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The Convenient Fiction of Authorship

The Convenient Fiction of Authorship

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

5:30 PM–6:30 PM
The Clark
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Martha Buskirk, Montserrat College of Art Massachusetts, Clark Fellow (Fall 2016)
“The Convenient Fiction of Authorship (On the Intertwined Fortunes of Art and Copyright)”
Originally presented on October 4, 2016

Arguing that it is impossible to understand modern and contemporary art without taking into account articulations of intangible value that are the basis of intellectual property, and conversely, that sometimes divergent art-world conventions can illuminate copyright dynamics, Martha Buskirk explores issues of authorship, ownership, and public interest accentuated by their intersection.

An Update from Martha Buskirk

The talk I gave at the Clark was based on an early draft of the introduction for a book that I have since completed, Is It Ours? Art, Copyright, and Public Interest, which will be published by University of California Press in 2021. One issue I was struggling with at the time was the scope of what I should try to cover. The book that finally emerged addresses a range of interlocking issues, with cases involving artists who have encountered problems with copyright infringement accusations providing a fulcrum for explorations that point in several different directions. Most people are aware that they are surrounded by a network of copyright interests, even as there is widespread confusion about the nature and purpose of this abstract and esoteric form of property. One line of inquiry therefore concerns copyright restrictions that might be encountered by anyone interacting with a media-saturated world filled with competing ownership claims. Another thread leads into dynamics specific to artistic authorship, governed by highly specialized conventions that often only become fully evident when conflicting expectations are brought to the surface by legal challenges. My ultimate goal, in examining multiple points of intersection between artistic authorship and intellectual property, is to affirm the importance of sustaining a vital cultural commons.

Next Up in the Archives

May 12: Andrew K. Scherer, “Baak: The Qualities and Craft of Ancient Maya Bone”
May 19: Stephanie Porras, “Maerten de Vos and the Renaissance in-between”
May 26: Mieke Bal, “Thinking in Film”



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