Tuesday 27 November 2012

A lesson in copyright

I came across an advertisement for an upcoming seminar which may be of interest for artists who want to understand more about copyright than what they can learn from this website [if that is possible!] .

Offered by the Art Insider, the seminar entitled "Understanding copyright and IP" will take place on 7 December in London.

The Art Insider, which was founded this year, describes itself as "a forward-thinking company providing bespoke mentoring, group seminars and a comprehensive range of associated services for visual artists. We are a friendly team of practising visual arts specialists, dedicated to facilitating the professional development of artists and supporting the progression of studio practice. We provide artists with the knowledge, skills and confidence to navigate more successfully within the fine art industry...The Art Insider exists to bridge the gap between studio practice and successful commercial enterprise."

Their website advertises a range of seminars for artists from 'Business skills for artists' to 'Setting up and launching an exhibition.'

I cannot guarantee anything about the course or the provider, but would be interested to hear from anyone who attends the seminar, or who has any experience of the Art Insider – which looks like a valuable resource for artists.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Was the Olympic Opening Ceremony original?

The London Olympic Games opening ceremony in July was declared a triumph, with its director Danny Boyle tipped for a knighthood. Most should recall that the opening feature of the ceremony a rural scene including a spiral mound based on Glastonbury Tor, a lake and a water wheel, a farmhouse replete with live animals, and a model village with actors portraying villagers, football and cricket players.
Now that the dust has settled, however, a claim has emerged that this part of the opening ceremony was copied from a design submitted to a London 2012 art competition.

The Telegraph reports:
[Lee Merrill Sendall] submitted his design for Large Spiral Mound in 2009 to the Artists Taking the Lead competition – a joint initiative by Locog, the organisers of the Games, and Arts Council England (ACE) to fund 12 regional projects where artists could create an Olympic legacy.

Mr Sendall, 42, from Hull, was shortlisted for the £500,000 prize for his proposal to build a 200ft spiral Neolithic mound in East Yorkshire, representing the ancient history of the United Kingdom.

One of five finalists, in October 2009 he presented his proposal to a panel of judges including officials from Locog and ACE, with illustrations, a slide show and a written brief. He also provided judges with a set of postcards featuring the images.

Mr Sendall said: “When I saw pictures of models presented by Danny Boyle and his team for the opening ceremony, I was stunned at what appeared to be a copy of my proposal. “On the night of the opening ceremony, I received messages from relatives and friends asking if Danny Boyle had permission to use my idea. “Too many of my concepts and visuals appeared in the ceremony to be shrugged off as coincidence. I would have liked to have been asked if my ideas could be used and I would like proper credit for the project which I put a lot of work into.”
Mr Sendall is said to have sought legal advice, but is unlikely to pursue a claim given the costs involved. It appears that he is speaking out now with the aim of receiving some recognition of his ideas.

Unfortunately, as many of us know, copyright protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Additionally, copyright infringment requires copying, which has been denied by Locog in a statement which said: “Danny Boyle was not involved in the Taking the Lead programme, which was funded by the Arts Council, and would not have seen any of the submissions...Danny’s vision for the opening set for the Olympic Games opening ceremony was inspired by the very well known Glastonbury Tor landmark and British history.” Locog also reportedly told The Art Newspaper: "The vision was Danny Boyle's and his only."

Source: The Telegraph, 18 November 2012
Photo:  BBC

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Challenge to sale of Paolozzi sculpture?

While Tower Hamlets is selling its public artworks, Camden Council is reportedly planning to challenge the of a statue by sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi.
The statue has been on public display in central London outside an office block in High Holborn for 25 years. It is said to be based on a self-portrait of Paolozzi, featuring him as the Greek God Hephaestus. It sold at auction for £140,000 on 14 November.

The Camden Council has reportedly says that the sculpture was removed without the correct legal permission and that despite the sale, they will fight to get the statue reinstated. The Camden New Journal reports:

A Town Hall spokeswoman said: “The council is very concerned about the removal of this statue from the building. We are exploring whether we have any powers to compel the owners to retain the statue in its position.”
The 20th Century Society’s [a leading conservation body who also oppose the sale] conservation officer Henrietta Billings said the statue must be returned. She added: “He is one of the UK’s most important 20th-century artists.

"While a private commission, it is very clearly built into the front facade. There is a space for it and it isn’t small.”

The expert added that its removal – it was taken away over the weekend – could break planning law because although the building is not listed, it is in a conservation area.

She added: “It is an integral part of the streetscape. It has been whisked away without any discussion. It may be private property but it is public art in a public area.

"They should have sought planning consent. If we were to lose this, people will look at its aesthetic and historic value in years to come and wonder why it wasn’t saved.”

Source: Camden New Journal, 15 November 2012

Monday 19 November 2012

Decision to sell Henry Moore sculpture criticised

The decision by Tower Hamlet's mayor to sell a sculpture by Henry Moore has outraged many. The sculpture was sold to the borough by Moore himself in the 1960s for only £6,000 (much less that market value) on the condition that it was permanently displayed in an underprivileged area for the enjoyment of people in that area. However, the mayor ignored recommendations that the sculpture not be sold, stating that the money raised would ease the £100 million government cuts in their budget.

Moore's scultpure: Draped Seated Woman
The Guardian reports that this decision is latest in a growing list of public artworks being sold by councils, and experts fear that more councils may follow suit: "Last year, Bolton Council sold seven works of art, including two etchings by Picasso and a painting by John Everett Millais, and Gloucester city council approved plans to sell 14 works of art valued at £381,000. In the same year, Newcastle City Council put £270,000 of publicly-funded artwork for sale on eBay and Leicestershire County Council made more than £160,000 after selling off some of its art collection."

As well as the concerns for public art, the decision also raises the question as to the efficacy of sellers of artworks seeking to impose conditions on buyers. In this case, Moore's intention in selling the work at a low price was to allow the people of Tower Hamlets to benefit from the work. Decades later, however, the buyer does not appear to be at all concerned that it is restricted in any way from dealing in the work.

Source: The Guardian, 7 November 2012
Photo: Wendy North © 2010

More Meme, More Problems

Earlier this year when elderly parishioner Cecilia Gimenez "restored" the Ecce Homo fresco at her church near Borja, Spain, she never could have predicted the internet sensation it would become. By now our readers are likely familiar with the Ecce Homo, lately more commonly known as "The Monkey Boy of Borja." Gimenez's restoration attempt unwittingly succeeded in making a deteriorating fresco of Jesus look like a monkey. Some might consider her action vandalism (whether Gimenez had permission to paint on the fresco and the scope of that permission are not entirely clear). Still others, including some of our readers, have pointed out that her finished work differs so markedly from the original as to likely endow her with copyrights in the piece.

Images of the restoration inspired a thriving internet meme, spreading from news articles, to blogs, social media, and humor websites. It didn't take long before people, seemingly inspired by the absurdity of it all, to make pilgrimages to see the the Monkey Boy painting in person. Visitors to the church increased exponentially, and the church now charges admission. As The World reports, Borja recently experienced a flood of tourism, and the financial benefits of Gimenez's work flow well beyond the church to neighboring businesses. Enter merchandising--the Monkey Boy internet sensation has of course inspired consumer goods of all kinds, including Halloween costumes and Christmas ornaments. It is unclear whether this merchandise was created with permission, especially because Gimenez and the church now dispute ownership of the work, creating further questions about who could give consent to reproduce the image. Gimenez is reported to have hired attorneys to help assert her rights in the work (and the profits therefrom), yet the church argues that it owns the piece and profits therefrom because it is on the church's wall. Another question looms, and that is whether any royalties to Gimenez would be considered profits from a crime.

Surely, the situation with Ecce Homo presents many legal and ethical questions. Still, I have to stop and appreciate the fact that what started as an internet meme has brought people out from behind their computer screens to go see a work of art in person, however unusual that work might be.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Australia's new superannuation laws threaten art prices

It appears that the Australian art industry is feeling the first effects of changes in Australia's superannuation laws.

Under the changes self-managed super funds (SMSF) investing in collectables and personal use assets are subject to tighter rules as to how such collectables and personal use assets are stored and valued. In the context of the legislation, such collectables and personal use assets include artwork, jewellery, antiques, artefacts, coins or medallions, postage stamps or first day covers, rare folios, manuscripts or books, memorabilia, wine, cars, recreational boats, memberships of sporting or social clubs.

The new laws, which came into force on 1 July 2011, inter alia provide that:
  • these items cannot be stored in the private residence of a related party of the fund;
  • the fund must have written records in respect of decisions as to the storage of these items;
  • these items must not be used by related party; and
  • the transfer of an asset to a related party requires independent valuation.
It was predicted that the new laws would lead to the liquidation of art collections by SMSFs – who have until 1 July 2016 to bring their assets in line with the new rules or dispose of them. The AFR reports on one of the first skirmishes as follows:
"Sydney dealer Martin Browne last week forced the withdrawal of five works by Giles Alexander from Mossgreen’s Sydney sale of the contemporary collection of opera director John Wregg and his partner, artist manager Judith Alexander, on Sunday.
Browne did so by exercising Alexander’s copyright in images which had already made it into Mossgreen’s sale catalogue.
And he made the move because the Mossgreen estimates, which ranged from $500 to $3500, were “10 to 15 per cent” of the gallery prices set for the 37-year-old artist, who recently had his first show at London’s Fine Art Society, and whom he began to represent four months ago, he says.
“A low estimate gets people in, particularly if they are looking at the gallery prices,” says Browne, who had a number of artists – including McLean Edwards, Alexander Mc¬Kenzie and Tim Maguire – among Sunday’s 203 lots.
“Contemporary works should be held a minimum of 10 years, then sold judiciously, not just dumped on the market, at a loss in many cases.” ...
The sale in Sydney’s Queen Street, Woollahra, moved only about 60 per cent, on both volume and value, totalling $250,000, including buyers premium, against a pre-sale estimate of $330,000 (without). It also included eight unsold Susan Norries.
It follows the sale of 120 works from Melbourne Aboriginal dealer Bill Nuttall’s superannuation fund through Bonhams in May on estimates slashed to beat the anticipated rush as collectors moving to comply with the superannuation changes. “We are facing a potential tsunami of material being forced onto the market by the changes,” Browne says."
It remains to be seen whether this prediction proves accurate.

Source: Australian Financial Review, 1 November 2012

Friday 2 November 2012

Resale royalties in the US: you can still influence events ...

Readers of this weblog may have missed the call (reported here) by the United States Copyright Office for submissions and evidence regarding artists' resale royalties from countries and indeed from anyone -- including artists -- who has had some experience of droit de suite schemes that are currently operating.  The call for submissions was to have closed next Monday, 5 November, but the effects of Hurricane Sandy have resulted in that deadline being shifted back to 5 December.

The original call for submissions is here; the notice regarding the extension is here.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Ai Weiwei to repay money to supporters

Following the loss of his appeal in his tax case (reported here), Ai Weiwei has reportedly started to repay the money that was sent to him by his supporters when the Chinese authorities imposed a $2.4 million penalty for unpaid taxes and fines (as we reported here) on his company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd.

At the time, Ai reportedly said that he would not treat the money from supporters as donations, but as loans that he would repay. He has now said that said that "We have no more options to keep trying. We've done what we could, and the court's decision has been made. So we should repay the money."

Source: The Associated Press, 31 October 2012