Art and Copyright Use
In recent weeks Orlando has seen a rash of art thefts.
No, cat burglars haven’t broken into Orlando Museum of Art to heist their prized Nick Cave Soundsuit. But to the artists whose work is being scooped up without payment, permission or even prior knowledge of the usage, it might feel just as bad. And the important difference is that there’s no insurance on this kind of theft.
Whether it’s a national chain selling a T-shirt with a design suspiciously similar to one a local artist has already shown, or a local store lifting an artist’s drawing off his website to use throughout an ad campaign, or a political candidate in a recent election right-clicking a logo that a designer posted in his online portfolio, it’s … well, stealing.
Some aspects of copyright can be confusing. But the basis is quite simple: from the moment of creation, the artist owns the work she or he has made. Public display of that work does not put it in the public domain for anyone to use.
In one of the above instances, the artist phoned the infringer to negotiate a post-use license. Of course, once it was used without his permission it was too late for him to decide whether he wanted his work associated with this campaign at all. The “borrower” replied that since the artist “put it on the internet … it was ‘public domain’ and he could use it.” Then he hung up.
Is this contempt for the value of creative work, or is it just the seductively easy tools that technology places in all our hands? If we want a creative class to survive, as our city leaders say they do, we need to show more respect for design professionals.