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Limits, limitations and line

Rights are big news this week.

Case one: Shepard Fairey. Very creative guy, with good design skills and a talent for creative synthesis. He put that talent to work, however, on subject matter he neither created, owned or had permission to use. That's wrong. Fairey also installs / posts art in public places without permission. Also wrong. Y punto. I don't know why this is even making it to talk shows. Yes, it was a fantastic poster. And it was an illegal production. (As is, ultimately, that Che Guevarra t-shirt you have in your drawer.) If I take a denim jacket from your closet, glue fake gemstones to it, and then wear it to go two-stepping one Saturday night, that does not make the jacket mine.

The fact that there is so much buzz on this issue makes an important statement about our lives today in the weblectronic world. We can get our hands on lots of "cool stuff" now. I can download a Picasso, copy and paste a forwarded emailed poem that the last sender forgot to put the author's name on, and co-opt someone's article to create a video script. The last was done to me, in fact, in a very nice video about the photographer Ortiz-Echagüe. The "producer" didn't even bother to contact me to ask my permission, which I would have gladly given. She did, at least, give me a credit line. Still, a credit line does not a permission make.

We need to remember that it's never been easier than it is today to find people to ask their permission to use their work. I've had great luck with the process and really nice responses from people I asked for permissions from. Not to ask their permission is lazy and wrong, y punto. If you can't get permission, make your own image. Create, don't just synthesize.

Case 2: GoogleBooks. I did a search on DreamBones and found 32 pages of the book in Google Books. Google Books did not ask my permission, and I'm the copyright holder. They didn't even notify me to let me know it was posted. I might have been able to use the large online excerpt as a promotional tool if I'd known of its existence. But, marketing for a book for which I hold the copyright should be based on my decisions, my selections, and not that of a corporation that has no personal connection with me whatsoever.

The Author's Guild is to be commended (and praised, cheered, and appreciated) for their Herculean effort in bringing Google into Limits Land on this issue. It's not right to put (aka publish) other people's books on line, in whole or in part, and then say all is well because the words "Copyrighted Material" are in the bottom right-hand corner of each page. For details on the resolution of this problem, click here

If you own a a dog, does any other person have the right to come pick up your pet and take it for a walk without your permission? Why should it, how can it possibly be ethical or permissible to "pick up" someone's created work and take it for a walk wherever one pleases, without even informing the author--or artist, composer, seamstress, etc.?

The internet is a wonderful creation. But the web needs limits in order for it to keep the shape of its worldwide usefulness. Picasso expressed this concept well. He advised painters to create a large painting, using only one brush, and not to switch sizes or shapes until the painting was done. He believed that this limitation would enhance, if not enforce, the painter's creativity, and at the same time, lend the work an underlying consistency and structure.

Creating means you start from scratch, from zero. Collaborating--which is also creative--means you communicate with your co-creators when you need to and ought to. Let's keep creating. Let's talk to and work with each other. Let's not have limitations, but yes, let's do have limits.

And remember:
A single line can give rise to an infinity of forms.

Image 1: Conversation with Scottie on a Sunny Afternoon
Image 2: Cover of DreamBones, painting by Mil Lubroth
Image 3: A three-dimensional line, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Text and images, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, 2009.


Hi Ysabel,
I saw some of my photos on Google Images the other day and have no idea how they got there. Have tried to find the info but to no avail. I don't have a Creative Commons License which allows sharing. Even though it says that the images 'May have a copyright' I still don't want them on there. Very perplexing. Nothing's safe anymore! Thanks for this important post!
The images are a different matter. Any image you publish on your blog or on any website can appear in a google image search. Once you click on the image, it will take the searcher to your blog, for example, if that's where the image is posted. In this case, Google is not "republishing" the image as they are with the books, but just using it as a content search function. The only way you could avoid it is not to put photos on your blog and PLEASE do not do that! The photos are too wonderful!

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