Perception Is Reality

Copyright and Piracy

Posted on: December 2, 2007

A look into the Lara Jade case, talking about piracy and copyright violations in the art industry.

Philip E. Daoust writes while paraphrasing Don Menn, editor-in-chief of Multimedia World Magazine, “The issue of who has copyright control of creative work available electronically is one of the major legal and ethical concerns facing electronic media.” According to Princeton University’s WordNet, copyright is “a document granting exclusive right to publish and sell literary or musical or artistic work.” This means that no one is allowed to sell or use these artistic works without explicit written consent of the copyright owner. Yet, today more than ever, we see extensive breaches in copyright laws from every field whether they are in music, creative ideas, inventions or art works which are intellectual property of the authors. Cornell University defines Intellectual Property as “creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works.” Intellectual Property is divided into “Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks… and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs.” In this essay, I will focus on a particular example of breach in copyright laws in photography of an upcoming photographer, Lara Jade. I will start by explaining the situation the photographer has found herself in at various times and what ensued. I will use this example to illustrate the various concepts of copyright. I will talk about blatantly breaching these laws and the use of artwork under the Creative Commons license, attempting to define the fine line between fair use and violation of rights.

Lara Jade is a photographer who showcases her portfolio on a website called Deviant Art. When you upload your art pieces, you agree that everything you upload is your own work and if there is use of other people’s work they have knowledge of such and have consented to it. What you then upload is copyrighted. Lara discovered that one of her photographs had been used as a cover for a redistributed pornographic film from 1983 called Body Magic produced by TVX Films. Companies such as Hustler who had listed this movie have since then removed the listing. Lara went through various processes trying to have things set right. She contacted Hustler who released the information of the producing company. Contacting the company did nothing, however, leaving no choice for Ms. Jade but to file a lawsuit against the company. The issue was covered in several news papers. PR Newswire shed light on this and similar issues, saying it is “common for artists to find that their work has been borrowed innocently or just plain stolen by others.” The news was also covered on BBC, but since then, not much progress has been made.

What I am trying to illustrate here is the blatant disregard for laws protecting authorship. Only Ms. Jade has the authority to copy, modify, distribute and publically display her work for profit. However, there is a case other than explicit consent where an individual is permitted to do the above mentioned. This is defined in the Creative Commons License. According to the Creative Commons website, “Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a ‘some rights reserved’ copyright.” What does this mean? This essentially means is that the intellectual property (the creative aspects) is the author’s, however, the author consents to certain usage of their work. The site states in its Frequently Asked Questions, “Creative Commons licenses attach to the work and authorize everyone who comes in contact with the work to use it consistent with the license.”

A very interesting thing that Creative Commons states is “Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.” This corroborates the above claim about the disregard for laws and hence the introduction of the Creative Commons.

According to the Creative Commons’ site, their licenses “do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright—including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing.” How then do we define fair use or fair dealing? Is the Jade versus TSX fair use? TSX not only infringed copyrights, in that, used someone else’s work for commercial purposes without consent and licensing, but also defamatory by displaying Jade’s self-portrait on a cover of a pornographic film, suggesting that Jade would enjoy and consent to working in an X-Rated film.  Fair dealing is defined differently in different countries. According to the Queensland Government, Fair dealing is “using material for fair dealing [. It] does not infringe its’ copyright if it is for the purposes of study or research; to make criticism or to undertake a review; or for legal advice.” The Jade versus TSX case does not fall under this definition since TSX aimed to make profit from Jade’s work and was not for scholarly or critiquing purposes.

The Jade case has sparked wide controversy and concerns also for parents: children may fall prey to predators and this is a serious concern in society which needs to be worked out. There were discussions not only on Lara Jade’s Deviant Art profile, but the general Deviant Art community and other forums which covered the news where people commented and provided suggestions.

In a society where information is big business, there are laws to protect individuals. However, as we have noted, these laws are very often -and increasingly – being violated. To fight against these violations, legal counsel is needed which costs a considerably large sum of money, and different definitions set by different countries becomes a problem.

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About the Author…

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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