Thursday, June 01, 2006

More Hot Air from Glassblowers

In a December 16, 2005 posting, I discussed a suit brought by Dale Chihuly against two other glassblowers. Mr. Chihuly's work, seen here at his website, may also be viewed at the Bronx Botanical gardens running June 25th through October 29th, and in some of Las Vegas's finest casinos. Today's New York Times has a front page (below the fold) story about the suit, entitled "Copycats, or Inspired by Nature? Glass Artists Face Off in Court?" While there are some pretty color pictures and some interesting information, the title seems to miss the essence of the dispute, although the story itself (by Timothy Egan) does not: that essence is the possible attempt by Mr. Chihuly to assert rights over techniques and style.

Mr. Chihuly's eminence in the field is unquestioned, even though he has not physically created works himself for 27 years due to a surfing accident (so West Coast!). He has 93 employees and a vigorous DVD market for films of his installations. While originality may not be an issue for his complex works, it is the scope of his claims that are the most troubling. This may be a case where a master mistakes himself for the art.


William Patry said...


Thanks for the breath of fresh air. One should of course never rely on a newspaper report, but from earlier stories too, there appears to be a lot of emphasis on unprotectibel elements, especially the way things are done, the type of accents, etc.

Mike Madison said...

I'm a "hot air" subscriber, partly because of the ugly personal acrimony that lurks in this case, and partly because the "how things are done" aspect of the dispute deserves the prominence that it is getting -- over and about the standard copyright focus on "what things were produced." But even hot air sucks up a lot of energy and may produce some interesting opinions before all is said and done. More at my blog.

William Patry said...

Thanks to the link to your blog; the fax is interesting. On the authorship point, Judge Leval's old district court opinion in Fisher v. Klein, 16 USPQ2d 1795 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) has some good discussion about sculptuors being able to employ assistants and still remaining sole authors

Anonymous said...

People will sue about anything and everything.