Monday 4 August 2014

No copyright on milk crate?

On his Facebook page, the Melbourne artist Jarred Kennedy recently claimed that Hany Armanious' new artwork - a giant milk crate - looks similar to his sculpture, the 2005 McClelland Sculpture Prize entry.

Kennedy's post on his Facebook page

Last Wednesday, three public artworks were revealed by Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, including Hany Armanious' giant 13.7 metre high milk crate 'Pavilion', which the Sydney council decided to install in Belmore Park, near Central Station.

Armanious, whose giant crate is accused of infringing the copyright in Kennedy's work, is one of Sydney's most respected contemporary sculptors and a globally recognised talent. When Armanious submitted 'Pavilion' for review by Sydney's City Centre Public Art Evaluation Panel, it garnered praise from panel member Lisa Havilah, director of Carriageworks. She said that "Sydney is full of milk crates and there was something wonderfully irreverent about making one 40 times larger that people can enjoy in a park".

Kennedy sent a letter to the City of Sydney and to Amarnious with reference to the alleged copyright infringement. The City of Sydney responded with the statement that a copyright infringement needs some act of copying and Kennedy will have to prove that Armanious had previously seen his milk crate.

While the question of whether Armanious' blue milk crate does infringe upon Kennedy's intellectual property rights remains to be answered, this episode leads to the question of the extent to which the law will protect artistic originality. Adaptation and appropriation of previous works by artists have become increasingly accepted by the artistic community, as we saw already in some posts here and here, for instance, in the Cariou v Prince case.

Where do we draw the line between inspiration and imitation?

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