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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  October 2011

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING October 2011

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Subject:

Re: October Theme: Copyright

From:

Rob Myers <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Rob Myers <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 Oct 2011 22:32:40 +0100

Content-Type:

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On 17/10/11 13:19, Kalliopi Vacharopoulou wrote:
>
> That seemed a great way of putting forward the IPRs of the
> artists/collections and of generating essential revenue (the artists
> -especially those lesser known in the artworld or those with not many
> sources of income- could keep doing what they do and the museums and
> collections would create income to support their activities). This was

DACS paid out an average of 295 pounds to its members last year, and
that's a national organization. I'm not sure how much revenue an
individual institution could provide a living lesser known artist.

> around the time when the economic climate became quite bleak and funding
> cuts for arts and culture were looming in the horizon. By the time I left,
> many museums had already established their own picture libraries/rights
> departments to license artworks held in their collections and to generate
> income to fund their activities (whether that would be digitisation so as to
> increase online access for the public, or educational or conservation
> activities and so on).

One of the more interesting bits of information that came out of freedom
of information requests to the National Portrait Gallery when they
freaked out at Wikipedia was that revenue from online use of NPG images
didn't quite pay for the staff that administer the scheme.

I'm concerned that the siren song of "monetization of intellectual
property" is going to have the same appeal to cash-strapped institutions
as X-Factor has to cash-strapped teenagers, with similar probabilities
of the rewards outweighing the costs.

> And yet, many copyright disputes emerge among artists: Damien Hirst recently
> demanded compensation from a 16-year old artist who appropriated images of
> his 50 million diamond-encrusted skull. The young artist produced collages
> and stencil designs and sells them on an online gallery for 65 a piece (
> http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/29741/hirst-demands-compensation-from-teen-artist/).

Hirst himself has of course borrowed images for his work and like Jeff
Koons, who recently acted to stop other people selling balloon dogs in
reference to his own, his hypocrisy demonstrates that artists who rely
on the rhetoric of appropriation for themselves rarely wish to pass on
the freedom that they exercise. Copyleft licenses can be a good way of
doing this, but applying them to already appropriated imagery can be
problematic in jurisdictions without Fair Use (such as the UK).

Copyright action against artists has a chilling effect on the creation
of art. Increasing artists' reliance on copyright increases their
entanglement in a system that can destroy their work. I mean that
literally: the judge who found against Richard Prince in a recent
copyright dispute ordered that his art be seized and destroyed.

> In light of all these, on the one hand corporations do make commercial uses
> of artworks.

Corporations have bigger legal teams than artists. They can very easily
take "inspiration" from an artwork and not have to pay a penny. It's
better to fight for greater freedom of speech in order to be able to
critique corporations and their appropriations rather than fight for
stronger copyright that can be used against artists.

> And on the other hand, artists may make commercial use of their
> work. 

If art is sold it is commercial. With apologies to Hogarth (who got us
copyright on art in the first place), licensing reproductions of art
isn't art, it's merchandise.

> So, how can we look at the issue? Should we be abolishing the concept
> of copyright all together? Should there be different layers of copyright?
> One layer for corporations and one layer for artists? And, given that I am

We can use the American concepts of free speech in contrast to
commercial speech to tell the difference between an artist's and a
corporation's use of imagery. But Creative Commons have not had much
luck getting people to decide what "commercial" and "non-commercial"
uses of work are.

Is a glossy collection of essays illustrated by reproductions of
artworks "commercial"? Art historians and critics are being hit by
increasing image reproduction costs, but their activity is vital to
legitimizing art and to increasing its value.

So copyright can affect the market value of art as well as its
production, and all in the name of making more money for artists and
encouraging the production of art.

> referring to instances of traditional visual arts, which are different from
> new media art, should copyright be defined different in new media art
> compared to traditional forms of art?

For traditional art copyright is a category error anyway. You don't need
copyright to sell unique artworks or limited editions, or to create
site-specific art, or for many other ways of making a living by
producing art. Traditional artworks aren't copies, they are original
objects. Unlike mass media one copy of an artwork is not substitutable
for another because of the problem of the fake.

Where new media art is mechanically reproducible (for example digital
videos or software), conceptual-art-style strategies based on
authentication can be used.

I don't think that copyright should be different for NMA, I think it
should be greatly reduced in scope generally. I am not however a
copyright abolitionist.

- Rob.

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