Sculptor Says 'Capitalism' Drives His Aggressive Enforcement Of Rights To Publicly-Funded 'Portlandia' Statue

from the cognitive-dissonance-much? dept

Portland is home to the second-largest “hammered-copper statue” in the nation. Only the Statue of Liberty has it beat. It was commissioned by the city of Portland and is placed prominently downtown. But, unlike the Statue of Liberty, you won’t find the “Portlandia” statue gracing a variety of third-party goods.

You would think the image of Portlandia would adorn postcards, photos and T-shirts. She doesn’t. That’s because her maker, Washington, D.C.-based sculptor Raymond Kaskey, has, over the past three decades, often threatened to sue those who dare use photos or illustrations of Portlandia for commercial purposes.

Kaskey fiercely protects his creation. He sued the makers of “Body of Evidence,” resulting in a small settlement and removal of background footage containing his work. He also battled with a brewery which mistakenly thought the publicly-commissioned statue standing on public land was public domain. This mistake was quickly corrected.

Later informed that Kaskey aggressively protects his copyright—which won’t expire for 70 years after the septuagenarian Pittsburgh native dies—Laurelwood owner Mike DeKalb decided to contact him about securing the rights before this year’s labels were printed.

That negotiation was successful, though both parties declined to disclose the fee paid.

Kaskey has one motivation for this aggressive pursuit of commericial use.

“To make some money—that’s the single best reason,” Kaskey said. “It’s called capitalism.”

All well and good, I suppose, but Kaskey’s motivation flies in the face of the more socialist origin of his well-defended work.

Kaskey… was paid $228,000 in public funds and reportedly another $100,000 in private donations to create Portlandia.

All this public money to create statue at the behest of public representatives which now resides on public land — and yet, “Portlandia’s” ownership lies solely in the hands of Raymond Kaskey, thanks to a 30-year-old city policy that allows artists to retain ownership on publicly-funded work. Kaskey (obviously) thinks the policy is a good idea.

“It was a forward-thinking decision, Not many cities respected artists’ rights in those days.”

I think when a city gives you $228,000 to create artwork, it has given you enough “respect.” Kaskey still demands more, though. While he doesn’t seem interested in the thousands of amateur photographs circulating publicly, he definitely seems to be on top of it should any potential commercial uses present themselves.

An artist selling $6 brooches loosely based on the statue has also dealt with Kaskey, who only asked for a license fee if she managed to sell ten of them. So far, she hasn’t sold any — something at least partly due to Kaskey’s aggressive protection of the work.

[The artist] has had to explain what the statue is to friends to whom she’s gifted them.

“In a way, it’s nice that the Portlandia image isn’t overused and used on tacky souvenirs,” Yerby says, “but it is kind of sad no one can recognize her.”

Kaskey own website claims his studio has produced a “a prominent body of public work,” but when it’s locked up for 70 years past his death, it’s hardly “public.”

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Comments on “Sculptor Says 'Capitalism' Drives His Aggressive Enforcement Of Rights To Publicly-Funded 'Portlandia' Statue”

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DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

Add a top and a bottom and call it, “The Tomb of the Unknown Art”.

Place another inscription on it saying, “Do Not Open Until 70 years after Raymond Kaskey’s death, unless Disney has the Copyright Extension Act extended again. If so, please take this entire Tomb and drop it into the Mariana Trench, where it can enjoy copyright for all eternity (minus a day, of course).”

That One Guy (profile) says:

A fair and balanced use of the law indeed

So the public pays for it, heavily, pays for the land it’s sitting on, only to be told ‘Nope, you don’t own it, the artist still does and you still won’t own it until almost a century after he’s dead.’

Either someone’s palms were greased when they left out the transfer of rights for a publicly funded work, or they were just too stupid to remember that part.

In either case I think they should just give him what he obviously wants, and put up a wall around the thing, perhaps with a gate you can pay to enter and view it, so finally no-one will be able to see it without paying him. As an added bonus, if it’s out of view, no need to pay for maintenance on it, if he wants the statue kept in shape, he can spend his own money, since he’s already scammed the public out of enough already.

Anonymous Coward says:

All is fair in copyright and law

You know what, as an artist, I support this guy. After all, he’s not charging people for taking pictures or looking at it, as it’s intended purpose, only for commercial use.

You wouldn’t expect a music artist just to roll over and let anyone use their songs in a commercial sense without payment, exactly the same concept.

Now, I disagree on the fact that public funds were used to commission it, but that’s the fault of the cities governing body, not the artist. Though, the man could use a little more tact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: All is fair in copyright and law

As I said, he’s not exactly tactful, but other than him being dis-likable on a personal level, I don’t think the fact that he wants to be paid for other people using his work to make money is being a dick.

@Nasch I disagree with public funds being used to pay for art, yes. I know I’d be pissed if I knew any of my taxes were being used to pay for a statue no-one asked for, as oppose to road maintenance and such.

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