Note on Using Trademark law to protect street art from fashion

Three street artists known as Revok, Reyes and Steel brought an action against Roberto Cavalli for appropriating this mural a clothing line
Three street artists known as Revok, Reyes and Steel brought an action against Roberto Cavalli for appropriating this mural a clothing line
Maribeth Smith has written an interesting student note in the Brooklyn Law Review which argues that trademark protection may be a good way to protect street artists from having their works appropriated by fashion designers:

Graffiti has transformed over the last several decades from a sign of urban blight to a sign of artistic expression. As a result of this shift, clothing designers and other players in fashion have begun to use images of “street art” as part of their lines. This leaves graffiti artists with no way of protecting their art, especially because of the illegal nature of graffiti. This note examines current sources of law that can be used to protect artists from this infringement. Artists have unsuccessfully argued under both moral rights and copyright theories. However, copyright and moral rights analyses do not address the nuanced issues that illegal art presents because of the way both areas of law have been interpreted by the courts. Moral rights have traditionally been thought of as preservationist in nature, and copyright has traditionally only covered legally made works of art. However, there is one avenue that can be used to protect this art, which is false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute. This note argues that the Lanham Act is a source of law that graffiti artists can utilize to protect their work.

Maribeth Smith, Tagging the Lanham Act:  Protecting Graffiti Art from Willful Infringement, 81 Brooklyn Law Review (2016).

New National Monument Proposal for the Bears Ears

The proposed Bears Ears national Monument would protect over 100,000 archaeological sites
The proposed Bears Ears national Monument would protect over 100,000 archaeological sites

A coalition of Native Americans has formed an Inter-Tribal Coalition to promote the designation of 1.9 million acres in Utah as a National Monument. The area contains granaries, rock art, burial sites, and many other important natural and historic sites. So its not surprising then that 26 tribes support protecting the area, which gets its name from these the two buttes which resemble a large bear. This area was described beautifully in Craig Childs’ excellent work on archaeology and heritage in the four corners region. Designation of the massive area would protect scores of ancient sites, burial sites, and pieces of rock art. An area which has suffered repeatedly at the hands of amateur archaeologists and later illicit looting.

President Obama seems to be taking a more open approach to the designation of the lands than Bill Clinton took when designating the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. A July public hearing allowed members of the public a chance to voice their opinion to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for nearly four hours. Writing about that meeting for High Country News, Jonathan Thompson reported:

Today’s crowd contains as many brown faces as it does white ones, a refreshing change from other such gatherings in the past. The land in question is an important part of contemporary Ute and Navajo history, and members of those tribes continue to use it for wood-, herb- and piñon-gathering. The pueblos here — including the Bluff Great House that’s just a stone’s throw from today’s hearing — were inhabited on-and-off from the 9th to the 13th centuries by the ancestors of today’s Zuni, Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblo people. And the Bears Ears and other landmarks on this landscape are considered to be important religious sites.

That, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye tells Jewell in the hearing, is why his tribal government supports a national monument. “We relate to them (the Bears Ears) like an Anglo relates to a family member,” he says. Begaye’s tribe, along with the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Ute tribe, overcame historic antagonism to join together to form the coalition that’s pushing for the monument. That’s unprecedented, as is their proposed management structure: a committee of eight, including one representative from each tribe, and one representative each from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. 

“It’s been far too long that us Natives have not been at the table,” says Malcolm Lehi, the Ute Mountain Ute council representative from the White Mesa community, just up the road from Bluff. “Here we are today inviting ourselves to the table. We’re making history.” 

The proposal and coalition has the support of six of the seven Navajo chapters in Utah, at least two-dozen additional tribes and the National Congress of American Indians, along with a host of environmental groups and more than 700 archaeologists.

But there is a long history of entrenched private property owners in the southwest that often resist these efforts, as demonstrated by Utah’s two members of the House: Continue reading “New National Monument Proposal for the Bears Ears”

Note on Cultural Heritage and New Media

Artist Morehshin Allahyari uses 3-D scanning to recreate artifacts which have been damaged or destroyed, like this Assyrian Lamassu
Artist Morehshin Allahyari uses 3-D scanning to recreate artifacts which have been damaged or destroyed, like this Assyrian Lamassu.

Ann Marie Sullivan a third year law student at John Marshall Law School has written an interesting piece thinking about the intersections of cultural heritage and new media. From the abstract:

The application of new media to cultural heritage is consistent with the policy objectives that the copyright law of the United States stands to promote. However, the practical application of the law currently hinders these objectives, often stifling the creation and dissemination of new media works of cultural heritage. In this context, copyright law presents a problem and not a solution, a barrier and not a protection, dissuasion of creation and not encouragement and incentive. Defining the legal scope and reach of digital property and new media within the realm of art and cultural heritage law is critical for the benefit of creators, consumers, cultures, and society as a whole. Unless a modification is made, or a solution adopted, the problems presented by legal uncertainties and inadequacies will continue to operate in a manner contrary to the main purpose of copyright, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Ann Marie Sullivan, Cultural Heritage & New Media: A Future for the Past, 15 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. (2016).

Anderson on the looming underwater heritage struggle

The "Philosopher of Anthykera", a 3rd Century BCE bronze head discovered near the Anthykera shipwreck.
The “Philosopher of Anthykera”, a 3rd Century BCE bronze head discovered near the Anthykera shipwreck.

Max Anderson has written an insightful op-ed highlighting the coming tension between commerce and archaeological examination for underwater sites and wrecks:

The technology needed for deep-sea exploration is advancing rapidly. What once seemed like science fiction will soon become a reality, with exploratory probes not only transmitting images but operating retrieval devices equipped to reveal artifacts and move them to the surface. Archaeologists have also begun using DNA analysis on wrecks in the Mediterranean, yielding information ranging from what onboard bowls once contained to the home port of the sunken ship.

Continue reading “Anderson on the looming underwater heritage struggle”

Orhan Pamuk calls for a different kind of museum

The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul
The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

Orhan Pamuk was a keynote speaker at the International Council of Museums conference in Milan this week. In his address to the conference he called for a different kind of museum. He offered a vision for what museums could be if they put aside their universal mission.

The Turkish author of the terrific The Museum of Innocence (Vintage International), set the literary foundation for a very different kind of museum. The museum occupies a house in the Çukurcuma neighborhood of Istanbul, near the Pera Museum. Each display cabinet is full of objects from time depicted in the novel, which echo the neighborhood’s antique shops. The museum highlights the lives of the characters depicted in his novel, and is a powerful argument that museums which only focus on grand universal cultures and themes have missed the mark:

All museums are genuine treasures of humankind, but I am against these precious and monumental institutions being used as models for the institutions to come. Museums should explore and uncover the population as a whole and the humanity of the new and modern man that emerges from the growing economies of non-Western countries. I address this manifesto in particular to Asian museums that are experiencing an unprecedented period of growth.

The aim of the great state-sponsored museums is to represent a state and that is neither a good nor innocent aim. Here are my proposals for a new museum, some themes on which we must reflect now more than ever.

Continue reading “Orhan Pamuk calls for a different kind of museum”

Italy reached an agreement with the Glyptotek

Contents of a tomb from the Sabine Hills, north of Rome
Contents of a tomb from the Sabine Hills, north of Rome

Italy and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum in Copenhagen on Tuesday announced an agreement for the return of antiquities taken illegally from Italy.

Objects repatriated include the contents of a tomb from near Fara north of Rome. Those objects had allegedly passed through Robert Hecht, a familiar name to those who follow illicit antiquities. Hecht passed away in 2012, and had been the subject of a criminal trial in Rome in 2005, allegedly for dealing in illicit antiquities.

Robert Hecht described buying the Etruscan chariot from Giacomo Medici:

Continue reading “Italy reached an agreement with the Glyptotek”

Italy Squandered €150m in Culture Funding

La dea di Aidone
La dea di Aidone

The Art Newspaper reported last week after examining EU documents, that Italy has been stripped of €151m in culture funding next year because regions have failed to spend funds allocated. This includes the loss of funding for Aidone, which is the village near the ancient site of Morgantina:

The EU rejected a request for €2.4m from the Archaeological Museum of Aidone to renovate its galleries because of incomplete documentation and the lack of an “economic framework”. The museum was due to welcome back the Head of Hades (400-300BC), a Hellenistic terracotta fragment that was restored to Sicily by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in January. But the sculpture, thought to have been illegally excavated from a sanctuary at Morgantina in the 1970s, remains in limbo in Palermo, partly because the Aidone museum has not prepared a suitable display for it.

This is a really sad development. It seems now very difficult to square the argument that works of art must be returned when the requesting nation cannot properly manage funding that is available. The step here needs to be capacity building for these smaller museums and regions to properly instruct the employees the expectations of grant requests and the expectations.

There may be another side to this story. The English-language reporting of happenings in Italy often have a Northern-European bias. But its hard to put a positive spin on such wasted resources.

We’ll hopefully be in Aidone and Morgantina in a week’s time—we are able to sneak away from my cultural heritage law course in Valletta, Malta. I hope to have some images and thoughts on the site and museum in Aidone soon.

Tina Lepri & Hannah McGivern, Italy squanders €150m in EU grants, http://theartnewspaper.com/news/conservation/italy-squanders-hundreds-of-millions-in-eu-grants/.