Art and Law

We develop streams of research which focus on the intersection between art and the legal discipline.


Our research activities are developing in a number of directions, such as: 

  • the analysis of the copyright and intellectual property framework aims to question regulatory assumptions and current solutions to the call for digital preservation, archiving and dissemination of cultural objects and art content via innovative platforms
  • probing theoretical and actual debates around how law can influence our perceptions of order, disorder, intellectual and real ownership, what is beautiful and ugly, therefore what is right and wrong, protest or law
  • engaging with artists working on law and lawyers working on art as a methodological and pedagogical tool in legal research and undergraduate and postgraduate tiers of education
  • how expression cuts through legal and illegal acts, demonstrating artistic creation as a form of protest and social involvement, as well how law is ensconced in its own performative legal aesthetics
  • understanding how art could be useful as a tool within the criminal justice system and legal system as a whole, in rehabilitation and beyond.

Internal activities

We host a range of seminars focusing on topics related to art and law.

Find out more about our internal events below:

The Art/Law Sessions

26 April 2017, Rainbow after the Storm: A Book for Children on Families
Wednesday 26 April 2017, 2pm-3pm
Jubilee Building, Room G35

This talk presented Rainbow after the Storm a book for children on families, disputes and mediation, and considered some issues concerning parenting disputes between same-sex partners. Discussion centered on how the artistic part of the book helps to create a sense of inclusiveness of children of same-sex couples undergoing family mediation. This Art Law Session welcomed expert speaker and author of the book Dr Maria Moscati, Lecturer in Family Law at the University of Sussex. 

14 March 2017, Art and Law PhD Workshop

Tuesday 14 March, 10am-2pm
Freeman Building, Room F41

As part of encouraging conversations and broadening the engagement of art and/with the law, this Art Law Workshop invited research students interested in the engagement of art and the law to submit written contributions.

22 March 2017, Fiction, Interpretation and the Law

Wednesday 22 March 2017, 2pm-3pm
Fulton Building, Room 212

This Art Law Session welcomed speaker Dr Kathleen Stock, Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Dr Kathleen Stock's main research interests are in the philosophy of fiction and imagination. In this talk, she considered some of the issues that surround interpretation of fictional truth in novels and short stories, and how somewhat similar issues arise in the interpretation of legal documents.

30 November 2016, A Labour of Love: An evaluation of a Children’s Play project at HMP Doncaster

Wednesday 30 November, 1pm-2pm
Fulton Building, Room 206

This Art Law Session welcomed speaker Marie Hutton, Lecturer in Law at Sussex Law School.

19 October 2016, The Trial of Superdebthunterbot

Wednesday 19 October, 11.30am-1pm
Freeman Building, Moot Room

As part of an inaugural series of events at the School of Law, Politics and Sociology, the Art and Law research group welcomed artist Helen Knowles, who came to speak about her work ‘The Trial of Superdebthunderbot’, taking questions and answers on her film.

The film brought up questions around the culpability of non-human entities, the volition of drones and algorithms in their decision-making, the extent to which they can be held accountable, and the role that law plays in determining these responsibilities.

Sussex Law School’s artificial intelligence and copyright expert Dr Andres Guadamuz, responded to Helen’s work during the session.

20 April 2016, Appropriation and the Photography of Britain's Traffic Wardens

Wednesday 20 April 2016, 1pm-2pm
Freeman Building, Video Conferencing Room

As part of an inaugual series of events at School of Law, Politics and Sociology, the Art and Law research group welcomed artist Micheál O’Connell (aka Mocksim) who spoke on appropriation and reappropriation in art and law.

Micheál O’Connell is an artist who has exhibited in locations as diverse as Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, the online world Second Life, and a campsite in Venice.

Typically he produces short looping films or 'simupoems'. He also designs and directs performances which involve appropriated materials and he compiles found data and imagery into books.

Live art, organic materials and objects are often presented along with the 'dry' digital work.

18 May 2016, Copyright and the Right to the City

Wednesday 18 May 2016, 1pm-2pm
Freeman Building, Moot Room

In the second in the Art/Law Sessions series, the Art and Law research group hosted Marta Iljadica, who presented her paper 'Copyright and the Right to the City'.

Marta Iljadica is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Aberdeen Law School, and former Lecturer in Law at the University of Southampton, researching in the areas of intellectual property and land law.

Her research is concerned particularly with the regulation of creativity including creativity and copyright in public spaces; non-legal norms for the regulation of creativity; the interface between real and intellectual property law as it relates to artistic works; and the classification objects in land law.

A monograph on UK copyright law and graffiti norms, 'Copyright Beyond Law: Regulating Creativity in the Graffiti Subculture', was published by Hart in 2016.

External activities

We take part in a range of external research activities, conferences and seminars. Recent highlights include:

Extended collective licensing, digital archives and artistic content

In November 2015, Maria Mercedes Frabboni was invited to speak at 'Copyright Reform: The Implications One Year On' at Bournemouth University, where she spoke on the introduction of extended collective licensing schemes as systems set up to unlock access to digitised content held in museums and archives.

The event was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy (CREATe), the Centre for Commercial Law and Financial Regulation (CCLFR) at the University of Reading, and the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University.

Art/Law Network

The international Art/Law Network is currently being developed by Lucy Finchett-Maddock. The network will bring together artists, lawyers, youth justice workers an academics to produce research and work with local artists on practical projects, including:

  • Legal aesthetics;
  • The legal regulation of beauty;
  • Inclusive and outsider art;
  • Art therapy;
  • Protest and expression;
  • Rehabilitation involving teaching on postgraduate research and undergraduate student projects linked to the Art/Law Network.
Postgraduate research

Swastee Ranjan (formerly of the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), will be joining Sussex in September 2016 as a Chancellor’s International Scholar under the supervision of Lucy Finchett-Maddock and Sabrina Gilani. Swastee's work will focus on the intersection of law and aesthetics, entitled Law and the City: Constituting Legal Aesthetics in New Delhi.   


We convene a number of optional modules that focus on art and the legal discipline. Current modules include:

  • Law and Aesthetics (LLB)
  • Law and the Creative Industries (LLB)
  • Regulating the Creative Industries (LLM)
Law and Aesthetics module, 2014/15

Sussex Law students create art work and paint freely on walls at Sinna OneIn the 2014/15 academic year, each Law and Aesthetics seminar was accompanied by a visit from a local artist of thinker to assist students in understanding the links between law and art in a more practical way. Activities included:

  • writing poetry on incarceration with quills and ink, highlighting the aesthetic nature of law and language;
  • cutting up parts of the Law of Property Act 1925 to make new legislative 'cut ups' in the style of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin of the Beat Generation, assisted by Professor Adam Gearey from Birkberk College School of Law;
  • learning about the importance of rhythm in protest with a visit from up and coming spoken word talent Tommy Sissons and esteemed thinker and musician Charlie Blake;
  • discovering how artists can open up sites for debate around legal and political issues, demonstrated by artists Dann and Layla Tully, who recalled their 'Rights Room' provocation on the Human Rights Act 1998;
  • spray painting with artist Sinna One at Brighton Youth Centre, where students created their own artwork and experienced freely painting on walls. 

A group of students enrolled on the Law and Aesthetics module also helped participate in an international art and law project by Adelita Husni-Bey where they pasted up the ‘Convention on the Use of Space’ at the Synergy Centre, Brighton.

Other opportunities

Clinical Legal Education

Sussex Law students visit the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS)Law School Students visit Design and Artists Copyright Society Sussex

On 13 April 2016, as part of the Sussex Clinical Legal Education, a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students from Sussex Law School visited the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS).

During a seminar discussion with DACS Head of Legal and DACS Legal and Policy Manager, students and faculty had the chance to discuss legal issues surrounding the art market, the relationship between rights holders and art market professionals such as auction houses, art galleries and dealers. 

StreetLaw Brighton

StreetLaw BrightonStreetLaw Brighton saw Sussex Law School students work with local art gallery Art Schism on issues surrounding the legality and illegality of street art and graffiti, copyright, and questions around the role of art in criminal justice and rehabiliation. 

The students responded to questions on ownership and criminality from the artists as well as researching specific topics and themes around copyright, illegality in art, art therapy and rehabilitation. 

Find out more about the project on the StreetLaw Brighton blog and Facebook page.