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MTAA-RR » news » twhid » artificial legal add ons to art:

Jun 19, 2007

Artificial legal add-ons to art

posted at 18:17 GMT by T.Whid in /news/twhid

MTAA have been supporters of Creative Commons since the project was launched. When we can, we release versions of art works with CC licenses and our web sites (both and have CC licenses attached to them. Our digital image ‘Manual Zoom Mirage’ was released under a BY-NC-SA 1.0 license way back in ‘03 (just a few months after the initial license releases according to Wikipedia). And our Simple Net Art Diagram has had various versions of licenses attached to it until we settled on the Attribution 2.5 license.

I say all this to establish MTAA’s street cred when it comes to artists engaging with the ideas that Creative Commons embodies. Also to contextualize where I’m coming from when I try to point out the deficiencies that CC may have for fine artists or how I think most artists of this ilk will respond to CC. Which brings me to this article by Paddy Johnson: Defining Moments at the Artist in Residence Panel. She describes the iCommons Summit 07 artists in residence panel, I’m interested in this part…

[…] according to [T.Whid], no work of art is made better for having a CC license applied to it. Now, this point is clearly debatable, and having observed just yesterday that I liked his work On Kawara Update better for the license I tend to think there are exceptions to this statement, as did a member of the audience who cited the same work. That said, I still suspect most artists would generally agree with his statement.

…in order to clarify my point.

An art work’s meaning will be changed by context. Making a work available via a CC license may change or augment the context of a work thereby changing its meaning somewhat to some viewers (make it better or worse). My point is that the vast majority of viewers of an art work will not notice this contextual shift — they have no idea what sort of copyright laws are being applied to a particular art work. Many of those that do notice will simply disregard it and focus on the traditional measures of an art work’s worth: the form, content, subject, etc. In some cases, drawing a viewer’s attention to the licensing aspect of a work of art may confuse the viewer — making their experience worse.

I personally would never measure a particular work’s value by its license — it wouldn’t even go into the mix. To me (unless the CC license is part of the content of the work) it’s simply a sort of artificial add-on. If I like an art work on its own merit and then notice it’s CC-licensed, I will think the artist is enlightened, but that’s just my opinion of the artist and not the work.

Think of one of your favorite art works. Do you know its license? Do you just assume copyright has been applied? Would you really think it was more [beautiful, intelligent, engaging, enthralling, etc] if the license changed?

Just as I posted this I thought I should explain what I mean by ‘artificial.’ Simply put, artificial in this context means something added on by outside influence and may or may not have any meaning or value vis-a-vis what the artist was trying to communicate in the art work. Some artists simply don’t care about copyright, etc but legal structures force these concepts onto their work anyway.

update 2
Rob Myers has a response. permanent link to this post

MTAA-RR » news » twhid » artificial legal add ons to art

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