Sunday, February 18, 2018

Will Copyright Change the Fashion Industry?

Hand made bags. Photo courtesy of

Early last week, law professors, designers, and fashion advocates testified in front of members of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet in favor of and opposition to the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (IDPPPA), a bill that aims to provide copyright protection to fashion designers. According to the Washington Post,

If passed, the IDPPPA, now in its second iteration, will give three years of copyright protections to innovative designs not in the public domain, preventing fast-fashion retailers from making exact copies of “unique” fashion designs.

Keep in mind that the bill targets copyright protection, not trademarks, which already grant designers some protection based on logos, colors, and names.


“If this was yours, would you want somebody to copy it”

Newspaper patterns, cutting up fabric. From

A bit over a year ago I wrote about how artists were becoming better educated in the legal issues affecting their art projects (Why is Copyright (Suddenly) a Hot Topic for Artists?). It now seems like craftspeople are also getting in on the fun. The Seattle Times ran a story last Friday, Crafters Urged to Get Educated on Copyrights, exactly on this topic.

We wonder how much of this has to do with the recent craft-painting fiasco between origami artists and painter Sarah Morris. Welcome to the party, crafters.


Dalí Foundation Wins Resale Rights War

The European Court of Justice and a Parisian district court have ruled that the Fundacío Gala-Salvador Dalí is the rightful and legal recipient of any resales, droit de suite, of Dali’s work made in Europe. Droit de suite are payments received by artists or their heirs when their works are resold in Europe.

When works by Dalí were sold in France by the Fundacío Gala-Salvador Dalí, which manages his estate, the French copyright organization ADAGP kept the applicable droit de suite percentages and paid these to Dalí’s five surviving family members. The foundation sought for years to recover this revenue for Spain. [via Artinfo]

According to Artinfo, Dalí had designated the Spanish state as the only heir of his intellectual property rights. French law, however, conflicted with Spanish law and allowed the artist’s heirs to collect droit de suite payments.

More via Artinfo here.


Paint It Red, Only Not In A Museum

A 57-year-old-man vandalized a 17th-century painting by Nicolas Poussin at the National Gallery in London. Police eventually arrested him.

Via The Guardian.


Man Pleads Guilty on Corot Painting Scheme

A New Yorker faces up to 20 years in prison for defrauding another man in an $880,000 deal on a painting by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. Thomas Doyle pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud in a deal he cooked up on Corot’s “Portrait of a Girl.”

Via Courthouse News Service.


Artist Sues Artist, and Galleries, for Copyright Infringement

At left, Janine Gordon, Plant Your Feet on the Ground, 2000, and at right, Ryan McGinley, Levi’s advertisement, 2010

I’m not one of those people that likes to say, “I told you so,” but I told you so. The copyright litigation roller coaster gets more interesting by the minute, especially when it involves an artist suing another artist.

According to Artnet,

Artist Janine “Jah Jah” Gordon has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against photographer Ryan McGinley for copyright infringement, arguing that 150 of McGinley’s photographs, including several used in an ad campaign for Levi’s, a co-defendant in the suit, are “substantially based” on Gordon’s original work.

Ratio 3 along with Peter Hay Halpert Fine Arts and Team Gallery are also defendants in the suit. Interestingly, New Museum curator Dan Cameron has jumped into this fray arguing on Gordon’s behalf,

“My long-term expertise as a critic and curator gives me, I believe, sufficient authority to say, without hesitation, that Ms. Gordon’s work is completely original, in concept, color, composition and content, and that Ryan McGinley has derived much of his work from her creations[.]”  [bold text added]

Hmmm. I bold the word “derived” in Cameron’s quote to point out what will most likely be — in my educated fair-use opinion — a win for McGinley. “Derive” here is being used not in the fair use sense of “derivative” work, but rather it is being used in the inspirational sense. Based on the images available for comparison online, McGinley is clearly inspired and influenced by Gordon’s ideas, but as both Gordon’s and McGinley’s lawyers agree, ideas are not protected under US copyright law. If, as Artnet notes, Gordon’s lawyers argue that the concept cannot be differentiated from the expression, then they may want to look elsewhere other than copyright law.

Gordon’s lawyers,

“This idea-pattern may be as much part of his work, and deserving of copyright protection, as the brushstrokes, pencil-lines, etc. The true proposition is that there is no copyright in a general idea, but that an original combination of ideas may [be protected][.]”

Think about this for a minute. If what Gordon’s lawyers are arguing were true, then we would never have Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica. They all follow a similar combination of ideas: good and evil in outer space; intergalactic spaceship warfare; robots, animals, and human beings co-mingling; the end of planet earth; love triangles… You get the picture (pun intended). Arguing that brush strokes and pencil-lines are protected under copyright is a losing proposition, unless you believe — and square that fragile argument with current US copyright law — that only Gerhard Richter can blur color paint across vast amounts of canvas. Gordon may be able to prove access to the work, but unless she can prove actual copying of a fixed idea, there’s no “there” there, and if she waits too long, there may not be much of the settlement either.

Via Artnet.

UPDATE: July 19, 2011

One of the defendants, José Freire of Team Gallery, has issues a personal statement regarding this lawsuit.


Billionaire Art Dealer Accused of Fraud

Billionaire Franco-American art dealer, Guy Wildenstein, has been formally accused of fraud after 30 valuable paintings and sculptures that had been missing for decades were discovered in a room of his family’s institute in Paris. The works found include several allegedly looted by the Nazis.

Via Mutual Art.


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