Ownership of art

I’ve never quite felt the supposed inherent ownership of my artwork that artists are “supposed” to feel. My mother hassled me for years to actually sign my paintings that hang in her living room, something that I’ve only recently begun attempting on a regular basis with marketing in mind.

Thus I’m interested in the implications technology has on the arts, even though my own three-dimensional works aren’t much effected by this. The ease with which information is printed, uploaded and shared on the internet presents a complicated new problem for copyright law. I was reminded of this today when TechCrunch posted an entry talking about a photographer — Lane Hartwell — who got her feelings hurt by not being cited in a video spoofing Silicon Valley. She subsequently hired a lawyer, and the video’s creators removed the spoof from the internet instead of dealing with a lawsuit. TechCrunch comments on the scenario:

    “Societal ideals around what constitutes ownership over art are changing. People who try to protect and silo off their work are simply being ignored. Those that embrace the community, and give back to it not only allowing but asking for their work to be mashed up, re-used and otherwise embraced are being rewarded with attention. At the core is a basic implicit understanding – if you want to be part of the community, you have to give back to it, too.”

Recently, the well-known band Radiohead ditched its label and began selling its new album on its own, allowing listeners to set the price. Other big-name bands followed suit by breaking from their record labels, labels that are quickly dying by ignoring online potential. A friend of mine in the Northwest runs a photography business taking pictures of newborns and children; she retains no rights the product, but gives ownership over her clients. This is in stark contrast to friends of mine here in Northwest Arkansas who feel it is their responsibility to archive the memories of their clientele — which, I must admit, is a noble way to look at retaining ownership, but it’s also becoming an archaic way of doing business in the digital world.

One of the first posts I made on this blog used an image from the website of an artistic photographer. My post was about a local exhibit of this person’s photographs, mostly of Hurricane Katrina’s gulf-coast devastation. The photographer saw that I’d used one of the photos from his website and complained to me, saying he keeps “a tight rein” on where his images end up. Not wanting any confrontation (and being quite new to the blogosphere) I removed the the picture. In retrospect, from what I now understand of blogs and images on the internet, I was not in the wrong. In fact, this was free publicity for this artist; he should have thanked me and offered me the use of any image from his website for review on The Aesthetic Elevator.

This photographer’s mindset represents the mentality of the old guard. If he doesn’t want his images used by other people on the internet, he’d best not post them at all. It’s worth noting that this is the only occasion where I’ve been asked to remove an image; most of the time I figure it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission, although once in a while I do ask for permission depending on the type of photo.

Adding: I added a link above to Lane Hartwell’s blog discussing her frustration with having her work stolen. She has some legitimate complaints not related to the video referred to by TechCrunch, but at the same time she seems to lack a bit of business savvy — these comments based on her blog entry — suffering from the same naivety of the old guard when it comes to images online.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

2 Responses to Ownership of art

  1. Pingback: LinkLuv: 22 April « The Aesthetic Elevator

  2. hello, je suis Azura
    J’ai trente-quatre ans .
    Mon travail assistante maternelle … Il est dit de moi que je semble une vraie pomme.

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