chapter of VLA, called OCEAN STATE LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS, has been serving the local arts community since 1984. OCEAN STATE LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS (OSLA), operated in conjunction with the law office of David M. Spatt, has provided many pro buono hours to many local and southern New England artists and arts organizations, as well as government agencies. Some of the organizations which have sought and received the free help of OSLA are the Providence Parks Department, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, South County Center for the Arts, Newport Art Museum, Museum of Primitive Art and Culture, Theatre by the Sea Foundation, The Rhode Island School of Design, Business Volunteers for the Arts/RI, Groundwerx Dance Theatre, Wickford Art Association, Pawtucket Arts Council, Rhode Island Film Commission and many others. The approximate breakdown of documented pro buono hours provided by OSLA since 1984 is as follows:

1984 (1/4); 1985 (6); 1986 (10); 1987 (8); 1988 (20); 1989 (15); 1990 (14); 1991 (15); 1992 (22); 1993 (25); 1994 (18); 1995 (81); 1996 (54);

OSLA has provided, through consultations, workshops and its, free legal assistance in accordance with VLA guidelines, with regards to issues of copyright and trademarks registration, copyright infringement and unfair competition, non-profit corporations, contract negotiation, collections or other contract breaches and most other arts and entertainment related matters for those in need or unsure of where to turn. OSLA will also continue to provide educational help to the arts community through consultations, workshops, lectures and, now, this free website, OSLA ARTS & LAWS.

The local and regional arts communities have been very supportive of the efforts of OSLA, as has been the VLA network. Although OSLA neither seeks, nor receives funding for its efforts, that support has been instrumental in assisting this office's efforts to educate local artists and arts organizations as to their legal rights and obligations. All support has been greatly appreciated.

E-mail: dspatt @


copyright 1997 David M. Spatt, All rights reserved

Reproduction is prohibited without the express written consent of the author