Death of Resale Royalties Act Valley, California

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Death of Resale Royalties Act Valley, California

[/cs_text][cs_text]News broke recently that the Resale Royalties Act of 1976 has been struck down in its entirety by the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Despite lawyers and commentators poring over the minutiae, this news should come as no surprise in light of the fact that it contravenes the first sale doctrine of Federal Copyright law.

What were Chuck Close, Laddie Dill et al thinking?  Pissing into the wind (and paying lawyers for the pleasure of it) is no fun, even for contrarian self-flagellators (?!)  So what was their angle? There must have been an angle… Right?

Was it just a good old fashioned Artist’s protest?  Picketing for Artist’s rights? Or were they hoping to build momentum for a federally instituted Jerrold Nadler backed Federal Act perhaps?

But even if they were to achieve that, and a Royalties Act was instituted federally, it will still NOT ACCOMPLISH what they and 99% of Artist’s (including me) want… For all the reasons I’ve been at pains to explain on the #7/11 Project page.

Legislation cannot work!  Only a market based solution that works with the Latency Problem, not against it can solve the problem for the benefit of Artists, Buyers and Arts culture generally.

Despite this defeat, word is that the plaintiffs will be taking it back to the ninth circuit, and possibly the Supreme Court… What a waste of time. How about throwing some money at a real solution?

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Narcissism and Marketing – a live experiment

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Narcissist

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This item cropped up in my news feed the other day – ‘Narcissistic Artists Sell More Art – For More Money’.

The gist of the article is in its title, so if you don’t have time to read it, no matter (although I do recommend it).

So, narcissistic Artists sell more Art for more money… Hmmm…  To me, this seems like the rocket-fuelled distillation of some general life advice – ‘You have to be confident and believe in what you do to be successful’.

How we interpret this advice as Artists however, depends on what you’re referring to exactly – making Art, or marketing it.  In terms of making the stuff, I think it would be fair to say that most Artists believe on some level in what they do, so that part would seem to take care of itself.

But then there’s the marketing side…

On this score, most Artists fall into the shrinking violets category – timid about proclaiming their talents; reticent about blowing their own trumpets.  Whilst at the other end of the scale, as the above article shows, there’s a minority of Artists like Picasso who make unabashed, self aggrandising pronouncements such as ‘My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.’  Nothing shrinking about that.

In my experience so far on the subject of Artists and marketing paradoxes abound, but when it comes to Art marketing, this article would seem to make one thing clear – a little bit (or a lot) of self-esteem, and confidence projected is no bad thing at all if you’re serious about carving out a career doing what you love to do.

What does all this mean for From 0?  Well, over the past 5 months since I started From 0, progress has been slow.  So maybe its time for a change…?  Maybe its time to crank things up a little?!

And so to the launch of a mini-project… Over the coming months I aim to become as overtly confident as I can – a mini-Picasso narcissist if you will…  I will shout my name and work from the rooftops, and record the results in updates for you to see…

If the author of the research, Yi Zhou is correct ‘From 0’ might make some progress… If she’s wrong, a quagmire of humiliation lies in store for me at the bottom of Mt Marketing, and you’ll be wearing a wry smile.

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If you would like to share your thoughts, please do so in the comments section below.

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An Uncomfortable Confession

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In the spirit of openness and honesty:

I haven’t explained what brought me back to Art.  Why I decided to devote myself to the thing that I’m happiest doing, despite the hardships…  Despite ‘From 0’.

So here goes…

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Guilded Butterflies
2012

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The law broke me.

A judge looked over his reading glasses and told me that I could bring my children up as well on Skype as I could in person.

So now my 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son live on the other side of the world, and I have skype with them twice a week.

When the law crushes your soul its hard.  There’s an amazing amount of stress. No sleep. Questions loop over and over in your mind… How could a judge make a decision that goes against family law?  How could he issue a court order that is not worth the paper its written on? Should I appeal, or is the entire system rotten?  If I can’t rely on the law, what can I rely on?

You feel helpless. Stripped of your rights. Stripped of fatherhood. Left between a rock and a hard place.  No good outcomes available.  Depression takes over. Your brain starts wandering into the darkest places…

How are you going to do it?

Where are you going to do it?

Rope would hurt the neck wouldn’t it? Why does that matter?!

The middle of a forest.  I’ll drive somewhere out west and walk 5 kilometres. No one would find me there.  It will be like I just disappeared. Is that a good thing for the people that love me?  The people that love me…  My children. What about them.  What would they think when they’re older? How would it affect them? How can I be of service to them if I am dead?

So, what’s it to be?

Death? Or death by a thousand cuts?!  What a choice.

‘Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end the Heart-ache’

A tragedy is a story with no good outcome. It’s a tragedy!  Like King Lear.  There we go – I can name it, and if I can name it, I can manage it, can’t I?!  People have lived with worse. Much worse. If they can do it, so can I.

‘Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.’

My unconquerable soul…  But is it unconquerable?  Am I not beaten? Am I not broken? Dislocated from blood. From love.

Manage the tragedy. That’s the first step. Then build. Start again.  You can do it. You’ve done it before. Sure, this time its bad, but think about people that have been through worse…

‘Out of the night that covers me…’

Tragedies don’t end, but maybe they can fade…

Remember what you saw at the bottom of the blackness?  It wasn’t hate.

Believe in love.  With belief there’s hope.  No one can take that away from you. Not even the law.  Belief and hope live inside your own head.  No-one controls that except you…

If you’re not going to die, what are you going to do?

What do you love doing?

What have you always loved doing?

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If you would like to share your thoughts and feelings, please do so in the comments section below.

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The Art of Burning and Shitting (alternative title – ‘Dissent and Dissentry – an Occupational Hazard’)

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A little while ago two things happened that amounted to me burning a bridge to the New Zealand Art world, and then shitting on my own doorstep.  This is noteworthy because apparently it is not an uncommon problem for Artists.  It is also a problem that highlights some of the paradoxes that self-marketing Artists must negotiate.

But first to the burning and shitting…

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The burning anecdote involves an email exchange with a prominent New Zealand Arts Organisation. The shitting episode involved a local gallerist.

Burning

In the first case, I was in conversation with the head of an NZ Arts organisation (let’s call them ‘C’) about running a pilot project to help Artists manage their careers and incomes better (click the ‘#7/11 Project’ link to read more).  I required no involvement from them – just that I was allowed to demo the pilot from my space at their fair.  But as time went on I got the feeling that they were not really interested, and that I was being given the brush-off.

When it dawned on me that I had been wasting my time, I became frustrated, and quoted a line about supporting Artists from the organisation’s website, back to ‘C’.  This provoked a deterioration in communications, ending with me being told that ‘New Zealand was a small country’ and that I should ‘be careful not to burn my bridges’, to which I hastily quipped, ‘why should I care about burning a bridge that goes nowhere?’.  Uh oh…

It felt good to get it off my chest, and I was certainly being true to my indignant inner voice, but…

Woe betide the dissenting voice in any small community.

And that may be an occupational hazard, because dissent is a common motivator for many an Artists work (popular contemporary example – think Ai Wei Wei)… In fact, unless you are satisfied with Art as ‘adornment’, dissent is an intrinsic element in any healthily functioning Art’s culture.  But you try arguing that to any establishment figure content with the status quo…  Dissent may propagate change after all… Rupture… Revolution even. And what comfortable wage-earner wants that?

Yet another paradox in the Art v’s Marketing dialogue…  Dissent is essential, yet dissent may be networking poison. 

Shitting

The second incident involves a public embarrassment…

A couple of years ago, I saw the local gallerist chatting to someone at the bar area of a local cafe, so I wandered up and waited for a gap in the conversation.  After 30 seconds or so, she turned around to me and snapped, ‘Listen buddy, if you want to talk to me you’re going to have to make an appointment.’….. Humph! I was offended at my very public short shrifting, so I walked away, and we have not spoken since.  In doing this, I was consciously rejecting her offer of what felt to me like an unbalanced relationship.  And, because she is ‘The’ gallerist in the area, I effectively accepted her offer to ‘shit on my own doorstep’.

Now, with national, and local bridges burned, doors to the NZ Art World seem all but shut… I had gone from being ‘the Artist to buy’ during my inaugural exhibition at the NZ Art Show in 2013, to outcast in the blink of an eye… And that is the way it has been ever since… With no outlets to sell my work, I have effectively cut off my own oxygen supply, and made a Sisyphean task even more Sisyphean.  Hence ‘From 0’.

Why did I do this to myself? Couldn’t I see that these connections held sway over my destiny?  They could have greased the wheels, but instead I prompted them to slam on the breaks… Couldn’t I have bitten my tongue! For my own sake…!?  Or would that have gone against the way I’m coded?

Whatever the answer, it seems I’m not alone… Joanne Mattera devoted a post to the subject of ‘Burning Bridges’ in her ‘Marketing Mondays’ blog, which prompted 19 comments from Artists relating their experiences of busting out the matches.

Hmmm…

Can it really be true that we Artists are our own worst marketing enemies?

Or can we learn to acquire the grace required for career advancement?

Does a sensitive nature, and a tendency toward black and white thinking preclude us from moderate, pragmatic professionalism?

Or should we console ourselves with the idea that absolutism leads to great Art. And that by remaining unbowed, we are better prepared to deal with the fallout should dissent become dissentry?

Crucially, is it possible to reconcile these apparent contradictions? 

I suspect that the answer, as always, lies somewhere in the middle…  And, as the protagonist in this Sisyphean tale, I am bound to keep searching for it.

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If you agree, disagree or would like to share your thoughts and ideas on dissent, burning or shitting , please do so in the comments section below.

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Art v’s Marketing… A Love, Hate Story?

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23 minutes and 52 seconds into this BBC documentary, the Artist Yinka Shonibare and gallerist Stephen Friedman let us into their world, and for the next 3 minutes, the anatomy of an established Artist / Marketer relationship are dissected for us to see… (click below to view the whole documentary, or click here to skip to 23 mins and 52 seconds)

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For those Artists living in hope of some kind of ethically harmonious logic to the Art v’s Marketing story, the ball starts rolling discouragingly, when Steven announces that Yinka’s Artwork appears ‘Right in the centre in the front room, of course, where you belong’.

This will be anathema to Adrian, (see comments section of previous post ‘Why Are Artists Bad at Marketing?’) and countless other Artists whose bullshit detectors will be sending black and white signals to their amygdala’s… ‘Fawning, sycophantic, disingenuous, aggrandising’, being just some of the adjectives bouncing around, no doubt.  And Stephen appears to validate these concerns by flailing in his description of the substance of Yinka’s work… By adhering to a salesman’s facade, and by never sounding convincing about anything other than the marketability of the Artist, and his work.

But should we allow caricatures like this to turn us off the idea of marketing?

On Yinka’s evidence, certainly not, as he proceeds to treat us to an open account of the benefits that such a working relationship can bring. Stephen is credited as being responsible for allowing him to live and work as an Artist, and for enabling him to give something back to the emerging Artists of tomorrow by way of a trickle-down mentoring program, which would not have been possible if it were not for their enduring relationship.

So, discounting the apparent incompatibility that exists between Artist and Marketer, Yinka and Stephen have established a mature, symbiotic partnership built upon mutual respect and mutual self-interest. And as hard as it may be for the ethically discerning Artist to come to terms with the language of salesmanship, isn’t Stephen just doing his job after all? Which in turn enables Yinka to do his? Hasn’t he liberated Yinka from the Artist v’s Marketing problem? And, shouldn’t we, as Artists seeking to liberate ourselves from the daily grind of supplementary jobs, not allow some concessionary ‘grey’ thinking to invade the otherwise ‘black and white’ way that we conceive the Artist v’s Marketing story too?

Whether that means seeking to establish a working relationship with a gallerist, or learning to formulate an individualised marketing plan that is aligned with our personal values and ideas, there is one thing that is for sure – without some form of engagement with this topic (or a large slice of luck – see flowchart at the top of the From 0 webpage), an Artist’s work will fall like the proverbial tree in the forest… With no-one around to hear it. They will continue cleaning toilets and serving coffees, and be denied the satisfaction of having socialised their work.

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If you agree, disagree or would like to share your thoughts and ideas on the relationship between Artist and Marketer, please do so in the comments section below.

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The rest of the world v’s New York

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It’s been a few months since my last post for the #7/11 Project, partly because I’ve been devoting a lot of time to ‘From 0’ and new Artwork, and partly because it has been fairly quiet on the subject of Artist’s Royalties in the international media.

However there are a couple of movements to report on locally, with the second offering a platform from which to reason support for the #7/11 Project as an alternative to the broadly ineffectual / detrimental Resale Royalties Legislation…

So first up, Auckland based Bowerbank Ninow have introduced their own voluntary royalties scheme (RR Legislation does not exist in New Zealand) returning 2.5% to creators of works sold in their new gallery.  According to the galleries owners Simon and Charles, this was an ethically motivated decision (but one which has surely doubled well as a useful marketing tool… And why not indeed!?). Markets thrive on innovation, and its good to see Bowerbank Ninow mixing things up in Auckland. You can listen to their interview with Radio National here.

Secondly, across the Tasman (where RR Legislation does exist), the news is not as vital by half… ‘The market is failing Australian Artists’, according to this article in The Conversation.  The article is wide ranging in its its assessment of the reasons why, but one factor that is singled out for its Art market failings is, yep, you guessed it… Resale Royalties Legislation.

This will come as no surprise to detractors of Resale Royalties Legislation.  Indeed, anyone keeping track of my posts on the subject will understand why I count myself among that number. For even though I strongly believe that Artist’s should share in the value of their work’s appreciation, Resale Royalties Legislation is simply not the way to do it, and until market friendly solutions (like the #7/11 Project) emerge, we can expect more news of international imbalances, and atrophication of regional markets that are subject to RRL, at the expense of markets without…

Cue old blue eyes…

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Why are Artists bad at marketing?

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A friend told me a story a few years ago about a very talented Architect he knew who worked out of a run down old studio, wearing 8 layers of clothing with just an electric bar heater to keep him warm. Apparently he would spend way more time on a project than he should, always tweaking things until he had blown the budget… He would never ask for more than the fee he had quoted, and would always find himself out of pocket. Guess where he is now…? Picking fruit.

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Having seen a few of his buildings, I believe it would be fair to say he was an Artist-Architect. But whilst he excelled in one area of his practice, he was a failure at the business end of things… The time management. The money. The marketing.

And although it certainly would not be true to say that all Artists are bad at business, we are generally pretty awful at marketing. And the proof is in the pudding – if we weren’t, why else would there be a burgeoning market of self-help advice for Artists on the internet?

So why are Artists so bad at marketing? Well, it’s a big question with many possible answers, but in order to get the ball rolling I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that there are only two possible reasons:

  1. most Artists do not have any training in marketing, and do not understand the importance of it to their careers.
  2. Artists are inherently anti-marketing.

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The first point is fairly self-explanatory. The second is deliberately contentious.  But bear with me because there might be something in it…  In order to support this speculation, I’m going to take further liberties by distinguishing between Artists who are concerned mostly with making attractive things, and Artists who are conceptually driven…

The difference as I see it, relates to ‘pleasing’, and ‘consciousness’. Artists wanting to make beautiful, attractive things are in the business of pleasing – they make things designed to please, and appeal to the senses. On the other hand, Artist’s concerned with making conceptual works that challenge us cerebrally are likely to rely on a sceptical / cynical disposition to inform their work, and a cynical disposition involves being conscious – or as Julian Baggini puts it in this article for the Guardian newspaper, cynicism ‘is one of our best defences against spin and manipulation’.

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Now, instinctively the words ‘spin’ and ‘manipulation’ smell a lot to me like they belong to the vocabulary of ‘marketing’…

So, if it is possible to distinguish broadly between these two types of Artist, it might also be possible to make the case that Artists concerned with beauty are likely to have a very much easier time with marketing than conceptual Artists who are inherently wary of it. Which is good news for Artists making landscape paintings and decorative abstracts, who it would seem just need to take a crash course in marketing, but not such great news for conceptual Artists who are likely to struggle with their conscience.

For those who find themselves somewhere in the middle, as I do personally, perhaps our aim should be to find the appropriately fabled ‘middle way’ – to disassociate the words ‘spin’ and ‘manipulation’ from ‘marketing’, and look for opportunities to promote our work in a way that doesn’t offend our sensibilities. How do we do that? Well, that’s what the climb ‘from 0’ is all about isn’t it?

If you agree, disagree or would like to share your thoughts and ideas about why Artist’s are bad at marketing, please do so in the comments section below.

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Kickstarter Post-mortem

[x_section parallax=”false” bg_image=”” bg_color=”” class=”center-text” style=”margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px; padding: 45px 0px 45px 0px; “][x_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” bg_color=”” style=”margin: 0px auto 0px auto; padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_column bg_color=”” type=”1/1″ class=”center-text ” style=”padding: 00px 100px 00px 100px; “][x_text class=”justify-text “]A few months ago I launched a Kickstarter project called ’The Voice of a Young Sailor’.

It started out promisingly, with New York gallerist, curator and author Ed Winkleman commenting, ‘an original and adorable pitch’, but it failed to build any sort of momentum and fizzled out, ending well below target on the 23rd August.

I enjoyed putting the project together, and ‘better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all’, but having worked so hard on it for so many months, it was a disappointing result.

So what went wrong?[/x_text][x_gap size=”30px”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://www.paulsewter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/23-2.jpg” alt=”” link=”false” href=”#” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”right” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][x_gap size=”30px”][x_blockquote cite=”Ed Winkleman” type=”left”]”An original and adorable pitch, so kudos on that”[/x_blockquote][x_text class=”justify-text “]My initial thinking was that, as hard as I’d tried, it simply wasn’t a good enough idea to grab the crowd’s attention. But then if that was the case, what about Ed’s comments? He’s a straight-shooter after all, not known for firing off casual platitudes.

I started by googling, ’Why did my kickstarter campaign fail?’ and came across some interesting results, such as ‘Your Kickstarter Campaign Is Going to Fail, So Don’t Bother’ by B.J. Mendelson.

Hmmm…

And then there was filmmaker Mark Kines, ‘8 Things I learned From my (failed) Kickstarter campaign’ who reveals that, ‘of my 249 Kickstarter backers, only about 20 were not friends, friends of friends, or Twitter followers.’

Double hmmm… This was something I thought might be the case, but I didn’t fancy the idea of my project being funded by friends and family’s charitable donations, so I deliberately kept quiet and focussed on trying to develop a ‘real’ audience by contacting people like Ed instead.

Then there were other clues, like the scores of emails I received from people trying to sell me marketing services; ‘We have noticed that your project is currently 1140th in the Arts category, would you like to push it to top 20?’ At the time I wondered why I was getting bombarded with so much spam. Now I know – without a great deal of time and attention given over to marketing, your Kickstarter project may very well end up like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, with no-one around to hear it.

The more I read, the more I came to understand how and why my project had come up short. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was just like countless other unrepresented Artists out there, all trying to meet the challenges of marketing their own work, but more often than not appearing like castaways on a desert island – busy stuffing messages into bottles, and blindly throwing them onto the high seas, in the hope that they will reach an audience somewhere that can relate…[/x_text][x_gap size=”30px”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://www.paulsewter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/1.jpg” alt=”” link=”false” href=”#” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][x_gap size=”30px”][x_text class=”justify-text “]So what now?

Well, firstly, I‘m not giving up on the ‘Voice of a Young Sailor’. But I’m not going to relaunch the Kickstarter campaign – I’m going to do things a bit differently this time…

Secondly, I’ve decided to record my thoughts and findings on how unrepresented Artists deal with the ever tricky ‘marketing’ issue, via a new Diary blog page.

And lastly, I’m happy to be back in the studio making new work and thinking about new exhibition ideas.

Success is a game of inches, after all…[/x_text][x_gap size=”30px”][x_share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”][/x_column][/x_row][/x_section]

Finding ‘A Student’s Cell’

A Students Cell

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Rummaging through the dark and dusty recesses of the family attic while I was back in the UK this year, I was excited to find ‘A Student’s Cell’ sitting amongst of a pile of old Artworks.

It was painted a long time ago while I was still at school, and all I could remember was that it was inspired by an Oscar Wilde poem. But then, as I sat there looking at it under torchlight, it all started coming back to me….

As a part of our A-level examination we were give a number of words with which to base a painting on.  I chose the word ‘decadence’ and set about my research…

The ‘Decadents’ were a movement of 19th century poets and Artist’s concerned primarily with aesthetics over any other function or purpose that Art may serve (social or moral instruction for example). As such, the Decadent poet conceived a deliberately amoral being opposed to the prevailing values of a materialist 19th century industrial society.

Oscar Wilde’s poem ‘The Sphinx’ exemplifies the Decadent poet’s intent, whilst Aubrey Beardsley’s lavish, pen and ink drawings adorned some of Wilde’s published work.

’A Student’s Cell’ was my interpretation of this history.

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Politicians, Lawyers and Artists discuss a red herring

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A debate took place on Wednesday evening at ‘Artists Space’ in New York between lawyers, politicians and artists about the virtues of Resale Royalties Legislation, and the Siegelaub/Projansky inspired contractual alternative.

Reading articles from around the web, it sounds as if the debate served mainly as an introduction to Royalties Legislation, with talks given on details  of the proposed Legislation, as well as a discussion about Hans Haacke’s favoured contractual alternative.

The title of this post is worded the way it is because I strongly believe that the Legislative and contractual approaches are a ’red herring’ and cannot solve the ‘Latency Problem’ on their own.  The best opportunities for an effective solution exist in the lateral domain of the free-market.

“I think we definitely achieved a lot in laying the groundwork for future discussions,” one of the Wednesday evening’s experts, Lauren van Haafften-Schick was quoted as saying after the event.

Let’s hope that any further discussions engage with the mechanics of ‘The Latency Problem’, and consider the broader, more lateral possibilities.

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