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filmscanners: TOtally OT: re copyrights

< Since this post is mostly "FYI" coupled with a short "editorial," feel
free to delete at any time. ;-) >

A news item of passing interest appears in March 2001 "Art in America" (last

It seems that pop artist Barbara Kruger is being sued for copyright
infringement by German photographer Thomas Hoepker, and (in a seperate
suit), for invasion of privacy by Hoepker's model, Charolette Dabney, in US
District Court, New York City.

For those not familiar with Kruger's paintings, she often takes clips from
1950-60s magazines and blows them up directly, half-tone dots and all, to
3'x6' proportions ala Warhol/Lichtenstein, adding clever political comments
of her own (usually of a feminist persuasion). Her work is interesting,
well-done, amusing and thought-provoking, although probably more so as
"political commentary" than as "art" with capital letters.

Kruger's defense lawyers are arguing a "lapsed copyright" rather than the
still-hazy "fair use" doctrine, so the case will have little if any
implications on the latter issue. Seems that the  copyright had run when
Kruger picked up the clip, and was then arguably in the public domain, but
the copyright was renewed before she finished and exhibited her painting in
1990; so almost any decision by the courts could result in further muddying
of the waters, and "bad law" in general. The defense has, naturally, moved
for dismissal on grounds the case has no merit.

While I know that many members of Filmscanners are photographers and
probably take a dim view of someone making paintings of their published
pictures, it's my thought that only an idiot or a lawyer could try to make
the case that a painting, done in oil, enlarged to the point of caricature
and further enhanced by the artist, would constitute a "reproduction" in any
commonly-understood meaning of the word. In fact, if I were Herr Hoepker
(which I am not, BTW), I'd be secretly pleased that a painting based on my
photo appeared in a New York gallery, and would be suing for Photo Credit
and a small piece of the action, not copyright infringement! A small matter,
to be sure, but a nice ego trip. :-)

Anyway, that's my take on it. If anyone wants to comment, it would be best
to take it off-list (not you, Laurie--we've already covered that ground! ;-)

Best regards--LR

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