Tuesday 23 September 2014

Open Art

One of the most inspirational comments I noted from the pronouncements of the UK's newest intellectual property minister, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe in an early interview was this:
"I want an idea protected, but I want its light to inspire others. "
 The difficulty is defining the line between inspiration and copying and how far an artist or craftsman should restrict access to their ideas. To some extent this is the prerogative of the craftsman. If you keep your art secret then no-one will be inspired.

Walking along a Montreal Street the other day, I encoutered a notice in the window of one gift shop.
"Out of respect for the artisan's copyright, photography is forbidden"
Now inside there would have been contractual consideration for forbidding photography, but this was a display visible to me as a passer by. Out of respect I choose voluntarily not to let you be inspired by the techniques displayed for combining yarn and pottery by showing you a snap. For more thoughts on incidental art photography see Sally's musings here.

My original selection of bands and bloops in the Quadzilla design
Sometimes inspiration is what makes a product fly. RAINBOW LOOM from Choon's Design LLC has inspired both me and hoardes of 8 year old girls to enjoy the creative delights of making and sharing bracelets made out of plastic bands. These would not have taken off, but for the ability to photograph and share instructional videos. Choon's made some but now many more addicts have created and shared their own designs. These often come with dire warnings such as
"Copyright © TutorialsByA, 2014. Please do not copy, remake, or redistribute this tutorial or design."
This is presumably to protect the income YOUTUBE  voluntarily offers them for making a popular video. Others impose no restrictions and are happy to share and delight in the copies and adaptations made by their fans on their facebook pages. The latter help to propagate the principles that addicts need to explore the possibilities of this toy. So how does the law protect the natural teachers who are happy simply to see their videos watched and their ideas propagated from the fulminations of the protectionist designers who seek profit from their work? An artist or craftsman should surely have the freedom to choose whether he teaches or not. However the battle lines can be drawn when a natural teacher is inspired by the work of a protectionist artist. In this area copyright can become a nightmare, even if we have discerning judges in accessible courts as we do in the UK, the damage can be done in social media harassment that creates untold distress and may even cause an artist to shut up shop.

Do we as lawyers have a duty to rein back the overly enthusiastic user of copyright to allow the light of inspiration to shine through and do we need to use the social media, or only those accessible courts for the purpose?

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