‘Does your work getting ripped off make your blood boil?’ The Design and Artists Copyright Society’s question is a stark reminder that while digital technology makes it increasingly easy for artists to create and publish work, bypassing traditional routes to get ‘straight to the audience’, it also makes it easier for others to cut, paste and plagiarise that work. The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property notes that copyright ‘suffers from a marked lack of public legitimacy’ today. For the visual arts this problem has been heightened by digital applications, from Paint Shop Pro to Photoshop, promising to make Picassos of us all.
How do we judge what is original and excellent when work is freed up from the traditional institutions of the art gallery or the photo agency, and images are widely available online for all to use, whether simply by copying them, or by adapting and using them in ‘original’ work? The Gowers Review argues that by ensuring artists are rewarded, copyright ‘incentivises’ creativity. But might copyright sometimes act as a curb on creativity, stifling new ways of working in the ‘creative commons’? Arguably, the problem is not all that new. Harold Bloom’s ‘anxiety of influence’ thesis holds that authors and artists are always striving for originality against a backdrop of great works and past masters. What does today’s copyright debate tell us about artists’ relationship with their own tradition? And how should artists be rewarded for their work in a digital age?
communications officer, Progress Educational Trust; webmaster, BioNews
artist, writer and musician; finalist, Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4's 4 New Sensations
director of communications, DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society); implementation of Artist’s Resale Right in the UK: promoter, artists’ copyright.
independent review leader, government assessment, UK's intellectual property regime
programme manager, FuelRCA; artist and photographer
|Dr Shirley Dent
communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); editor, tlfw.co.uk; author, Radical Blake
Intellectual Property is a critical component of our present and future success in the global economy. The UK's economic competitiveness is increasingly driven by knowledge-based industries, especially in manufacturing, science-based sectors and the creative industries.Andrew Gowers, HM Treasury, 6 December 2006