On Copyright

NOTE: I wrote this in response to an article I read on Huffington Post re copyright and creativity.

As a visual artist who uses the internet extensively to market my work  - copyright is an important topic to me. I also license my art for manufacturers. Naturally my claim to the copyright of the works I license is what makes that process lucrative. If I didn't hold the rights I couldn't license the work. While I understand the benefit of a culture infused with available materials to foster creativity I cannot agree that society at large has any inherent entitlement to my work.


As an artist I've certainly been inspired by the creative works of others. I've even borrowed concepts or figural poses from photography or classic paintings to recreate in my own art in my own vision. I would never however include for example prints of another artists images in my art - and certainly not without express permission. (The merit of collage as a modern art form is outside the scope of this commentary)


The reason I wouldn't do this is partly personal artistic integrity (I want to share MY art with the world not someone elses art) and partly control. That word, control , seems to be considered almost foul language in this discussion of copyright. And I think that is a mistake.


I believe in the rights of the individual and I believe in the rights of ownership. If I have poured my heart and soul into a painting - I've birthed it - it's MINE. I get to choose how that image is used - how it is controlled. I can choose to display that image on my website - and offer it as prints to collectors. My displaying it on my website does not constitute permission to distribute the image or even to save it to your hard drive.


Nor does anyone have the right to take my image crop it - change it a little - incorporate it into their art and then claim it as their own. That's called stealing. Nor is it okay if they credit me. It doesn't excuse the stealing if they user "gave me credit". God I hate that defense. Hey Guess what - you don't deserve accolades for NOT LYING. The fact is giving me credit and linking to my site isn't the point. The fact is I have the right to tell you NO you may not use my art. I also have the right to set up a company to handle the licensing and usage of my art well after my death and I have the right to deem that future generations of my family can benefit from that.


Why is intellectual property treated so differently then "tangible"? How is this concept any different from a family home? If my great great great grandfather built a house and passed it down to the subsequent generations would people be clamoring for us to create laws forcing families out of their ancestral homes just because they've all lived there too long? Of course not.


The problem in this situation is really a cycle of abuse and greed. We need to educate the public on how to view intellectual property. How to not steal and use things appropriately. We need to educate people on how to find affordably licensed content that they CAN use cheaply or freely in their own creative collaborations and projects. And we need to make it safe and lucrative for people who wish to create such content to do so and have it be worth their time.


So while this former card carrying blue haired punk rock anarchist can see why people like the idea of being able to mooch off of the creativity of others as much as they want for free the fact is I for one grew the hell up. I developed my skills and I create my own art. Thank God for copyright. I've got bills to pay.