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Creativity

Compare and Contrast: Artists’ Rights and the Two Princes

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 18, 2016

Sarah Howes knows a thing or two about artists’ rights. As the Director of Legal Affairs at The Copyright Alliance, and a newly minted intellectual property lawyer (who studied under none other than Tad Crawford), she’s been advocating for artists for a while now. So when the musician Prince passed away a couple of months ago, Sarah was inspired to pay homage to him and his support of other artists – and to compare him to his opposite, appropriation artist Richard Prince (RP).

It’s an indication of how controversial Richard Prince’s career has been that he’s been covered so often in the Guild news blog. The first time was when the Guild signed on to an amicus brief in support of the photographer Cariou, whose photographs RP nabbed and plastered with crude drawings. Other articles covered the controversy raised by his “New Portraits” Instagram series – printouts of Instagram posts RP tacked a bit of text onto and sold for tens of thousands. As Howes writes in her article, “his entire career hinges on him redefining ‘the concepts of authorship [and] ownership.’ Which he is of course neither: the author nor the owner of much of his work.

The contrast to Prince the musician couldn’t be more striking. Howe points out that Prince the musician produced hundreds of works, playing up to 27 instruments on one track alone. It’s hard to find that level of skill, let alone discipline, in the work of Richard Prince: “All we really know of him are his infamous face masks and collaging, which tell us little about his actual skill level.” As Howe describes it, while a few of his creations could be deemed art, in that some expression can be found in overpainting and collage, much of his work shows minimal manipulation of others’ work: “After all, to RP finding the artwork is basically the entire creative process, equating it to ‘sort of like beachcombing.’

Howe also relates the myriad other ways Prince the musician gave back: by supporting Minneapolis’ creative community, promoting female musicians, and crediting his success to the legacy of previous generations of recording artists. Perhaps Prince’s most important contribution to artists was the example of his fight to own, and protect, his own copyrights. As Howe concludes, “We can only hope there will be more Princes in future generations, not just a bunch of RP appropriators not worthy for the throne.

Read Sarah Howes’ full article, “Prince Fought for Artists, Richard Prince Steals from Them,” on Medium.

Below: Sarah Howes’ photo of a streetside memorial to Prince in Minneapolis. © Sarah Howes, used with permission.

Sarah Howe's photo of Prince memorial in Minneapolis

Marking World Design Day, April 27

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 30, 2016

World Design Day is on April 27, and ico-D, the International Council of Design, is marking the occasion by celebrating how design has improved everyday life in local communities through their Design in Action! campaign:
“One of the great things about design is that it can make such a big impact on everyday life. From the bike paths that make zipping around the city safer and faster, to the telephone that connects you to your friends and families, to the way-finding that helps you not get lost and the high-tech gear that helps you do the sports you like, good Design, meaningful Design, is constantly in Action!—helping, directing, improving, creating. We want to see Design in Action! where you are—in your region, and in your life.”

ico-D WDD 2016 grapic

The organization has invited designers worldwide to share their examples of great design via Instagram and on ico-D's Facebook page, using the hashtags #WDD2016 and #Designinaction and tagging @theicod. All design disciplines are invited to participate, so the projects that are being shared can include wayfaring signage, bicycle paths, public spaces – anything which impacts the local community for the greater good. The Guild is participating via our brand-new Instagram account, and would love to have our community join us. Please share the design that brings you joy and ease, or addresses real problems in your community. Be sure to use #WDD2016 and #Designinaction and tag @theicod, and tag us too: @graphic_artists_guild.

Examples of Design in Action in New York City: the High Line park, which converted unused elevated rail into a much-needed public park, and interactive subway signage, which reports on track conditions, provides information for wheelchair accessibility, and permits visitors to map their routes, among other features.

The WDD2016 visuals were designed by the multi- talented Russian poster designer Peter Bankov.  www.bankovposters.com 

NYPL Adds Public Domain Images to Digital Collections for Reuse by Artists

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 02, 2016

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has added over 674,000 public domain images to their on online database of digital collections. The public domain database includes prints, photographs, maps, video, and manuscripts, which can be downloaded in high resolution. The NYPL statements on the collection indicate that the materials are out-of-copyright, and the public is invited to “go forth and reuse!”. However, a closer look at the NYPL selection process indicates that some images may not be public domain, or may have additional rights assigned, and artists are cautioned to proceed carefully before using the images.

The collection was developed with the NYPL Labs, an interdisciplinary team within the library with the mission of positioning the Library’s collections for the digital age. The NYPL Digital Collections overall provide a great resource of research, educational, and reference material for designers and illustrators. Visitors to the Collections can search by keyword, scroll through recently uploaded items, or browse collections such as Fashion, Nature, For Designers, or Book Arts and Illustrations. For illustrators needing reference material for historic projects, for example, illustrations of 1930s era farm life, the search features and collections can be a tremendous aid. To select for public domain images within a collection, the user checks the “Show Only Public Domain” filter selection. This filters for only images the NYPL believes are out-of-copyright.

NYPL Public Domain filter selection

Above: When in a collection, be sure to select for only public domain images to view images the NYPL has flagged as available for reuse.

While the newly added materials are described as “public domain” (items for which the coyright has expired or doesn't exist), the Library doesn’t commit to that legal designation. The Library legal team utilizes services such as reverse image searches and the Catalog of Copyright Entries to research the copyright status of items before release. However, because of changes in US copyright law, and the lack of provenance on many images (in particular photos), the NYPL demurs to definitively state the items are public domain. Instead, their blog post on the public domain additions clarifies that the legal team was unable to find copyrights to the items, and states that the Library is unable “to guarantee that we have not made a mistake in either the facts or the law.” The rights statement on the public domain images reads “We believe that this item has no known US copyright restrictions.” The statement also warns that the items may be additionally restricted: “The item may be subject to rights of privacy, rights of publicity and other restrictions.”

NYPL public domain image rights statement

In celebration of the release, the Library is inviting the public to apply for a “Remix Residency.” The NYPL Labs is accepting proposals to reuse and remix from the collection to create “transformative, interesting, beautiful new uses of our digital collections.” As examples of such uses, they’ve provided links to sample NYPL public domain remixes, such as “Navigating the Green Book,” an exploration of travel guides that showed restaurants, hotels, and other establishments open to African Americans during the age of segregation. NYPL Labs is accepting proposals through the end of February. Recipients of the residency will receive a $2,000 stipend, consultation with the Lab’s staff and curators, and workspace in the NYPL research rooms.

Designer Jonathan Barnbrook Releases David Bowie “Blackstar” Graphics for Noncommercial Use

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 29, 2016

In remembrance of David Bowie, designer Jonathan Barnbrook has released the graphics used on Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, for non-commercial use. Barnbrook announced the release via Twitter, and on Bowie’s Facebook page. The Facebook post describes the release as a tribute to Bowie: “Barnbrook loved working with David Bowie, he was simply one of the most inspirational, kind people we have met. So in the spirit of openness and in remembrance of David we are releasing the artwork elements of his last album ★ (Blackstar) to download here free under a Creative Commons NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.” 

The post encourages fans to use the artwork for t-shirts, tattoos, and other artwork, but cautions that the license prohibits the use of the elements in anything that will be sold. 

Barnbrook is an award-winning designer and typographer based in London. His studio has designed books, corporate identities, CDs, websites, and motion graphics, and distributes original typefaces through VirusFonts. Barnbrook worked closely with Bowie on a number of projects, including the design of packaging and collateral for the albums Heathen, The Next Day, Nothing has Changed, and Blackstar. In an interview with Dezeen magazine, Barnbrook acknowledged that the Blackstar album design marked Bowie’s mortality: “The Blackstar symbol [★], rather than writing ‘Blackstar’, has as a sort of finality, a darkness, a simplicity, which is a representation of the music.” 

Below: Some of the graphics available for download. © Jonathan Barnbrook

Blackstar graphics © Jonathan Barnbrook

NEA Report Shows Stronger Contribution of the Arts to the US Economy than Previously Assumed

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 15, 2016

A report issued in mid-January by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) concludes that the arts make a substantial contribution to the US economy – 4% of the GDP (gross domestic product), or $698 billion. The report, A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings From the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 2002–2012, summarized the first in-depth study by the federal government of the impact of the arts and cultural sector to the GDP. The study was conducted over ten years in partnership with the Arts and Cultural Production and Satellite Account (ACPSA). The results indicate that the arts are a bigger driver of the US economy than previously assumed.

Among the surprising findings are:
• In 2012, the arts contributed more to the US economy than construction or transportation and warehousing.
• The arts employed 4.7 million workers, who were compensated approximately $334.9 billion.
• For every 100 new jobs created by the demand for the arts, an additional 62 jobs were created.
• Of the $869 billion contributed to the GDP from copyright-intensive industries, 50% is from the arts sector.

NEA Economic Value of the Arts infographic

(Click to enlarge.)

The report was released by the NEA in conjunction with two other reports. The first report, When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance, investigated why people attend arts events such as dance, theater, music, and visual arts, and what factors prohibited them. The findings showed that more Americans attend live arts events (51%) than exercise regularly (46%), and that socializing, learning new things, and supporting their community were the top motivators. The study also showed that life stages (pursuing higher education, marriage, family raising, retirement), rather than age alone, predicted arts attendance significantly. For example, families with children under six cited lack of time as the top reason why they couldn’t attend arts events. Other barriers included difficulty in accessing a location, which significantly impacts older adults and people with disabilities, resulting in a loss of up to 11 million attendees. 

The second report, A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings from the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 2002–2012, studied why and how Americans engage in the arts. Over 37,000 individuals were surveyed. The results showed that exposure to the arts in childhood was a stronger predictor of whether an adult engaged in the arts than age, gender, education level, or income; a person who visited museums or attended live performances as a child is 3-4 times more likely to engage in the arts than a person who didn’t. The results also showed that 54% of Americans – 120 million – attended at least one live arts event in the past year. Not surprisingly, technology facilitates participation in the arts: 71% used electronic media to watch or listen to the arts, and many used digital media in the creation of their own artworks. While women outstripped men in arts participation in general, men were more likely than women overall to use electronic media to create or perform music, or to create visual works online.

The NEA has made the data for the results available to researchers, policy makers, and artists through a new online platform that was launched on January 12th. The platform, the National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture (NADAC), provides free access to both the data and resources and promises a “a user-friendly platform for querying the data.” The report and supporting documents can be downloaded from the NEA’s publications page.

Infographic @ National Endowment for the Arts

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