Sunday, March 7, 2021

You too can insert your fave artworks into a video game

WSJ on how video gamers are using public domain images from art museums, like The J. Paul Getty, in order to “cultivate their own islands.” (via paywall).


License to use copyrighted work in connection with criminal activity

Public License for Criminal Use, 2014 – 2020
Alfred Steiner
No physical dimensions
Offer, acceptance, consideration

There’s a lot of buzz during these Covid days concerning the employment of written agreements by artists. As I’ve indicated on this blog, this “practice” is nothing new, if by new we mean this year or the last few years. What is interesting to me is to see how creative artists get.

A long-time friend of mine, artist and lawyer, Alfred Steiner has just released his Public License for Criminal Use. Below, he explains the origins of this contract and his intent with drafting such an agreement. One aspect of Alfred’s agreement that I find quite interesting is how it sits squarely between the space of the law and the out-law. First year law students quickly learn that contractual agreements that engage criminal activity are not lawful, they are not binding (at least within courts of law). But that is not what Alfred’s contract is.

Rather, is Alfred encouraging criminal activity, or is he merely stating that no civil liability will befall any person wishing to use his copyrighted content for “criminal purposes”? With so much still unclear in the “art law” arena, such as graffiti murals painted on property without consent, Alfred’s contract highlights the current pandemic in artistic practices, with the pandemic being safe and conservative approaches to the making and interpretation of art.

One last thing: note what Alfred describes as the “medium” to this artwork!

Now take a look at the agreement and see what you think. Here are Alfred’s thoughts on his project:

This is one of several contracts I’ve drafted for primarily non-legal or aesthetic purposes. I conceived of it in 2014, but didn’t draft the license itself until 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic gave me more time to develop a larger body of works that need nothing more than words to appreciate. In a sense, I’m giving away all of my work by giving away nothing. Anyone can use any of my work for free, as long as the use is in connection with activity that violates applicable criminal law. By contrast, a typical license is limited for uses in accordance with applicable law.

The work raises many questions, including: How can a work of art be used for criminal purposes? Would an artist be morally culpable (r criminally liable) for a crime committed using the artist’s work with permission? Has a notorious criminal ever been taken down on criminal copyright charges, a la Al Capone’s prosecution for tax evasion? Would the license be enforceable or would it be found void as contrary to public policy (in which latter case I might still succeed in a copyright infringement action against an unwary “licensee”)? How can artists contribute to changing unjust or overreaching laws (think Jim Crow, the War on Drugs, anti-sodomy laws, etc.)?
While I continue to consider these questions, I suppose I can look forward to my first indictment for aiding and abetting graffiti vandalism or distribution of LSD. –
-Alfred Steiner


Art & Law Program celebrates 10 years!

Pictured here are the 2010 fellows at Michelle Maccarone Gallery for the artist exhibition.

This month marks the 10th year of the Art & Law Program. The group pictured above is the first class of fellows, whom I thank dearly for putting up with chaos and an unforged path. I learned so much, and still do from each and every class. I think the Program hit its stride around 2014, and since then, like good wine, it’s only gotten better. A huge thanks to all the supporters, especially Cornell Law dean Eduardo Penalver, Cornell Law School, Bob Balder and Brooke Moyse at Cornell AAP in NYC, Lawrence Chua, Paul Pheiffer, Julie Mehretu, John Letourneau, Rachel Carrigan, and Asher all at Denniston Hill, Fordham Law School, and to all the supporters and seminar leaders that have given their time, money, and resources. And of course, and without saying, a very, very heart-felt thank you to Lauren van Haaften-Schick. If there’s anyone who’s been through hell, it’s her. Here’s to another 10!


Resale Royalties strike again…

One thing that really annoys me is how articles like this get written with absolutely no mention of well-known historical precedents, like Robert Projansky’s and Seth Siegelaub’s The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer And Sale Agreement, from 1971. God forbid there would be any mention of Hans Haacke or Michael Asher.

A friendly reminder that artists using written agreements to obtain rights and obligations is nothing new. That’s what a written agreement is and what it does.


“The more regulation you want, that is precisely what art is not about.”

Two very dear friends of mine, Lauren van Haaften-Schick and Kenneth Pietrobono, continue their exploration of art, socialism, activism, and a slew of other isms. They asked me to chat with them about “redistribution” and the success of activist art. Well, they didn’t quite ask me about the second but I talked about it nonetheless. We also discussed my disdain for symbolic artistic acts in law and whether the purchase of a non-functioning vehicle can be deemed to be “successful.” You can listen to the podcast audio here.

If you just want the 3 minute snippet (probably all you need), here it is.


Richard Prince v. Donald Graham lawsuit hits the inner city

Images in question in the Graham v. Prince copyright infringement case.

Oral arguments took place July 28, 2020. Sorry for delay…Covid crazy over here.


Felix Gonzalez-Torres on being a spy, an infiltrator

Felix Gonzalez-Torres interviewed by Hans-Ulrich Obrist for the Museum in Progress’s, “Portraits of Artists”. Follow The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Family Archive via Instagram, and via their website. This is very, very rare footage which, as you can see from the comments, allows the viewer to hear Gonzalez-Torres’s voice for the first time.

museum in progress organised the series “Portraits of Artists” (19922001) conversations with international artists who were exhibiting and/or taking part in a symposium in Vienna. The interviews of different lengths were recorded in the blue box with the artists as talking heads face on to the camera and the interviewer’s voice off-screen. The artists usually chose their interview partners themselves, creating a basis of trust between the interlocutors. The artists were also able to choose the background colour, which was added afterwards, and decide which parts of the interview should remain in the final version and which should be edited out. Thanks to this artistic concept, which was conceived by Peter Kogler and museum in progress, the interviews offer authentic portraits of the artists.

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist for @museuminprogress – "Portraits of Artists"? ? (…)And there is also the context of that work, I mean, it's not just about two empty beds (Billboards). It could be about the way some people read it in the streets. It was about emptiness, it was about homelessness, it was about, you know, love, man – woman, man – man, woman – woman, whatever; it was about an announcement for a movie that was about to come; it was about advertisement for a White Sale at Bloomingdale's. It could be about anything. And that is exactly the way I want it to function, because some other readings would be right. But the reading that I wanted to give into the work is very subtle, it is not about confrontation, it is about being accepted, and then, once you accept these things to your life then I say to you: "But I just want you to know that this is about this" and then it is already too late, it is already inside the room.? ? The work is extremely unstable. But that is one thing that I enjoy very much. I enjoy that danger, that instability, that in-between-ness. If you want to relate it to a personal level, I think in that case that the work is pretty close to that real life situation that I am confronted with daily as a gay man: a way of being in which I am forced by culture and by language to always live a life of "in-between."? ? …And at the same time, the work is almost like a metaphor because you cannot destroy something that does not exist. The same applies to the billboard; it just disappeared but will come out again in a different cover, in a different cultural, historical context.? ? #felixgonzaleztorres #museuminprogress #portraitsofartists

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