Archive for the ‘copyright issues’ Category

Copyright Issues – what’s in a name?

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Plenty – and on this theme a couple of things bother me at the moment, seeming to be on the very edge of being copyright issues.

Firstly, today I went onto another quilter’s blog and found the writer had posted a pic of a non traditional quilt top she had just made for her group’s “Gees Bend Challenge” For those who are in tune with the quilt world just now it is well known that a group of quilters from the very poor, isolated, southern Alabama township of Gees Bend are currently in the news. Their utilitarian quilts were ‘discovered’ a few years ago by an agent who introduced them to the art world which has gone crazy about them – books have been published, exhibitions are touring, coffee mugs, other souvenirs and nick nacks produced for sale; several law suits are now out there based over alleged agreements, or lack of them and other misunderstandings behind the current situation in which most of the quilters in that town claim they have had almost no financial/material benefit from all this attention. All the while big bucks are being paid for some of their works to intermedaries belonging to a certain family claiming to be acting as their agents, and also claiming to be working to bring about improvements in the lives of these quilters in this community. sounding rather paternalistic, too – but like most people, I really don’t know the facts behind it all, and the tangle will take quite a while to unravel in the US courts. What really bothered me that is that the name of this town/group has been used by a quiltgroup (on the other side of the world, no less) for a challenge that could just as easily and much more properly been called something like an” Improvisational Piecing Challenge”.

And the other thing that has always bugged me is how some people use the names of other (usually deceased) artists in the titles of their own works. Quilters especially seem to freely do this, with particular favs being Klimt, Klee and Huntderwasser (sorry H – not sure of the spelling of your name – forgive me) If you are claiming to be producing original work not copying anyone else’s designs, you may neverthless recognise that a particular artist or school of artists had some degree of influence in that work – and, let’s face it, we are all influenced by what is around us, and that includes all we experience in Life. If an influence is significant we should acknowledge it in statements or interviews; but to use someone’s actual name in the title of your (own?)work IMHO is just sleezy, and further, bone lazy. It has always been my contention that the best artist’s statement is a carefully chosen, apt title, which then leads the viewer into the work and encourages that viewer to engage with the work on personal terms that will vary from viewer to viewer. Yep, I’m picky.

Traditional and contemporary quiltmakers and textile artists still have a long way to go to get the hang of what copyright really means.

July 29th: below follows a series of exchanges between myself and two readers in which I feel the whole point of my post was missed, and remind anyone reading this that my first sentence refers to what IMHO are a couple of issues “on the very edge of copyright issues” – not that they are copyright violations. My intention was only to pose food for thought, and although IMHO the exchanges became a bit silly, and I became over pedantic perhaps – can’t resist it – nevertheless I have not removed or barred any comments, theirs or mine, being strongly pro free speech and anti most censorship. And the phrase “sleazy and just bone lazy” may have come across too strongly – water that down as you like, I still think it is a regrettable practice no matter how widespread.

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