©Bruce Metcalf 2014

 

After the recent ruckus about my “abstract crapola” remark on my Facebook feed, a number of interesting issues emerged out of the blizzard of outrage. I want to consider two of the more controversial of them. The first is that production craftspeople should be exempt from judgment. The second is that the advancing age of many makers has no relevance to anything whatsoever, and is politically incorrect to talk about. Well, I absolutely disagree with both propositions. In this essay, I want to look at the question of judgment. I will explore age in another essay.

 

One of the ideas that lurked in my Facebook thread was that production craft should not be subject to the same kinds of judgments as art. The logic goes something like this. The craftsperson who works in the production world is just trying to make a living, and he or she does so by making objects that cater to a certain clientele. The work must be appealing. Otherwise it doesn’t sell. Therefore, in a sense, the taste of the audience dictates what the maker produces. Being dictated by an audience, the work shouldn’t be judged by the same standards as art. There was a further, unstated, implication that the work shouldn’t be judged at all. Its success in the marketplace is the only legitimate measure.

 

I shouldn’t have to point out that the idea that work should never be judged justifies work that is inept, kitschy and in formidably bad taste. If your audience wants smiley faces made of Sculpey, that’s OK? You’re only filling a demand? This, of course, sets off a race to the bottom. The lowest common denominator rules.

 

I don’t think anybody in the craft community believes this is a good thing. Nobody wants to have their booth next to one packed with crappy smiley faces. You want to have good company that establishes a certain level of quality. That’s why experienced craftspeople shun mall shows and similar entry-level events. Low quality drags you down, and implies that you’re no better than the company you keep.

 

Luckily, there is a barrier to bad work in craft shows. It’s the jury. Everyone accepts the jurying process as a way to cull out the most egregious examples of bad taste and clumsy craftsmanship. Most makers are glad of it. So, let’s face it: as long as there’s a jury process, there’s judgment. Nobody who exhibits in a craft show is exempt. EVERYBODY is judged. And everybody agrees that this is necessary and unavoidable. So the notion that production craft should be exempt from judgment is completely false, right from the get-go.

 

But you could say that, even so, work on view at a craft fair should not be criticized the same way an art critic examine works of art. It’s simple, honest craft, and shouldn’t be subject to the same kinds of judgments that are applied to art.

 

Oh, really?

 

Let me cite five exceptions that almost everybody would agree with.

 

First, and most importantly, every self-respecting production craftsperson I know condemns knockoffs. Uniformly, people agree that the theft of a living maker’s designs is wrong. Theft is unethical. Perhaps more importantly, theft takes money out of the pocket of the person who originated the design. The inventor pays a price in lost sales every time her design is stolen.

 

Make no mistake, this is judgment. We look at the knockoff and judge whether or not it is sufficiently original. (In exactly the same way, we look at innovative work and perceive its newness.)

 

As I walked around the Baltimore ACC show, I saw four or five jewelers who had knocked off Pat Flynn’s curved bracelet. You know, the black turned-up bracelet with the tiny collar-set diamonds or the speckled gold onlay. He invented it years ago. I was surprised at the sheer boldness of these knockoffs. Don’t these people have any shame?

 

Unfortunately, there’s no way for the ACC to enforce a rule against design theft. It’s up to the originator to enforce his rights. I wish Pat Flynn was walking around the Baltimore show, handing out cease-and-desist letters from his lawyer. That would get those little cheats’ attention. And if they persist, then Pat should sue them. For many tens of thousands of dollars. Complainants have won big lawsuits with lesser cause. And it would take only one or two successful lawsuits to put a chilling effect on everyone who contemplates stealing from another craftsman.

 

There are two cases when theft is actually OK. The first is an homage, when the innovator is being honored by the imitation. In the case of homage, it is assumed that everybody knows where the design came from, and that it is being quoted respectfully. However, I have my doubts that homage would be so ethical in serial production. One, yes, Twice, maybe not. The second piece moves away from homage and towards profiteering.

 

The other case is when the innovator is long dead, and his heirs cease to have a financial interest in his designs. Nobody will get upset if you steal from the French Baroque, for instance. In fact, such referencing is a common practice in the art world, and everybody understands it as a way to place your work in a specific context. Quotation can also be used as a form of commentary. In the interests of full disclosure, I often quote works of decorative arts, sometimes quite literally. However, I never steal from a source that may still be subject to copyright protection. Most of my sources are more than a century old.

 

We are also attentive to matters of ethically sourcing raw materials. Is there anyone who condones the use of blood diamonds that fund brutal insurgencies in Africa? Does anyone think it’s OK to use endangered tropical hardwoods? Do we think it’s reasonable to use gold that is mined with processes that poison the environment and displace local populations? Most craftspeople find such practices unacceptable. Again, this is judgment. It concerns ethics, but it is judgment nonetheless.

 

The issue of ethical sourcing is related to sustainability. There is a great deal of interest these days in materials and processes than can be renewed, and that have a modest carbon footprint. Given the threats of mass extinctions and global warming, sustainability has taken on the cast of an ethical problem. Some people make judgments about it.

 

We often make judgments about craftsmanship. In many cases, evidence of poor craftsmanship is easy to see. In jewelry, if you see file marks on a polished surface, you know is bad craft. In furniture, if there’s a gap in a joint, it’s bad craft. If the edges of a weaving are lumpy and crooked, it’s bad craft. Everybody within a discipline knows the signs, and makes judgments all the time. Generally, we think good craftsmanship is better than bad, although exceptions are made in the cause of expressiveness and authenticity.

 

A subset of craftsmanship is durability. If a chair collapses, we can legitimately say it’s badly made. Ditto the pin catch that won’t close properly, or the fabric that frays too easily. These are all objective measures of performance, and I think we universally agree that craft objects that fail to work properly can be judged negatively. Who would argue with that?

 

I have enumerated five kinds of judgments that can be made despite the fact that work might be tailored to the marketplace, with the taste of its audience in mind: Originality, ethical sourcing of materials, sustainability, good craftsmanship, and durability. These are judgments that can be applied throughout the craft world, and I think most are not controversial. Again, nobody is exempt from judgment because they cater to the tastes of their clientele. Every maker can legitimately be judged. It is specious to claim that any maker should get a pass.

 

However, I need to stress that these are not aesthetic judgments. Four out of five are based on observable facts, not taste. One could argue that makers who work with the market in mind should be immune to aesthetic judgments, because those are matters of taste, not fact.

 

OK, let’s look at aesthetic judgments.

 

It’s obvious that a large number of production craftspeople claim to be making art. At Baltimore, I’d say that about a quarter of all exhibits were of non-functional work, and thus aligned with painting, sculpture, or the decorative arts. And a number of these makers claim to be artists. Just look at Myra Berg’s website: the very first word you see is “Artworks.” Yup. Myra claims to be an artist.

 

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, art has been the subject of commentary and critical scrutiny. Art and criticism go together, hand in glove. That’s the deal. You can’t evade it. Once you use the word “art,” you open yourself up to comparison with every artwork that has ever been done, and you open yourself up to negative judgments. (Positive judgments too, but nobody minds a compliment. We only get grumpy when it’s negative.) In my book, people who claim to be artists but who want to be exempt from criticism are frauds. I say: if you make the claim, take the responsibility.

 

I have said many times that fields are defined by their discourses. The conversations and arguments that occur within a field define it. For instance, because artists and critics no longer speak about beauty very much, beauty no longer defines art. (It used to.) Given the centrality of discourse to the field of art, it has become essential that the artist engage in the discourse. This is simply a fact of contemporary art, and has been so since the 1870s. One is expected to make a contribution to the ongoing conversation. A good artist speaks to the discourse. A bad artist pretends it doesn’t exist.

 

Discourse is always a back-and-forth, and criticism is an essential part of it. The artist puts her work in the public arena, which invites response – both good and bad – from the audience. Part of that audience is critics. Within the art world, it’s assumed that criticism can be quite harsh. Look at how French critics reacted to early Matisse: they called him a wild animal! That’s how we get the “Fauves.” The word was originally intended as an insult. Over time, the insult was co-opted as a badge of honor. The point is that criticism can be rough-and-tumble, with no quarter given. Artists know this. They also know that the best way to respond to criticism is with great work. You can also respond to negative criticism with counter –arguments. You simply marshal facts and logic that rebut the negative argument. Criticism is a process of claim and counter-claim, and sometimes the debates get very heated. Which, of course, makes it fun for the neutral observer.

 

Everybody in the art world accepts negative criticism as an essential part of the discourse. Unfortunately, this is not so true in the craft world. A culture of niceness pervades the crafts. You don’t publicly criticize your colleague. That’s bad manners. You might trash them privately over a beer after the show closes – and I know this happens all the time - but going public is bad manners.

 

As a direct result, it has been very difficult to start an effective discourse in the crafts. Everybody’s nice; nobody goes negative. But without the negative there’s no healthy back-and-forth, no true discourse. Assertions go unchallenged. Bad work is never criticized in public. Careful thought is never recognized, and bad thinking is never challenged. In the long run, the lack of strong criticism has hurt all of the crafts badly. Even the production crafts could profit from criticism, from good arguments. But public discourse rarely happens.

 

Make no mistake, the culture of niceness has its uses. One time, I was at the Philly Craft Show after closing time, when the roof sprang a rather large leak. Water was pouring into several booths, but the owners of the booths had left the building. Several other exhibitors dropped everything and sprang into action, They quickly moved all the threatened items out of the way, where they could not be damaged. I was quite moved by this selfless desire to help out. I find it laudable.

 

The desire to help is the upside of niceness. The suppression of debate is the downside. I just wish the field could mature to the point where people could still be helpful, but also be willing to be critical. And to endure it.

 

At any rate, my point is that once you use the word “art,” you must be available for criticism...even the harshest criticism. You have an obligation to join the debate, and there’s no way around it.

 

(In my Facebook comment, I was specifically referring to a kind of craft that claims implicitly to be art: non-functional, abstract compositions that are basically forms of painting and sculpture. These objects, clearly aligned with art, must be available to criticism, even if it’s rude.)

 

But what of makers who don’t claim to be artists? Shouldn’t they be exempt?

 

Now, I think there are different kinds of crafts, each with its own set of values and objectives. Studio craft with aspirations to art is one kind, production craft is another, trade craft and hobby craft are others. Borders are blurry, of course, but in the main you are looking at distinct fields. And I would also say that each field has its own determination of quality.

 

So, what do we think constitutes quality in production work? Nothing? We can’t find anything notably good in production?

 

I think we do. We value originality, as I noted already. And we value it highly.

 

Since I know production jewelry better than the other mediums, let me mention some living jewelers who are notable for their innovations. Pat Flynn and Ford & Forlano, whom I included in Makers. Reiko Ishiyama. Biba Schutz. Roberta and David Williamson. Petra Class. Lily Fitzgerald. Tom Herman. Jim Kelso. These are some of the production jewelers I admire most, and my admiration is widely shared. Everybody knows that these people developed a look that is entirely their own. Their style is unmistakable. Each of these jewelers developed their signature look slowly, over a period of years. Some have settled into their style, others continue to grow and change. Either way, originality is crucial.

 

I think anyone who follows production jewelry over the years knows who the innovators are. If you know the field, you know who makes the inventions. Even if a new idea looks weird at first, the astute observer will recognize it right away. Furthermore, observers keep something of a scorecard: who has made the most innovations?

 

For instance, Pat Flynn has invented a number of types: His black-and-white heart. His nail brooch. His nail bracelet. His black steel cuff, which is so widely imitated. Flynn has a long and well-known record of inventing new jewelry, and he is widely respected for it. With justification, I think.

 

Originality is a relatively modern virtue. In the middle ages, painters were rewarded for depicting religious subjects in a manner that was comfortable and familiar. The painters who first explored perspective and chiaroscuro were outliers. But eventually, as art developed a secular following, artists began to be rewarded for their inventions, not their conformity. The story of art since the Renaissance is largely the story of inventions, one after another. We all know the tale.

 

Most of us – the vast majority, I venture – value originality over imitation. Invention is incredibly hard. Copying is ridiculously easy. We all know it. Most of us pass judgments based on originality all the time.

 

Ultimately, even craftspeople who let the taste of their audience dictate their design decisions must be subject to the judgment of originality. It is possible to be inventive, and still give people what they want. Look at MPC players: nobody knew they wanted an iPod until Apple designed it. Then, millions wanted it. And it was brilliantly innovative.

 

So I reject the assertion that production craftspeople must be exempt from judgment. I can think of no reason to give anybody a pass. And I think most people agree, whether they care to admit it or not.

 

At some point, we all concede that judgment is necessary - in the case of jurying craft shows - and good - in the case of condemning knockoffs and rewarding invention. We all value good craftsmanship. Most of us hold to some kind of ethical standards.

 

I don’t know why some people are reluctant to separate the wheat from the chaff. I guess it’s the old democratic impulse: the desire to erect a big tent from which nobody is excluded. But here’s the thing: judgment does not push anybody out of the tent. It should encourage people to try harder. It should force people to think about how they, too, can get better, and maybe someday become one of the best. What’s wrong with that?

 

 

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Comment by Bruce Metcalf on March 22, 2014 at 2:59pm

You know, it's funny. I raised the issue of knockoffs as one of five ways that people commonly judge production work. The essay was about judgment, not copying. But people seized on the knockoff issue to the exclusion of everything else I wrote. Odd, I think. But the reaction proves that this is a very sore point, and a LOT of people feel they have been ripped off. (I have. However, my imitators have never threatened my livelihood.) The sheer unfairness of blatant imitation outrages people. And so this flood of complaints. But, really, I wasn't even taking a position on knockoffs in my essay. I was just saying it's a common point of judgment. 

Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 22, 2014 at 2:58pm

Yes, Bruce. I am ready but, as you said, one person has no impact. 

Just to clarify a previous comment from John Rose: I did not approach any organization about a policy on intellectual property or copyright. Part of the comment said, 

"Yes I understand that there are many grey areas, but for an organization like ACC (which is supposed to represent artists) to not have even a foundation for ethical or legal behavior is surprising."

"If anyone can tell me of a magazine or arts organization with a policy on intellectual property, please tell me."

So while I think that this and related topics to ownership of images etc. is definitely an area where arts organization could be representing the arts and crafts community in legislation and discussion....I haven't seen it. 

 

Comment by Bruce Metcalf on March 22, 2014 at 2:50pm

If you want SNAG, the ACC, NCECA or any other group to act on your behalf, you have to organize. (That word again.) Solo action won't work. You need a whole chorus of voices pestering the honchos to take action. If they hear from enough people, often enough, something will happen. If your goal is legislative, you have to mobilize people to visit your representatives, write letters, and generally be annoying. You have to be patient, because legislative reform takes years. Also, you have to have a VERY SPECIFIC goal. It's best to have the exact language in hand before your start. If you want to move beyond the p****** and moaning stage - where the craftworld has been stuck for 30 years on this issue - you must mobilize, and act in unison. Anybody ready? 

Comment by Brigitte Martin on March 22, 2014 at 1:31pm

On Intellectual Property

In response to

Can Production Craft be Judged?

- By Gabriel Craig

As usual Mr. Metcalf has penned a great essay colored by statements which reveal his age and modern worldview. Mr. Metcalf I agree with and applaud your assertion that judgment in craft is necessary and even productive. I would encourage you to be mindful that harsh criticism rarely, ‘force[s] people to think about how they, too, can get better, and maybe someday become one of the best.’ Criticism can be harsh, yes, but it need not in order to be instructive. Tone, delivery, and empathy are all things to keep in mind. However, you certainly don’t need any advice on writing.

The real reason I feel compelled to respond is that there is no one publically advocating a position contrary to the one you take on originality and intellectual property. It fact, Harriet Estel Berman has made much of what you say her crusade over the past few years. So, let me start by saying that egregious cases of intellectual property theft do exist, and that what I say below does not apply to a large retail chain knocking off a new and innovative design with only a pure profit motive in mind.

In our field I have far too often experienced the phenomenon of someone noting that a work is similar to that of another maker. This is typically accompanied by the unspoken assumption that the work is somehow lacking because it resembles another work. Recognition is an evolutionary biological development that allowed our ancestors to recognize dangers in their environment. We are hard wired to recognize even the smallest similarity, while subtle differences are easily overlooked. I was not at the ACC show, and I have no idea how much or how little the bracelets Mr. Metcalf mentions actually resemble the work of Pat Flynn. In general the practice of seeing similarity and passing judgment is an exercise in memory recall more than serious criticism. It is a discouraging and pernicious practice by professionals and educators to implicitly encourage students and others to innovate. Mr. Metcalf clearly points out this practice of seeing similarity and casting vague aspersions is not working well.

However, the panic about intellectual property theft that this article engenders is not proportional to the problem. I am forcibly reminded of the alarmist voter identification laws enacted in several Southern States over the past few years to prevent illegal immigrants and others from committing voter fraud. At first glance it seems to be a critical issue with an easy and clear-cut solution. While these laws were meant to prevent voter fraud, they inadvertently disenfranchised poor and elderly voters who did not have identification. This unintended consequence of the law was further complicated by reports that incidences of voter fraud in those states were negligible. Fear mongering was used to create political capital to enact a potentially unconstitutional law with murky motivations. I think we need to ask

ourselves how much money is Pat Flynn losing, and does that amount of money justify impinging on other craftspeople’s creative freedom? Personally, I think my creative freedom is worth several million dollars at least.

In assessing someone’s right to protect a design one should consider the level of innovation. I dislike being in the position to criticize Pat Flynn, whose work is well designed and well executed, but should Pat be the only jeweler in top tier craft shows allowed to make shell formed steel bracelets with diamonds? I don’t think the level of innovation is sufficient to deny every other maker the use of those materials in combination or the use of those techniques in combination. Perhaps an appropriate analogy would be Neil Young trying to enforce a copyright on a three-chord progression he used in a rock song 25 years ago. If he had the money and the desire to do it he could, but it is a tenuous lawsuit at best.

And to go further, the copyright laws in the United States are in dire need of reform. I would recommend Common as Air by Lewis Hyde and Remix by Lawrence Lessig as further reading from actual cultural and legal scholars on the subject. I firmly believe that intellectual property patents and copyrights should be a tool used only to protect short-term gains from artistic or intellectual innovation. Seven to fourteen years seems a reasonable term to me (and also the length of time suggested by Thomas Jefferson in the early 19th century). I have no sympathy for an artist or craftsperson who made some good work decades ago, who continues to make the same work for a quarter century, then is outraged by people appropriating part or all of it. Our broken intellectual property laws and the value system they have engendered has created a culture of entitlement which no longer incentivizes innovation, in fact it incentivizes litigiousness. It has ruined the software and pharmaceutical industries. The radio show This American Life has a two part podcast about just this issue: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/transcript.

If one truly values originality then it stands to reason that the many ‘cheats’ who copy Pat Flynn’s work would cause Pat to create new designs which are again innovative. Mr. Metcalf has even affirmed that this has indeed been the case. Pat Flynn should then be entitled to the fruits of the new designs, for a time at least. In Mr. Metcalf’s haste to proclaim that historical appropriation is okay since those designers are dead and can no longer profit from his appropriation he conforms to current US copyright law. The current laws have been written, rewritten, lobbied for and vigorously protected over the past 125 years by such reputable companies as Southern Pacific Railroad, Monsanto, Eli Lilly, Microsoft, etc. Our current intellectual property laws favor wealth accumulation by corporations over innovation.

And so the conclusion that I come to is that Mr. Metcalf’s quest for originality and innovation is better served by less restrictive copyright laws which would organically encourage makers and inventors to continue to innovate by implicit threat of diminishing financial return over time due to changing tastes and indeed, the manufacture of similar works. I would further suggest that artists who feel their intellectual property is being violated offer to license or collaborate with the violtors rather than litigate. In my view this offers the best practical chance to continue to profit from a design in addition to creating a productive relationship. I find it to be a vastly superior idea to that of trying to financially ruin someone else. Indeed this is the course of action an ethical person would take, if not the letter of the law strictly speaking. In the end, it is not enough align our practices with current US law, we need to understand the ethics and the underlying belief systems upon which these laws are based. And in a democracy when laws are out of date, in theory at least, we should change them.

Comment by Victoria Lansford on March 22, 2014 at 11:50am

My post from an hour ago that I didn't have a chance to upload at that moment. It addresses the larger picture of teaching and imitating artwork. Update: All hail changing the laws relating to EXIF! SNAG cutting edge relevant to the whole field? I'm in! (Would this mean I'm heard more than just b******* at the bar at the conference?)

Apple vs. Microsoft, 1994: the look and feel of a product are not copyrightable if bound by the limits of the technology. 

For us this means that anyone doing Michael Good inspired anticlastic forming isn't necessarily infringing because the results are bound by the same laws of physics, scale (if truly wearable), ways metal moves, and the tools invented so far. (Yes, hopefully people develop their own patterns to add originality.)
I only know Micahel slightly, but he doesn't appear to mind too much that people are bound to make his forms, given his committment to teaching his techniques. Perhaps it's because his work was inspired by Heikki Seppa's. I can't imagine how drab our process options would be if all the 20th metal-evangeleists hoarded their innovations and discoveries. 
Let me tell you a story that I hope you will find worth the read:
Once upon a time there was a single mom, making one of a kind work in the dead of night to support her young child and herself. She had to rely on galleries and boutiques to retail her work because this child didn't travel well. 
She also taught weekly classes and workshops but during that period had to keep things local for the sake of her child. After a time her large local following had taken all her general classes, Russian filigree, Eastern repousse, granulation, and chain workshops, often numerous times, so she began brainstorming ideas that other people might want to learn in order for her to survive as an educator. 
Besides eventually expanding her teaching repertoire, this mad scramble to create new classes and workshops did something even greater. It gave her permission to use her very limited working hours (who needs sleep?!?) for R & D time to pursue ideas in the back of her head and create a much deeper body of artwork that is unmistakably identifiable as hers.
Eventually, believing that more people wanted to learn what she had to offer than she could ever meet in person, she set up her own indie publishing company and little by little made her expertise available to anyone in the world with a DVD player (and soon just a tablet or computer).
After the first DVD's release she began receiving photos of people's first projects and was naively shocked to find people eagerly awaiting feedback on their copy of the project, a filigree heart.
Didn't she bend over backwards to explain to people they would do designs of their own? Didn't she use phrases like "in your design" over and over? You betcha, and still the filigree heart photos pour in. Why? Because we have a tradition dating back thousands of years to copy the masters in order to learn. 
People do filigree hearts like the one in the first DVD project because they believe it's what they are supposed to do. Ours is a DIY, make it for less, make it in 30 minutes, pattern oriented culture in which people have been so dumbed down and stripped of creative and critical thinking skills by our education system that few believe they are creative, but they are human and still driven to make stuff. 
The good news is that once they've done a few hearts, they're bored, have a little confidence, and are ready to move on to their own ideas in the technique. Now slam them with the attitude of this thread and we can all watch my income get cut by 1/3 to 1/2.
In case it's not painfully obvious, that once single mom is me [insert Frank Sinatra singing "I did it my way..." here].
Boris, do I think you ought to go after everyone who knocks him off? Yes!
Harriet, John, Caroline, and everyone listening, Should we mobilze and address the mass production rip offs of our work? Absolutely!
So I've put all this info out there on a far greater scale than most people teaching workshops. Do I get upset at the hundreds of people making filigree hearts? No, because I understand better than most the psychology behind how different people learn. 
It's more important to me that these techniques and my contributions to them live on after I'm long dead. I've found a way to support my family by sharing rather than hoarding, and it's made me a far more creative artist than I would have been otherwise. 
Now, did I get upset when right in front of me at a dinner party I gave, the owner of a high profile Seattle gallery asked my student (who flat out copycatted a fair amount) to have her lockets be part of an exhibit while while simultaneously snubbing my work, the original? You bet!!! As if making the postcard invite with her image didn't add insult to injury, the fact she was selling the work for 1/3 what I would have charged is what really got me. (Copycat and knock off.) 
Could I do anything about it? Not without looking like a jealous b****. Under the Apple vs. Microsoft case, I have no real claim. The concepts were all mine, but I'd made them readily available in my classes, and the student had changed the shapes just enough.
Here is a handout I've created to help students understand the issues of copying. It's inspired in part by Harriete's taking on this issue, a wonderful dissertation that a distance student, Stuart Griffiths, wrote about learning and homage in reference to my work, and a student in one of my recent workshops who just didn't get why she shouldn't rip off artist's designs from the web.
"When Is It Ok to Copy?"
If anyone would like to use it, please leave my copyright and contact info on it, or give credit if you quote part of it.
Comment by 2Roses on March 22, 2014 at 11:19am

Harriete I wish I had known that you approached (I am assuming) SNAG about this. I would have absolutely lent my voice to that effort, and still will.   The message here is strength in numbers. If enough of us communicate to SNAG or whichever arts organization you belong to, that advocacy is a PRIORITY, they will listen.

Harriete, you and I both know how sensitive SNAG and other organizations are to the wishes of their members. SNAG is constantly sending surveys and asking "what do you want from SNAG?" Let's tell them. 

Brigitte, Bruce, Gwynne you're all reading this and you have loud voices within our field. What are the substantive priorities for our members, our field and our organizations? What good does "branding" or one more exhibition, trunk sale or conference topic do us, when we have become completely disenfranchised from the real conversations that impact our daily lives and our field as a whole?

Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 22, 2014 at 10:53am

I agree that arts organizations like "ACC, SNAG, NCECA and all the other national organizations can and should represent us in these legislative matters. Laws are being passed by Congress that dramatically impact the arts and we do not have any voice in the formation of that legislation."

The arts organization could even have a policy on "intellectual property" but when I suggested this just a few days ago I was slammed down because the organizations are stretched financially and the limitations of personnel.

Still I think these issues are so important....that it is more a matter of priorities of the members and organization.

As John says, "It may start with EXIF data in your image, but it ends with laws that impact your ability to make a living as an artist" whether it is your actual work at a show, or images online.

Comment by 2Roses on March 22, 2014 at 10:29am

Excellent note about EXIF data Harriete.

EXIF stand for Exchangeable Image File Format. Generally it is a way to attach additional data to an image or video file. For example, most cameras today automatically add Date, Time and Camera setting information to the image as EXIF data. You can also set your camera to add all kinds of other EXIF data automatically. Copyright holder, Name, address, phone number, email, GPS location and an array of other technical information.

The advantages of adding copyright information is obvious within the context of this discussion. On the flip side there are serious concerns related to privacy when extensive EXIF data is added without the user's knowledge. For example many software programs layer additional EXIF data onto an image when it is uploaded. This can also include your name and other information contained on your computer.

The issues for us as individuals and artists is what kind of information is being attached or removed from an image, and who has control of that. There are no international standards or agreements covering any of this. Just loosely agreed upon "guidelines".

While all of this may seem like an arcane techno-bable issue, it is actually at the center of a much larger legal battle directly targeting artists rights, which is the Orphan Works Bill http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/

This is precisely why we have been advocating for political action within the arts for so many years. ACC, SNAG, NCECA and all the other national organizations can and should represent us in these legislative matters. Laws are being passed by Congress that dramatically impact the arts and we do not have any voice in the formation of that legislation. This is a lesson that even dairy farmers know. 

It may start with EXIF data in your image, but it ends with laws that impact your ability to make a living as an artist.

Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 22, 2014 at 12:53am

Just more information on the horizon that artists and makers may want to be aware.
Flickr and Facebook STILL Strip EXIF Data
http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2010/04/22/flickr-and-facebook-still...

"But an even larger potential issue is the metadata one[for images.} I’ve talked before how many image sharing site strip out EXIF metadata from photos. This ruling hints that, if such metadata is considered have been “developed pursuant to a broad consensus of copyright owners and service providers,” stripping it out, even through an automated means, could cause a service provider to lose DMCA safe harbor protection. This could impact a slew of sites, like Flickr and even Facebook, as they will have to adjust their practices to remain protected."

Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 22, 2014 at 12:40am

There are many kinds of copycats right now.
Did you read the post "Copycats Cost Artist $250,000 Loss" http://askharriete.typepad.com/ask_harriete/2014/02/copycats-cost-a...

There updates about the court cases against Cafepress.com.
Copycats Cost Artist $250,000 Loss

quote:
"Hassan said many artists don’t have the resources to take legal action. Another artist had a victory in a case against CafePress last week, when the U.S. District Court in San Diego ruled CafePress was not a service provider, which could be protected from some copyright infringement claims, because it has its own press and prints images on blank items."

"The difference between CafePress and, say, Amazon, the court said, is that “CafePress is actively involved in the listing, sale, manufacture, and delivery of items offered for sale in its marketplace. … As such, the court cannot conclude, as a matter of law, that CafePress did not have the ‘right and ability to control’ the allegedly infringing activity.”

- See more at: http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/local-news/kona-artist-sues-cafepre...

Note that Cafepress actually makes "jewelry" on their site. Not the same jewelry that we are discussing here, but jewelry printed with artists images....

Here is a great article from Plagarism Today:
CafePress, Self-Publishing and the DMCA
http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2014/03/17/cafepress-dmca/

And while all this discussion is not cohesive, we all have a lot to learn. I am just a novice at understanding the law, but think there is value in learning about these many manifestations.

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