Responding to Malcolm's and Mike Stubbs's mails:
It was good to hear Malcolm's thoughts as an institutional curator and that
he considers the museum to have a moral obligation to the artist and the
work (if not necessarily a financial one - as has already been mentioned,
the finance side of things will always be dependent on the specifics of a
situation). However, as he also pointed out, it is unlikely that the museum
has any legal obligation...meaning that whilst it might be embarrasing for
an organisation to appropriate an artists work without notification it will
not carry any greater penalty than that. Although I do not want to be
critical of Christiane here (who has posted on this subject honestly and
openly) I think it is of note that whilst she (I think she is a she?)
apologised for using Murph's work without permission she is not obliged to
do anything more than that...and the apology is forthcoming only because
she chose to apologise (she didn't have to)...which was thoughtful.
Nevertheless, the Whitney has no compulsion upon it to do anything...it is
only the standards set by the individuals and the institution itself that
in anyway conditions their behaviour.
Mike Stubbs's post primarily dealt with the financial side of things.
Whilst this is important I think the money issue is only part of a larger
issue, which is to do with rights and control of the work. When an artist
sells an object based work they usually also sign away their rights to have
control over its exhibition or distribution. If a collector wants to lend
the work to an exhibition, or whatever, there is little the artist can do.
However, what about when the artist has not sold their work? Do they not
still retain these rights of control? If somebody was to take an object
based artwork and show it in a space somewhere without the artists consent
would that not be seen as material theft (eg: they have had to physically
take something that belongs to somebody else and put it somewhere else
So, in the case of non-object based art (like the net or video) does this
argument also apply, and if so then if the artist has not signed away any
rights can people legally show or deploy that work without permission? In
the case of video (and Mike will know more about this than I, I'm sure) if
a TV channel broadcast a tape without permission wouldn't they be legally
culpable? I think they would. But what about net based art? As somebody
said, once a work is online it can be said to be in the public domain, and
as I understand it this shifts the legal context quite a lot. So, isn't the
question really to do with what rights, if any, the artist can retain when
their work is seen to be in the public domian but unsold (eg: as the artist
has not sold the work then they still own it...even though they have
allowed free and uncontrolled public access to the work)?
Sorry if my logic seems a little convoluted...it is not such a clear issue,
I think you will agree, and I am trying to think through to a position
where we can argue a case one way or another. Here it seems to concern
general notions of ownership and its attendant rights when things are in
the public domain.
Are there any copyright lawyers on the list?
[log in to unmask]
The Great Wall of China @ http://www.greatwall.org.uk/
Babel @ http://www.babel.uk.net/
Research Professor (Digital Media)
Art and Design Research Centre
School of Cultural Studies
Sheffield Hallam University