Attend a workshop to learn about copyright infringement, unlawful appropriation in art

Jun 21, 2018, 07:08 IST | Shunashir Sen

What constitutes copyright infringement in art and what amounts to unlawful appropriation? Attend a weekend workshop to find out

Attend a workshop to learn about copyright infringement, unlawful appropriation in art
An artist's impression of a famous copyright case involving Jeff Koons, an artist who created a colourful sculpture (right) based on a black-and-white photograph (left) taken by Art Rogers, of two people holding a litter of puppies. Koons ultimately lost the case since his work was too close to the original, and he had to pay Rogers a settlement. Illustration/Uday Mohite

An artist's work can fall on both sides of the copyright infringement law — right and wrong. On one hand, as a creative professional, you might be the aggrieved party. Someone else might have violated the rights to your work, leaving you anguished enough to file a lawsuit. Or, vice-versa. It's your work that resembles someone else's closely enough to raise questions. And in that case, it's you who's likely to end up in the dock.

So it's a sensitive area for an artist to tread on, one that he should approach as if he's walking on glass. But all too often, individuals or big design firms treat the subject with scant respect. They trample upon intellectual property rights with the disregard of a person stomping on grapes in a barrel to turn it into wine. Look what happened earlier this year in the case of Christian Dior vs People Tree. The international fashion giant's print for a certain dress was almost a carbon copy of one of the Delhi-based retailer's designs. Eventually, the two reached an out-of-court settlement, and it was the latter that laughed its way to the bank.

Know your rights

Now, an event being held in Bandra this weekend will spell out the salient features of the Indian copyright act that pertain to designers. In it, a few members of Desai and Partners — a firm that specialises in intellectual property and protecting the rights of artists — will give participants a basic lowdown."This is the first workshop that we are doing, and the intent is to let young artists know their rights in terms of what they can do and what they can't.

Kiran Desai

For instance, what constitutes infringement of their work? Or are they infringing someone else's work? Say you are using a Coca-Cola can to create a piece of art. Is that allowed? So it's going to be a plain-language, stripped-down conversation about their rights, because today some people aren't even aware about what these are,"says Kiran Desai, the law firm's mana-
ging partner.

What the law says

He adds that the Indian Copyright Act differs across media. It varies for literary, dramatic, artistic, musical and cinematographic pieces of work."See, the law is quite clear. It specifies the dos and don'ts," Desai continues, telling us,"You can't do anything [for pure commercial gain] when the exclusive rights to a work belong to someone else. But let's say you use it for private viewing, or for criticism or review, or for fair dealing — such as reporting on current events for newspapers — then there is scope within the law for it to be permissible. Like in a film, if there is a sculpture situated in a public space, that doesn't amount to copyright infringement if it's merely incidental to the scene's background."

He stresses, though, on the fact that the nature of the entire discussion will be informal."It's a pretty complicated subject, actually. There are a lot of factors we need to look into when it comes to the appropriation of art. Is it a work in the public domain? Or does someone else have exclusive rights? These are key questions. But the legalities cover many other grounds."Ultimately, however, the workshop will still act as a crash course into this tricky matter. So if you are an artist, attend it to get an idea on how to stay on the right side of the law with your own work, or conversely, throw the book at someone who has crossed the line.

On: June 22, 6 pm
At: Kulture Shop, Hill View 2, Bandra West.
Call: 26550982

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Recent copyright violation cases in India

*Earlier this month, designer Anupamaa Dayal lashed out at the fashion brand, W, on Instagram. She accused W of copying her signature motifs, Ao and Bukhara. Dalal says that she had created the Ao print in collaboration with indigenous tribes from Nagaland. She then used hand-block printing to transfer it on clothes. But W just replicated the same using the cheaper and faster technique of screen printing, she alleges. The jury is still out on this one.

*The indie fashion label Tath accused the online retailer Ajio of copying its Art-Deco designs, inspired by buildings in Mumbai, earlier this week. In a long Facebook post, Tath expressed shock that Ajio had replicated three of these prints almost ditto, with an exclusive tag, and without crediting the originals. Both parties are yet to settle the matter.

 

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