Sunday 5 June 2011

Origami plagiarism: the plot unfolds ...

An example of Sarah Morris's art:
this is a coloured-in, unfolded work
entitled 'Black Beetle'. What is the test
of infringement?
ArtLyst has just reported that White Cube exhibitor Sarah Morris is being sued for plagiarism. According to the article,
"...  The multimillion-pound claim was formed in a group action by six international Origami artists . They have stated that Morris has copied their work by taking the patterns from published works blowing them up and changing the colours.

Morris who lives in both New York and London, has been presented with a lawsuit by the Spain, Italy, Japan and American Origami creators.. They have alleged that Morris's body of abstract work entitled "Origami", which consists of a series of 38 works are "coloured-in copies of their intricate origami representations of hummingbirds, grasshoppers and other animals, birds and insects, produced using the centuries-old Japanese craft of paper-folding" says their lawyer, Andrew Jacobson, who describes them as "some of the most renowned origami artists in the world today".

The federal lawsuit for copyright infringement will take place in Oakland, California, The case alleges that 24 works have been copied from works have been exhibited and sold without obtaining permission and crediting them. They claim that Morris has "created confusion" over the authorship of their designs and damaged their professional reputations. Morris's origami paintings sell for more than $100,000 (£68,000). Origami, as an art, has millions of enthusiasts worldwide. The designs by origami artists involved in the lawsuit, Manuel Sirgo Alvarez, Noboru Miyajima, Nicola Bandoni, Toshikazu Kawasaki and Jason Ku are easy to find in books, magazines and on the internet. ...".
This blogger is delighted to find such a fine example of art imitating law exams. In the Queen Mary, University of London, LLB Intellectual Property paper for 1987 the candidates were set a question which required them to consider whether a three-dimensional origami elephant was an infringement in the artistic copyright in a two-dimensional set of instructions for making it (this was before the passage of the current legislation in 1988: under the Copyright Act 1956, s.9(8) a three-dimensional reproduction of a two-dimensional work did not infringe "if the object would not appear, to persons who are not experts in relation to objects of that description, to be a reproduction of the artistic work". The Examinations Department was charged with the responsibility of providing 40 pink origami elephants for the candidates plus three further elephants for the use of the external examiners.

1 comment:

mathinker said...

I must admit to be fascinated by this case and dying to see if the US courts will find that origami crease patterns qualify for copyright protection.

The comment about the 1987 UK law exam leads me to believe that there would be little question that the crease patterns would qualify for copyright in the UK. It is interesting how copyright differs not only quantitatively but also qualitatively between various jurisdictions.