Tag Archives: Art

Art for IP’s sake

Google Miro logo

Or, rather, the opposite: Wendy Seltzer reports that a modified Google logo posted on April 20th, in the style of a Joan Miro painting and made in honor of the Spanish artist’s birthday, was removed after “his family and the Artist’s Rights Society asked Google to remove the tribute mid-day. Google honored theAmong the Bullrushes by Joan Miro request while saying that the logo did not infringe.”Obra de Joan Miro

Of course there is not even a breath of a trademark claim here, and evidently Google is just being sensitive — you don’t honor someone’s birthday (well, the anniversary of this birth — he died in 1983) by ticking off his family.

But what is it all coming to? Why do heirs of great men think their legacies are protected better by, one way or another, squelching any tribute to their works?

Creative license

David Donoghue reports on an interesting copyright issue blowing around Chicago, my home away from home:

The Chicago Tribune‘s Ameet Sachdev reported that an ongoing copyright dispute may be coming to a head at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street in Chicago, click here for the Tribune article. In the 1980s, Israeli artist Yaacov Agam was commissioned to create a sculpture for what would become the Stone Container building at 150 N. Michigan Avenue.* Over time, Chicago weather faded the work and the current owner hired an expert to restore the multi-hued work to its original look. Agam is unhappy with the restoration because he believes the colors were not restored to the exact shades he originally used. . . .

But Agam claimed to hold the copyright in the work and argued that the copyright allowed him to prevent the current owner from creating a derivative work, which Agam believed the restored or reconstructed work to be because of the changed colors.

Here’s another story on the controversy, from my old pal the Chicago Reader. This one jumped out at me, not only because of the Yaacov Agam part — whose much-better preserved work I walk past in New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal frequently — and the Chicago part (I went to law school there) and, naturally, David’s incisive coverage, but also, naturally, the issue at stake.

I had never thought of a restoration of an original work as a derivative work as such, though there is a specific statutory provision dealing with restored works. It doesn’t come that often, though — most works don’t get restored, and anyway copyrights in the U.S. used to expire way before those works that mattered enough to merit it needed to be restored. Not any more!

Bullish on royalties

The New York Post reports that the sculptor of the famous golden calf frozen in stampeding fury on lower Broadway — symbolizing the charge of capitalism in all its mammalian frenzy, its sinewy dynamism, its hirsute excess, its snorting effluvium — is suing Wal-Mart for exploiting his steely beast by selling pictures of it and, as the paper says, horning in on all the profit.

Whether it’s a copyright claim or, perhaps, something else, I’m skeptical. Can you enforce intellectual property rights in photographic depictions of a public monument or a feature of the built environment? I don’t think so. But I’m open to persuasion.

UPDATE:  This happened again, more or less, in 2009.  Carolyn Wright, of the Photo Attorney blog, has dealt with the issue a couple of times, as she explains here.  As Mike Masnick points out, no one ever seems to report what happened in these lawsuits, which usually more or less answers the question.

But that’s not good enough for LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®!  Because I love PACER.  The first case, as it turned out shlepped out for about two years until it was voluntarily dismissed (i.e., settled) in June of 2008.  Terms not disclosed.  The second one, filed in 2009 against Random House — the bull was charging across a book cover — was settled early in 2010.  (Free link to the docket here.)

The terms not disclosed there either, but they clearly didn’t include any change of the cover on the aptly-name work (see at right), which still shows Elmer snorting proudly.