Copyright laws help institutionalize greed and perpetuate an inflated sense of self-worth on the part of the creator or artist. Any true and original work will be revered and respected by the public with proper attribution to the creator. While copyright laws are necessary for the unauthorized reproduction of a creative piece for the purposes of generating a profit, most copyright laws should cease when the creator dies.
Copyright laws are stupid
So why am I ranting over copyright laws? Like so many institutions developed centuries ago our modern society has relegated the overly restrictive nature of copyright laws to the age of dinosaurs. Just like print newspapers and cable T.V. are withering with diminishing consumer demand from the internet, so are the expansive restrictions of copyright laws are being rendered antiquated by new modes of communication. Many copyright laws only serve as a brick wall to the sharing and enjoyment of works of art by the public.
Copyright free art
I respect what others have created. If I use stock photos on my website, I pay for them. If I use images or text in the public domain I attempt to give proper attribution to the original creator. But after I started my website several years ago I became mystified over the apparent disconnect between those who wanted to copyright every image under the sun so it could not be reproduced and the emerging ubiquitous use of social media that tosses images of art out into the public space like ripping open a feather pillow on top of a windy mountain.
Create your own art and share it
Instead of paying for stock images for my website blog posts I decided to take my own pictures and use them. Now I have thousands of pictures on my website and they have been downloaded thousands of times by viewers. Some of the visitors to my website use not only the images that I have created, but also the text I have written in their own work. After some good long thought about branding my images or appending all my writing with a caution of “Death to ye who appropriate without permission” notice, I decided to give it all away.
Use my images, I don’t care
That’s right, no copyright. Use whatever you want from my website. I’m not like Getty Images trying to make a buck from every mundane and routine photo taken by some anonymous photographer so that I can resell them. Words are words. Occasionally I might write an analysis that is unique that no one else has offered. But if someone wants to acquire my conclusions and weave it into their own work, so be it. If someone wants to copy one of my photos and reuse it on their website, fine by me.
Words are to be read to illuminate the reader. Images are to be made to elicit a sense of emotion from the viewer. If you hide your light under a bucket no one will ever see it. (And with that last sentence the owner of new testament will sue me for using Jesus’ words without permission).
Andy Warhol forbidden
On a trip to the Crocker Museum to view an Andy Warhol exhibition I was politely asked not to photograph any of the prints on the walls. I’m sure this was a condition from the Warhol museum as they don’t want unauthorized copies of Warhol’s work out in the public unless they are making money from the images. Some of these artists and foundation would like to charge us just for remembering the holy images they created. But it is all a farce and a misdirected worshipping of dollars over people. Where does the artist’s ownership and control of the image begin and end? Why should anyone other than the original artist control the copyright to their work?
Who owns art?
If I commission a work of art or buy a piece already created by the artist, I can use its image any way I see fit. I can take pictures of it and sell them if I want. The artist no longer has any control. Similarly, I can take a picture of public art and post it to social media or print it on t-shirts and sell them. There is no copyright that prevents me from doing so. Art displayed in a public museum should be allowed to be photographed by the public for their own personal enjoyment. If the artist or institution doesn’t want the public capturing images of the art, it should only be displayed in private galleries.
Consumer demand for art
I appreciate the argument that creative works used for commercial purposes needs to compensate the creator for his or her work. This concept is particularly applicative for music and visual arts that are performed or broadcast over the public airwaves. The compensation helps the creator to keep producing. But how do you copyright a joke? People flock to YouTube and other social media sites to view snippets of performances. There is a demand for entertainment, some of which can be categorized as art. But you can’t stop someone from telling the joke to their friends, even if there is copyright protection.
Dont’ display or sell your creative works
The demand for the creative content is what keeps artists producing. If I buy a work of art for $1,000 it is mine to exploit. If I then sell the work five years later for $100,000 the artist does not share in my profit. If the artist wishes to retain control of all rights to the work, they should not sell it or put it on public display. The artisan furniture maker continues to make his or her art because it is in demand. If they never sold any of their chairs and forbid people to take pictures of their work they would be strangling the demand for their creations.
Museums and libraries hide important works
But our copyright laws further restrict the distribution of creative content. There are thousands of important historical photographs locked away in the archives of museums and libraries. The photographers are long dead. The public can’t benefit from the information contained in these photos, maps or works of art. The reproduction rights are coveted by the owners of the content to the impoverishment of public knowledge. The owners of the historical repository only want them released to the public if they can make money from it.
How much is your sunset worth?
The genesis for copyright laws is obviously money. But before the aspect of money enters the picture, the creator is driven to produce because of his or her love of the medium. Then the copyright laws come into play and distort the creative process. It seems as if everyone producing creative content is looking for an angle to copyright it and make money. These people want to produce art or content while establishing a barrier to the public to consume their art. I’m always amused when a photographer includes their name or copyright notice on a picture they post on Instagram. They think their photo of a sunset is so special they don’t want anyone else enjoying it unless the viewer knows who pressed the button on the camera.
How much should dead artists earn?
What about dead artists whose works are exploited today? Where is the copyright protection to pay their heirs. In Bugs Bunny cartoon “Long-Haired Hare” the illustrator inserted a reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy. This wonderful painting was again depicted in a Simpson’s episode called “Mom and Pop Art.” Was Rousseau compensated for the reproduction of his art?
Copyright should die with the artist
Once the craft person dies, so should the copyright. The artisan furniture makes no more furniture when he or she dies. The musician who dies makes no more music. Why should the person’s heirs or some corporation who owns these copyrights to the reproduction of the art gain financially? If those people want to earn money, they should do it the old fashion way – go produce something.
Don’t let fear and greed spoil your art
If you produce something special, you will be found and you will be compensated…eventually. But if you live in fear that some dolt like me might take a picture of your work of art and share on Facebook and you won’t earn a dime from it, please hide your creations in the closet. Social media has democratized art and allowed new artists to break into the field. The consumption of creative works has forever changed with the phenomenon of social media. Those who embrace the new public venue for consuming art will be rewarded. Artists who cling to outdated concepts of copyright protections will be marginalized.