There is no definition of an artist estate in Lebanese law. Paul Guiragossian Foundation is, like any other foundation, considered an association under the law. When you start a foundation, you have to specify what its goals are. One of the reasons to create an artist estate is to protect the works and keep the legacy alive for the future generations.
Once a foundation has been officially registered, it has its own legal personality, which means it has the right to sue. In Lebanon, in addition to the Associations Law, we have an intellectual property law and copyright law. This is one of the oldest in the region, having been established in 1924 and amended in 1999. This law gives the right to the artist or the legal representative of the artist to sue anyone who uses or breaches their intellectual property. There is also the criminal law or penal code in Lebanon, which protects in the case of forgery. No one can stop me from making a painting similar to Paul Guiragossian’s, unless I am copying or faking it by putting the name of Paul Guiragossian.
If either of these two laws is breached, whether in Lebanon, Europe or anywhere, I can sue this person in the name of Paul Guiragossian Foundation because it is a legal personality. We have won landmark cases relating to people infringing on copyright. We won a case five years ago that was the first of its kind in the region. It is important to spread awareness of these issues.
Lebanese law is in compliance with all international laws on intellectual property and copyright. Major international auction houses, such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s, abide by Paul Guiragossian Foundation rules because they know we are only asking for our rights in case there is a breach. We are trying to find a balance between enforcing our rights as a foundation based on Lebanese and international law and the trend in Lebanon, which is “we can do whatever we want as no one is asking”. All estates face this problem. At the Paul Guiraggosian Foundation we are trying to change this trend and even though we have made progress it is a continuous struggle. Maybe we seem like the bad guys, but we are simply asking for our rights. We don’t have gas or diamonds in Lebanon, but we do have intellectual products, and once all artists think this way, things will move forward and change.