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Re: Copyright

It is true that many of us have had our work used by others without
permission. I would advise all artists, however, to make a reasonable
effort to mark your work, especially your papers. Sometimes we shoot
ourselves in the foot.

An example: Several years ago I worked for a small West-coast publisher of
art and literature books. I spent years coaxing the publisher into doing a
series of contemporary poetry. I got a poetry-loving designer to give me a
huge discount on a design that we could reuse, and the poets did their work
for royalties but no advance. I had our printer watch for paper sales for a
particularly nice archival paper. In order to save money on the cover
printing, the designer and I decided to use a piece of marbelized paper I
had purchased in France 9 years earlier. We had a 3-color separation made
and planned to use the same separation for each book, changing the colors
to alter the marble colors for each cover. Our plan was to publish two
volumes per year, editions of 1,500 copies in paperback, each signed by the
poet, and priced at $9.95. Anyone who knows anything about book publishing
knows what an incredibly difficult task we had. It was a labor of love.

The decorative paper had no copyright markings on it. The reverse side had
no notations anywhere. There was no concievable way to find the artist. I
even contacted the shop in Paris where I bought the paper, but was told
that they got papers from all over the world and that it was silly to worry
about copyrights on decorative papers because (at least in Europe) hand
marbeling is done in shops by crafts people who would laugh at being called
artists. To the shop owner, that was a degree of artistic preciousness even
she could not stomach. Eventually I gave up.

Sure enough, a couple of years into publishing the poetry series I got a
letter from a US artist accusing me of stealing his paper and making money
off his hard work, asking for thousands of dollars, and threatening to sue.
Puzzled, I went back to the paper and looked unsuccessfully for any
markings. I tried to explain the story to the artist and asked for paper
samples so I could somehow verify the validity of the claim. The artist
wouldn't comply. I asked for some indication that the guy even did
marbelized papers at all. No, he was important enough that he didn't have
to prove anything. I sent him an accounting of the sales of the book and
offered an honorarium just to close the issue. No, he was too important for
that nonsense; he wanted thousands, even though the books had never broken
even and were being published only for the love of poetry. We were planning
a limited edition of a different book later that year, so I offered to
contract the artist to do papers for that project. No, he wanted his
thousands and he wanted them immediately. I preferred to fight the case
because of its absursdity, but we eventually settled the case (for $250),
burned the remaining books, and stopped the poetry series.

While certainly different from Iris's case, where the publisher seems to
have tried to get away with using her copyrighted designs, there are still
lessons here. Artists have every right to protection as well as pride in
their work, but we should be responsible enough to mark our work
permanently. The publisher I worked for was a great friend to the artist
book community and routinely published works that otherwise would never see
the light of day. He was a trained photographer and painter himself. If we
had indeed used the artist's paper (which I don't believe for a minute) it
was clearly unintentional and deserved understanding. Instead, the mandarin
haughtiness and unwillingness of the artist to be reasonable cost the world
access to some incredible poetry. The artist missed the chance to
participate in the series in the future and missed a very large commission.
The costs were too high.

B. Jeppson

On Tuesday, September 28, 1999 8:57 PM, Iris Nevins [SMTP:IrisNevins@COM
> PS.........
> Not only can you register in batches, but I learned that slight
> s
> are covered as well. For example, one of my Moire (Wavy Spanish shading)
> patterns was used on a book cover, but I had only registed a regular
> Spanish pattern (straight diagonal shading). They considered this a
> variation on the original and I collected my fee once they knew they
> cornered.
> Also, color is not copyrightable...so if someone takes your artwork and
> color alters it, as long as you can prove it's yours that works for you
> s
> well. People will change scale and go smaller or larger as well these
> days.........this is all covered under your copyright.
> I.Nevins
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