Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is the Grass Greener on the VARA side?

VARA disputes are uncommon, and so we are blessed indeed with two recent ones. The first, detailed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, involves Yahoo's1 Sunnyvale campus, near where I am I am hanging out this week in Mountain View. The second is from Chicago, and is reviewed in this article from the Sun Times.

Both disputes are even more unusual because they involve gardening or landscape art, neither of which are covered by VARA. It does seem to be the case, as Andy Warhol said that art is whatever you it is, although VARA defines art in a quite particular manner.

HT to Karen Lai and Peter V.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you thought of saying this yourself, Bill: bad art, bad law.

William Patry said...

I wish I had.

Anonymous said...

Can you patent, ops, copyright life forms? Now seriously, isn't there a problem of preemption? A federal judge would throw such a VARA lawsuit out the window, or...?

Anonymous said...

True, but VARA is a bad law regardless of the art. Anything in the moral rights tradition is bad. VARA is yet another portion of copyright law that is due to be up against the wall when the reform comes.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Moral rights are a priori good.

Tradition is irrelevant.

I would agree that some attempts at formulating laws to recognise and protect moral rights may be poorly executed and result in poor law, but that shouldn't tarnish the rights themselves.

An artist does have a right of integrity to their work, however this is a matter of truth, not property (intellectual or material), and certainly not monopoly.

Yahoo can otherwise do what the heck they want with their own property. What they can't do is publicly exhibit an unauthorised modification of another artist's work and misrepresent it as that artist's authorised work whether explicitly or implicitly.

Either Yahoo should remove the work entirely, or they should make it eminently clear that their modifications are unauthorised. Modifications that happen naturally, even if due to neglect, are a matter between the artist and nature (unless the artist has contracted for maintenance).

Moral rights are good, but that doesn't mean the art they protect will be good, nor that the law that attempts to protect those rights will be good.