Community members in Peekskill, New York, guided by artist Aviva Rahmani, wandered through their forestland coating trees with blue paint. Their tactic is to cover the woods, where construction is in process on a fracked-gas pipeline, with artworks and then rally to preserve said art. Necessarily, they suppose, saving the works would in turn stop the construction.
The community plans to save the artwork using the Visual Artist’s Rights Act. The Visual Artists Rights Act, although extremely limited, offers moral rights to artists. One of such is the right of an artist to prevent the distortion of their work. Although a clever tactic, it is certainly a Hail Mary pass. in United States law, property owners are generally favored before artists when contemplating whose rights are more protected.
Without question, social media has transformed how many artists interact with the public, how they brand themselves, and the very nature of how they disperse their work. But where social media opens avenues for reaching new, arguably larger audiences, in turn it forces stricter boundaries on them.
Not only are works confined to the rectangle of a phone screen, they are more abstractly restrained to “Community Guidelines” or “Terms of Service” within the social media platforms. Instagram’s “Community Guidelines” for example bans nudity, and states “always follow the law.” When social media platform subscriptions overpower museum visitation and become the main source for artists to show their work, this censorship is of a dangerous sort. It is not solely censoring artists within the social media platform, but necessarily, it is censoring artists work entirely. Further, social media platforms censor posts by museums, often the censored posts are ancient sculptures or famous and historical works.
Social media platforms will often eliminate artist’s accounts entirely, as punishment for their continued dismissal of the “community guidelines.” This leads to artists, to prevent being locked out of their account, self-censoring their work. Social media does not affect all artists negatively. Artists like Richard Prince have capitalized on exploiting the platforms, creating entire bodies of work in reaction to Instagram on Instagram (and in print). As exemplified by Prince and many other artists, social media has given artists an opportunity to brand themselves and gain attention interacting with other social media users on such a public platform. Arguably, Instagram and the like have opened a new performance space for contemporary artists, assuming they fit their work into the “Community Guidelines,” that is.
Metal Bulletin, an English corporation, sued Scepter, Inc., a company subscribing to its services that, contrary to subscription terms and conditions, purchased an individual Metal Bulletin subscription for use by their employees. Metal Bulletin brought two claims against Scepter including copyright infringement under United States law. Scepter successfully moved to dismiss the claim for copyright infringement on the ground that the subscription’s choice-of-law term requires application of English law.
The choice-of-law terms within the subscription provides:
“Where you visit, register and/or subscribe to a [Metal Bulletin] Site . . . these Terms (and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these terms, including non-contractual disputes or claims), to the maximum extent permissible under the law of the territory that you are located in, will be governed by the laws of England and Wales and will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.”
The S.D.N.Y. Court reasoned Metal Bulletin’s copyright claims fell within the subscription choice-of-law terms because the copyright infringement in question occurred as a result of excess use of the license, specifically, “any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these terms, including non-contractual disputes or claims.”
Jean Claude and Christo’s latest massive public art installation, The Floating Piers, transforms lake Iseo in Italy with 100,000 square meters of yellow fabric over 220,000 polyethylene cubes that ripple with the water underneath, and create a three-kilometer bridge for tourists to walk across.
As noted by Christo, the bridge is, like all of their projects, “absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting, there are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.” Only one week after the June 18th opening, the Italian consumer group Codacons, announced it will be filing a complaint in regards to unreasonable waste of public money. The complaint sparked from uncontrollable crowds resulting in local authorities blocking visitors from crossing, leaving 3,000 people stranded at the Brescia train station. Codacons claims costs of evacuating tourists, and the post-mayhem clean up make the installation too costly to the taxpayers.
June 24th, 2016 by Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento in Art Law
I’m quoted in this Artnet article.
In a decision that’s left Europe in a frenzied aftermath, artists, curators, gallery and museum employees, art law experts, and others in the art world find themselves anticipating the Brexit vote’s consequences.
Siegelaub’s “Artist’s Reserved Rights…” Agreement.
Asks Isaac Kaplan. I’m quoted in this article on artists’ rights, the art market, contracts and moral rights.
Is authorship something that can be revoked at will? Under what authority can an artist disavow one of his or her works? How do artists exert control over their work long after it ceases to be their property?
Check it out!
Readers might remember that earlier this year the NY Times sued a publisher who used thumbnail reproductions of the newspaper’s front pages in a book that attacks the Times war coverage. A few of us mentioned that this was a ridiculous and petty lawsuit, one which read as vindictive rather than protective (the book is critical of how the NY Times glamorizes war for the sake of sales). I also said that this was a clear case of fair use.
Well, they just settled.
The details of the settlement are not public, but a court filing shows the deal was dismissed with prejudice (meaning the parties can’t sue again later on), and without costs. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan added, however, that either side may bring the case back to court within the next 30 days if they provide an explanation.