Friday, July 29, 2016

Are Artist’s Works Effectively Available License-Free to Major Retailers?

Outrage broke out recently when it was uncovered that fashion retailer Zara made similar products as a number of independent artists’ works. The artists created a website to publicize numerous side-by-side images of their work next to Zara’s products. Supporters caught wind and circulated the comparisons on social media and, according to Refinery29, caused Zara to suspend sales of the items in response.

However, according to Vice Channel, Broadly, Zara’s lawyers were not so welcoming of the artists’ claims. According to one of the artists, Zara’s attorneys responded with: ”We reject your claims here for reasons similar to those stated above: the lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen [artist].”  Why Zara’s attorney’s believe that the number of viewers who see both works affects the question of whether or not there has been copyright infringement is unclear.

Unfortunately, this is probably not the last time we will see a battle between a major retailer and artists. And with excessive court and attorney costs, large companies know they have the upper hand in copyright disputes, often pressuring artists to settle for nominal amounts.


Influx of New Technology to Protect Artist’s Rights

Copyright infringement of photographs and other printable materials is an ongoing battle for artists and publishers. With the ability to simply screenshot anything on a computer or phone screen, people are readily saving, sharing, and printing an excess of copyrighted material with a click of a button.

A notorious example is of course Richard Prince, who has been on a copyright infringement rampage, printing other artist’s works from the internet, and using the prints in his own exhibitions.

IBM is fighting this problem with their new patent application titled Copyright Infringement Prevention. The technology would identify potential copyrighted materials and notify the computer. After running the image/text/material through a search system, the technology will determine if the file is printable.

This is among the latest technological innovations aimed at protecting art. Recently, eBay launched technology to detect copyright infringing materials in their auctions. Additionally, Police were able to use technology to track down art thieves after the thieves sent a photograph of the stolen work to the Art Loss Register in an inquiry. Police connected the image to the camera, and the camera to the owner.


Couple Copyrights Mansion to Prevent Neighbors from Building a Similar Home

A New York couple is fighting to keep their “unique dream house” truly unique by suing neighbors who are building a similar home. The couple designed and copyrighted the architectural plans of both the interior and exterior structure; allegedly the neighbors requested these plans from the Building Department before beginning their own construction project.

The lawyers for the two couples are left to argue if the architectural plans in question are special enough that they are covered under the Copyright Act. The construction of the second home has halted, for now.


Can an Artist Authenticate Forgeries Attributed to them?

Following a year-long investigation, police experts deemed thirteen of artist Lee Ufan’s works forgeries, yet Ufan disagrees with this assessment. Despite confession from art dealer Hyeon, Ufan maintains, after analyzing the works himself, the pieces are authentic stating “I concluded that there is not anything strange with a single piece… the use of breath, rhythm and color were all my techniques… an artist can recognize his own piece at a glance.” The National Forensic Service and Seoul Metropolitan Police analyzed the works, deemed them counterfeit copies and indicted Hyeon. Hyeon took part in selling the works, one of which sold for close to a half million dollars.

It is not unusual for an artist to never touch their own works, to employ factories and apprentices for the physical labor of art-making, offering only conceptual instruction. The Ufan controversy begs the question: can an artist authenticate a work they had no part in any aspect of the creative process?



Should an Artist Have to Prove a Work is Not Theirs?


The owner of a painting attributed to Peter Doig is suing Doig for claiming he did not create the work. The owner claims he knew Doig over 40 years ago, forcing Doig to recount his whereabouts at that time. Doig says he does not recognize the work and that it is certainly not his, while a Sotheby’s specialist said it was “rare to see such a complete and highly resolved early painting by Doig.” Similar works by Doig have sold for more than $25 million, making the attribution of this particular work incredibly important to the market price.

While issues of attribution, fraud, and forgery are nothing new to the art world, the shocking fact about this situation is that a federal judge has arranged the trial for next month in the United States District Court for Northern Illinois. Essentially, this means Doig has to prove in court that the work is not his. A decision against Doig could have shocking consequences for artists.


Former Chilean Military Official Found Liable for Killing of Victor Jara

Victor Jara was a major protagonist in the latest show, Future remnants of a missing word, at Meyohas Gallery. His voice singing, “Yo no canto por cantar,” (I don’t sing to sing) echoed in various sound and video pieces. On Monday, a former Chilean military officer was found liable for his torture and murder. This comes 43 years after Jara’s death.

Here’s a video piece by Constanza Alarcón Tennen that was part of the exhibition, and here are Constanza’s thoughts on the indictment:

Read the rest of this entry »


What? Using Moral Rights to Stop Fracking?

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.


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