The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog has more on the public art copyright infringement lawsuit I mentioned earlier this week:
"We looked into the issue of whether it is common for public art administrators to allow commissioned artists to retain the copyright. Apparently, this varies by agency and by contract (so it would be possible for Seattle to negotiate to retain the right - they just do not). We questioned Ruri Yamplosky, the City of Seattle's Public Art Director about the reasons for having the artist retain the copyright. She noted that this is a generally accepted practice. When questioned specifically on the Mackie case, she commented that Mackie was simply protecting his copyrighted work from infringement."
As I mentioned in the earlier post, in my experience too the artist always retains the copyright.
UPDATE: Sergio says my experience is too narrow: "Some of the artists I meet and advise have in fact signed away their copyrights or unwillingly shared ownership of their copyrights. We have to remember that not all artists are lawyered up before being offered a commission. Many artists, particularly those in the early stages of their career, are so thrilled to be given an opportunity to make art and potentially be remunerated, that they will gladly sign and/or waive anything without seeking counsel."