from the legal-fictions dept
Stupid, right? But I hear this argument for copyright law all the time.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 5th 2011 3:05am
Biro says Grann's 16,000-word article, "purports to be an in-depth study of the science of forensic examination of art works, and of the use of fingerprint technology to advance that science." But, Biro says, "It is nothing of the sort, but rather a false and defamatory screed against plaintiff, written and published with malice and an indifference to the standards of responsible journalism.I figure this could make for an interesting trial. The bar to proving defamation for a public persona, as Biro clearly is, is pretty high. And despite the claims of "Elizabeth," The New Yorker actually has one of the best reputations around when it comes to fact checking. Perhaps there's something more that will come out during the trial, but I'd guess that it'll be difficult to get the defamation claim to stick.
"The article relies to a significant extent on anonymous sources, many of whom are no longer alive, and repeats defamatory statements made by those sources.
"Through selective omission, innuendo and malicious sarcasm, the article paints a portrait of plaintiff which has no bases in reality, and which has been highly damaging to his reputation.
"The intent of the article is apparent from the very subtitle, which implies that plaintiff finds fingerprints where they do not exist, and which represents an editorial attempt to prejudice the reader in advance of the narrative which follows."
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 27th 2011 11:08am
Andy took something that wasnít his and he didnít have any license or right to take it. Digital or physical, thatís theft. Your argument that Jay Maisel still has the original is true, so Andy stole a copy. Itís still not his. The image is recognizable as the original. All rights to that image belong with the copyright holder, whether original or duplicated.It's this form of argument that I find incredibly hypocritical. The whole "took something that wasn't his." What did Baio (or, really, the guy he hired) do? He copied an image that he saw, but did so in a different and artistic way. What did Maisel do to make his photograph: he copied the scene of Miles Davis in front of him, but did so in a different and artistic way. It's the same thing any photographer does. Part of the very process of photographing is, literally, making a copy, often without a "license" from whatever it is you're making a copy of. Again, that doesn't make it any less art. In fact, the reason that photographs are considered eligible for copyright protection at all (and some have questioned this) is because of the artistic choices in making a photograph: how it was framed, lighting, etc. Yet, in the pixelated image, again, there are similar artistic choices made: how to pixelate the image. How to still make it look good, but within the limitations of the pixelated artform, etc.
Saying that all art is derivative in some way is very nebulous.
by Nina Paley
Fri, May 6th 2011 7:39pm
Back in January I was asked by the Brooklyn Museum to create a set of 11 iconic Vishnu avatars for an exhibit they’re planning in June. They didn't offer a whole lot of money – an “honorarium,” they called it – but said the images could be under a Free license (they said CC-BY-SA was fine). I chose to do it because it was a cool gig, right up my alley; and I love the Brooklyn Museum and was excited to have my art be part of one of their exhibits. It turned out to be more work than I expected, but I was very pleased with the results.
Thus began a comedy of errors, the climax of which may have yet to be reached.
First they wanted revisions. Creating is fun, but revisions are not. For what they were paying, revisions weren’t part of the deal. We hadn’t signed a contract; they hadn’t even mentioned a contract. It was just an oral agreement for a modest sum of money (“honorarium”) and because the work would be CopyLeft they could do whatever they wanted with it, including revise and modify.
I hadn’t freelanced in years. Sita Sings the Blues took up nearly all my time between 2005 and 2011. I had gained a lot of self confidence during that time and was out of my old freelancer habits. Instead of doing whatever they asked and resenting them for it, I did something I’d never done before: I said no. I made sure to be polite. I consulted trusted friends, examined my motives, and was willing to accept any consequences, including being “fired.”
The worst case scenario would be that they wouldn’t use the art and wouldn’t pay me. I was more concerned about the art than the money. I like money too, of course. The best-case scenario would be that they would use the art and pay me. But if they didn’t pay me, I planned to release the art myself, so anyone could use it, including them. They would be free to use the art even if they didn’t pay me.
The happy fact is that once I realized saying “no” was an option, any budding resentment at their requests evaporated. They were just trying to get what they wanted, which is what everyone does. It fell on me to set boundaries. It’s not wrong to try to get what you want; it’s also not wrong to say no.
After I said no, they produced a contract – one that I never would have signed, even if they’d ever shown it to me before, which they hadn’t. The contract granted them unlimited revisions. Time passed, I politely stated and re-stated that the work was Free, and already completed; they could do whatever they wanted with it, and weren’t even legally bound to pay me.
Finally they removed the revisions clause – but added a new non-compete clause. This would make my work Free for everyone in the entire world to use, except me. I told them I couldn’t sign it, and they assured me it didn’t apply to the drawings I’d done, but anything I might do that would be “similar.” They said the non-compete language absolutely had to stay in. I again pointed out the work was done, they had all the image files, and they could do whatever they wanted with it, without a contract and without even paying me.
I understand why contracts can be useful: the producer wants assurance of payment, and the payer wants assurance of production. If either party fails to live up to their obligation, the other party can punitively refuse theirs. But I had already done the work. I didn’t need a contract to incentivize it. Of course I wanted to be paid, and I thought paying me would be the decent thing to do; but the work was done, and I placed no restrictions on it.
I don’t like contracts. They are overused and unnecessary in most cases. Often it takes more time to negotiate a contract than it does to execute the work itself. I agree it is uncool and wrong to promise money and not deliver, but I hope to never work with anyone who can’t be trusted to live up to such a simple promise. If they don’t, a contract is unlikely to make it better. I’d have to “go legal” on them to enforce it, and unless it’s a really huge amount of money they reneged on, I’d have to spend more money and time on the legal enforcement. Art and Law should stay as far away from each other as possible. I manage to get plenty of work done without contracts, and I manage to take in money as well.
Throughout all of this I refrained from releasing the images myself, so the Brooklyn Museum could have first use. First use bestows such a competitive advantage that copyright is irrelevant. If the Museum rolled out merchandise first, any potential competitors would be unlikely to catch up. The work would immediately be associated with the Museum, before any competitor could associate it with anything else. Any sane contract would have obligated me to grant them first use, but that wasn’t in their contract at all, even though the Free license was. Their contract was built on the assumption of copyright, just with a CC-BY-SA license inserted into it. (Law students take note: most lawyers have no clue about the implications of Free licenses. Please try to fix this.) The non-compete clause was pointless, but a first use provision would have been essential for them.
Anyway, time continued to pass, and they finally let me strike out the non-compete clause so I’d just sign the damn contract and make the project digestible to their bureaucracy. So I did, and they paid me! Slightly more than the initially specified “honorarium” too. This was back in March. I’ve been looking forward to the Vishnu exhibit ever since, eager to finally have my illustrations see the light of day in the glorious setting of the Brooklyn Museum.
The exhibit is set to open in June. It should be really cool! But it won’t include my illustrations, because on May 5th they informed me their director wants to “take it in another direction.” Yep, they dropped my art, with just a few weeks to go.
I’m really glad that I specified a Free license from the very beginning. If I had granted them a restrictive copyright, then, when they axed the art, no one would be able to use it. So here’s yet another benefit to Free Culture: a client can’t kill it.
Addendum: As Terry Hancock wrote in the comments on my blog: “in the end, the museum subsidized an enrichment of the commons, for which I am grateful to them.” Me too!
This article crossposted from ninapaley.com
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 29th 2011 9:38am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 28th 2011 10:26am
What was Jackson Pollock's purpose in painting Lavender Mist? Van Goghís in painting The Irises? Havenít we accepted by now the limitations focus on artistic intention would impose on our appreciation of art?One take away from this is that any time an artist is sued, they should just insist that the artwork they created was "commenting" on the original work, even if it wasn't. But why is that the standard? The fair use standard doesn't say anything about intent, and judging the true intent of an artist seems like a really dangerous game. Some, like Charlie Finch, are pointing out how this is a dangerous slippery slope under which judges are determining the value of artwork:
Judge Batts implied a kind of slippery slope by observing that Prince had not cut up or sectioned Cariou's pictures sufficiently, making an observer wonder whether a Mimmo Rotella standard of radical pictorial transformation would be the minimum standard for fair use.The reality is that the judge here seems to have gone beyond what fair use has said in the past, in creating this new standard. As Greg Allen warns this is a massive limiting of fair use:
Either way, having a judge as an interpreter of the meaning of art remains Kafkaesque: we can trot out the entire oeuvre of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and a thousand other artists as violators of Judge Batts' standard.
If it stands, it would have major, sweeping, and stifling effects.That last point is also notable. It wasn't just Prince who was sued, but also the art gallery that displayed his works, which was found guilty of direct infringement for displaying and selling the works, and then also found guilty of vicarious and contributory infringement because it "had the right and ability (and perhaps even responsibility) to ensure that Prince obtained licenses." That seems like a pretty big stretch as well.
Not only would the current operating assumptions of fair use and transformative use be ratcheted way back, but the contemporary art world would be turned upside down. It would restrict both how artists appropriate, or even refer to, copyrighted work. And it would turn galleries into copyright police, with an affirmative responsibility to clear images, sources, and references for the work they show and sell.
Others are delighted at Prince's discomfiture. I am troubled. Fine art, truly fine art in an art gallery, is a place where a copyrighted work becomes a fetish object, a tribute, a decontextualized thing revealing a new meaning. The urinal of Marcel Duchamp. The Brillo Box of Andy Warhol. Both utilitarian objects made by others and fetishized by the artists.You should click through to read the entire Dowd piece, which includes multiple images to back up what he has to say. In the end, his point is really the key one: no one is being harmed here. No one is being fooled. Art is a form of speech, and even if you personally don't think much of it, or are upset about how the artist goes about it, is that really something for a court to decide?
And look at L.H.O.O.Q. - nothing original in the execution, but the Mona Lisa was in the public domain at the time. Prince is blatantly stealing. Plagiarists take the words of others and try to make you believe that they have crafted them. But Prince's cutouts from advertising, porn and outlaw biker magazines never misled the consumer.
But somewhere, something bothers me about shutting a highly respected fine artist down completely and burning his works when the first sale doctrine would permit him to buy a copy, modify it and resell it. When the First Amendment lets even repulsive speech be heard and the contemporary art world says it is art, I have a problem with the government burning it.
To me, an original work of fine art properly labeled as such by a new artist is almost pure speech - or in some way pure idea - even if it includes major appropriations. Things change when the artwork is widely reproduced. When the consumers are paying tens of thousands for Prince to take something no one is interested in, put his spin on it, and add value. Prince's "appropriation" added ten million dollars worth of value to a pile of books. Everyone knew he didn't create the original.
This is not a question of consumers being defrauded, these are wealthy ultrasophisticates on the cutting edge who are the purchasers - surrounded by the top art advisers and critics -if these people feel that Prince's value added is that great, what is the harm in letting them indulge, as long as Prince legally purchased the original books? In fact, Prince's prices will probably soar - scarcity and scandal drive art prices up.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 21st 2011 7:39pm
I once found a little excerpt from Balzac. He speaks about a young writer who stole some of his prose. The thing that almost made me weep, he said, "I was so happy when this young person took from me." Because that's what we want. We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can't steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that's how you will find your voice.While (of course), I always dislike the incorrect use of the term "stealing," I found this to be quite an insightful answer from someone who is certainly in a position to pretend otherwise. However, throughout history we've heard similar (if much less eloquent) claims from others. Ray Charles famously made similar points about copying his music (shamelessly) from others to create his own unique sound (and invent soul music in the process).
And that's how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you. And Balzac said that in his book: It makes me so happy because it makes me immortal because I know that 200 years from now there will be people doing things that somehow I am part of. So the answer to your question is: Don't worry about whether it's appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that's only the first step and you have to take the first step.
This idea of Metallica or some rock n' roll singer being rich, that's not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I'm going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?While some will misinterpret this to mean that artists shouldn't make money, that's not what he's saying at all. He's saying it shouldn't be presumed that they automatically must make money -- or that if they are to make money, that it needs to come from the film directly.
In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you'd be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, "Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money." Because there are ways around it.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 29th 2010 11:28am
a play on the words batta ("locust") and battamon (slang for "knockoff"). According to the artist, the works are meant to raise questions about the relationship between authenticity and imitation in a consumer-driven society.It seems like that's a perfectly good subject for commentary through art, and it seems ridiculous that LVMH is stifling the artist's work. Nothing in this exhibit is going to make anyone think that it was endorsed by LVMH. It certainly isn't doing anything to create consumer confusion. The artist is pissed off, but the museum said it didn't want to deal with a legal fight, so this artist's work gets taken down as yet another company abuses trademark law. Watch out, Mythbusters, you may be next...
by Dennis Yang
Thu, Apr 15th 2010 10:13pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 31st 2009 11:47am
The Congress shall have Power... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;From this, I still believe it's quite clear that if copyright or patents are used in a way that does not "promote the progress" of those things, then it is unconstitutional to use copyright or patent law in that way. Not everyone agrees with me, of course. However, I've mostly focused on the "promote the progress" side of things, but haven't delved as much into the details of "science and useful Arts." I have read up extensively on what the founders meant by that, which can be simplified as "science" meaning scientific publishing/books and "useful Arts" meaning inventions. There's also a fair bit of evidence that the real focus of the founders was on patents, rather than copyright. It wasn't that they weren't concerned at all about copyright (they were), but that the bigger issue was patents, and copyright was a sort of "throw in" at the behest of some vocal authors, along with some remembrance of states' fights over local copyright policies. But, on the whole, it was patents that were considered of much more importance to progress than copyrights.
Here as elsewhere, acquiescence to long-accepted practices has dulled us to the Constitution's bracingly straightforward words. We should read them anew and reflect that the Founding generation did not evidently think that granting statutory privileges to such purely artistic creations as romantic operas or pretty pictures would promote the progress of both science and the useful arts. Furthermore, most citizens today would, if presented with the Constitution's plain language rather than the convoluted arguments of professional jurisprudes, probably say the same thing about pop songs, blockbuster movies, and the like. That is certainly not to say that purely expressive works lack value. They may very well promote such important goals as beauty, truth, and simple amusement. The Constitution requires that copyright promote something else, however--"the Progress of Science and useful Arts"--and a great many works now covered by copyright cannot plausibly claim to do both.Bell is interpreting the Constitutional clause in an even stricter manner -- suggesting that any work covered by patents or copyright needs to promote both progress in science and in the useful arts, which is an even higher bar, though I'm not sure I'm convinced it was meant to be both. Also, many would retort that the Constitution grants the Congress the ability to determine if such monopolies promote the progress of science and the useful arts -- and as long as Congress says they do, then we should consider that they do (no matter how wrong they might be). For a variety of reasons, that line of thinking is problematic, but it is the line that the Supreme Court has taken with copyright before (such as in the Eldred case). I'm not necessarily convinced of Bell's thinking here, but it's certainly a point worth pondering (and discussing).
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