Wednesday 14 March 2012

Art and Copyright: a new edition

If any book is described as having "missed the bus", those words are usually taken as a reproach to the author or publisher. In this case, however, we have the reverse situation -- it is the bus that has missed the book.  It is with deep regret that I must acknowledge that the "red bus" manipulated photo copyright infringement action in Temple Island Collections v New English Tea (see here, here and here if you are a recent reader of this weblog) came too late for analysis and inclusion within the excellent and enjoyable second edition of Simon Stokes' Art and Copyright, which was handsomely published by Hart last month. Simon, if you don't already know of him, is a partner in the London office of Blake Lapthorn, a Visiting Research Fellow at Bournemouth Law School and, though this isn't officially written down anywhere, a true enthusiast and a nice guy.

The publishers set out the stall for this new edition by describing it as follows:
"In recent years the intellectual property protection afforded to works of art has received increased attention from artists, museums, galleries, auction houses, publishers and their professional staff and legal advisers, as well as from those teaching or studying copyright and/or the law of cultural property. This was the first text to examine in detail the intellectual property rights protecting artistic works and artists' rights generally in the United Kingdom. 
First published in 2001, Art and Copyright has established itself as a leading text in the field. Now revised and updated, the second edition includes expanded coverage of Artist's Resale Right and the relationship between designs law and artistic works, as well as greater coverage of new media and art, and digital developments generally. It also includes additional precedent materials and checklists. It remains an invaluable work for all those involved in art law and for intellectual property lawyers involved with the exploitation and/or sale of artistic works, as well as for intellectual property academics, researchers, law students, curators, publishers, artists, gallery owners and all those interested in how the law protects artistic works".
Inevitably, given that copyright to a large extent is a "one size fits all" concept, any book on copyright and art must make regular references to cases that involve copyright but not art, and indeed to materials that are focused on neither copyright nor art but which affect that topic. Here the author's peripheral vision enables him to trawl the wider area of intellectual property for data that sheds light on his chosen topic. This is one of the book's greatest strengths: anyone coming to the subject for the first time will learn a good deal about intellectual property in general, in an indirect and fairly painless manner.

The book can however be improved.  For one thing, many of the footnotes contain content which is, in my opinion, interesting and important enough to gain promotion to the main text; it's a shame to leave it down at the bottom of the page where readers might miss it. Secondly, the footnotes as a whole are a bit of a pedant's paradise: they would benefit from some nitpicking (this is something that most readers are probably oblivious too, but I just can't help noticing ...). But none of this detracts from the fact that this is an entertaining, thoughtful and (for a legal work) affordable work by an author who continues to enrich the literature on this subject.

Bibliographic data: publication date February 2012. Paperback, xliv + 261 pages. ISBN 9781849461627. Price £35. Book's web page here.

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