The posts on this theme for me so far have been fascinating. My apologies Penny! I forgot to put in the updated link, which, it won't hurt to say again, is http://sawvideo.com/programming/spotlight
I am intrigued by the connections I see between the comment by Penny:
"It was a frustrating, fascinating, and ultimately
rewarding experience for the artists, and one that highlighted the
problematic relationship between artists and institutional gatekeepers of
archival holdings. For instance, public domain materials supposedly "free
of copyright" still had donor restrictions placed on them, often by other
national institutions. The question that rose from this project was: just
how "public" is the public domain anyway? "
And Armin's elaboration on his work with Kingdom of Piracy (KOP), when he says:
"because the process how a group
of people defines the rules that govern their collaboration runs
obviously thrugh language. Part of the lessons learned from the
"everything open" paradigm (or liberal utopia) is that there can be a
kind of false egalitarianism. While supposedly everybody is free and
equal to participate in a collaborative process often there is a
pre-defined agenda which pretty much determines what can be said. Those
who define the agenda "win" the discussion often without even having to
raise an argument."
Daniel McClean (in 'Dear Images') has argued copyright has not "always been a a necessary mechanism for artists" and many of the conventions and property relations of the art world exist "independently of legal norms". Although McClean references Foucault, Armin's post reminds me of Lyotard's language games or 'phrases'. As I understand it, he argues that to do justice means resisting allowing some language games from providing the rules for other games, and so becoming a metalanguage.
It seems to me the law seeks to assert itself as a metalanguage but when it comes to art is conflicted and tries to avoid engaging with aesthetics, whether in copyright or in other areas. Although, of course even for those within the 'art world', aesthetics are not un-problematic. Duchamp's work catalysed many of the issues and, as hardly needs to be said, they are still being engaged with. Indeed, Sean Cubitt made a passing reference to this in his keynote at ISEA.
However, at this point I elect to go off on a direction that is suggested by Penny's comments. Corporations, particularly given their role in globalisation, are being challenged to be more socially responsible. It seems to me The influence and impact of large galleries and museums also invites critical examination. In 2003 Sir Anthony Mason set out to “examine the extent to which the law allows moral claims and values to inform the exercise of powers by those who control and manage charitable and public institutions, notably museums and galleries, in relation to their holdings” (‘Ethical Dilemmas for Charities: Museums and the Conscionable Disposal of Art’).
While Sir Anthony’s comments were directed specifically at the repatriation of art works and other objects the same question could also be used as a starting point from which to examine and discuss the way copyright is employed by museums (to generate much needed revenue amongst other things). One direction such a discussion could take is indicated by the call by the ‘Artists’ Bill of Rights Campaign’ <http://artists-bill-of-rights.org/>.
Under the heading ‘Concerns with the Hargreaves Review of Copyright’ the Campaign notes that “The moral rights of authors are not automatically granted as in other EU countries”. In light of the announcement by the UK Business, Innovation and Skills Committee of its intention to conduct an inquiry into the Hargreaves Review and the Government’s response to that Review the Campaign urges, “Every creative should make a submission, the deadline is 5th September 2011”.
Of course the question of the moral rights is not new. The debate which springs to my mind is that over Richard Serra's 'Tilted Arc', which he understood to have been destroyed when it was removed from the Plaza for which it had been constructed.