Monday, November 19, 2018

Is Mickey Out of the Copyright Trap?

Joseph Menn of the LA Times has a lengthy article today concerning the (very likely) possibility that the young Mickey Mouse may not be protected by copyright.

Is it possible that Mickey Mouse now belongs to the world — and that his likeness is usable by anybody for anything?

For the record, any knock-offs would have to make clear that they did not come from Disney, or else risk violating the separate laws that protect trademarks. And the potentially free Mickey is not the most current or familiar version of the famous mouse. Copyright questions apply to an older incarnation, a rendition of Mickey still recognizable but slightly different. Original Mickey, the star of the first synchronized sound cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” and other early classics, had longer arms, smaller ears and a more pointy nose. The notion that any Mickey Mouse might be free of copyright restrictions is about as welcome in the Magic Kingdom as a hag with a poisoned apple. Yet elsewhere, especially in academia, the idea has attracted surprising support.

Check out a slide-show of Mickey throughout the years. Spain’s El Pais has their version of this story here.


Painting Denied By Chinese Customs

“Birds Nest, in the Style of Cubism,” a painting by Zhang Hongtu, … was supposed to be in Beijing during the Olympic Games, in the exhibition “Go Game, Beijing!” organized by a Berlin marketing firm and displayed at the German Embassy. But it was seized by Customs on arrival and denied entry as “unacceptable” for its color, its depiction of the stadium, and its inscriptions.

The ashen-brown picture shows the gleaming new Olympic stadium, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, as Piranesi might have imagined it and Picasso painted it — as a decaying ruin rendered in fragmented angled forms. On the canvas, cubist-style, are inscriptions in English letters and Chinese characters: “Tibet,” “human right” and the Olympic motto, “one world, one dream.”

The WSJ has the full story here.


“Insufficient Artistic Merit” at Frieze Art Fair

“An artwork intended to be a commentary on the smoking ban may never see the light of day – because of the smoking ban. US artist Norma Jeane…wanted to create three transparent booths, each just big enough for one person to stand in and smoke.”

Jeane “intended to highlight the fact that the once social activity of smoking has been transformed through legislation into an antisocial act. The Straight Story, as the work is titled, was commissioned by Frieze, one of the biggest art fairs in the world[.] Members of the public were to be invited to smoke inside the booths, which would stand within the Frieze tents. But Westminster council has rejected an application for the ‘smoking booth’ art installation on the grounds that it has insufficient ‘artistic merit’.” More from The Guardian here.


Brazilian Police Recover Stolen Picasso

After losing to Argentina 3-0 in Olympic soccer, the Brazilian soccer team has something else to celebrate. “The Estacao Pinacoteca museum’s stolen print “Minotaur, Drinker and Women,” by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, was recovered Monday, Brazilian police announced. The piece, which was stolen from the Sao Paulo museum on June 12, was the last one of four stolen artworks to be recovered.” More here.


Mass. Lawyer Guilty of Possessing Stolen Art

“A retired Massachusetts lawyer has been found guilty of possessing six valuable paintings that had been stolen from a home in 1978. Robert Mardirosian of Falmouth was found guilty by a federal jury in Boston on Monday. The 74-year-old faces a maximum of 10 years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 18.” Officers of the court at their best. Does this mean he’ll be disbarred, or offered a book deal? More here.


If You Bought a Fake Rolex at Actual Price, So Would You

“The Brooklyn Museum, which recently announced its prized collection of stone sculptures from ancient Egypt was cluttered with fakes, is planning an exhibit with these pieces to raise awareness of forgeries in the world’s art collections. …A three-year inquiry found that of the 31 Coptic sculptures, most were either retouched in some way or entirely fake. Some were repainted or reworked, and about a third were modern forgeries made of Egyptian stone.”

More at The China Post.


Guggenheim Bilbao CFO Confesses to Wrongdoing

The director of the Guggenheim Bilbao, Juan Ignacio Vidarte, has admitted that the museum lost €4.2 million of public money when it purchased Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time (2005) using US dollars rather than euros to buy the work. An investigation and audit also uncovered the embezzlement of over €480,000 by former Guggenheim chief financial officer Roberto Cearsolo.

From the Art Newspaper:

Although museum officials declined to comment on the ongoing internal investigation and lawsuit filed against Mr Cearsolo by the Guggenheim, a press release issued by the ­institution states that on 11 April the museum received a letter delivered by Mr Cearsolo’s attorney with the former CFO’s signed confession. Included with the written admission of guilt was a cheque for over e250,000 and Mr Cearsolo’s promise to repay the balance of misappropriated funds. The scandal has led Basque officials to contemplate a series of reforms over how public funds at the institution are spent.

The Independent has their version here, and has their version here.


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