Blog / 2015 / On VAGA, Copyright, and What Motivates Humans

Decembber 28, 2015

A few weeks ago, I did a webinar about copyright and copyleft with the director of the Visual Artists and Galleries Association, Robert Panzer, and this is a video of the chat we had.

My least favorite part: Around minute 28, Panzer won’t let me finish what I’m saying, and then he tells me that my ideas are “so naive.” And he’s right. It was naive of me to expect that the director of VAGA could have a conversation with an uncopyrighter without making a rude remark.

My favorite part: Panzer talks at length about the difficulties of protecting Jasper Johns’ copyright, and he does so with a remix of Johns’ work behind him on the wall. Now, maybe the derivative Johns in the video is legal. It’s possible that the artist asked permission of Johns before making the work, knowing that it might be published on the Web by Panzer in this way. Still, whatever the legal status of the imitation, on a purely symbolic level, the faux Johns on the VAGA director’s wall is pleasing to me.

Ultimately, copyright is based on fear. I’m not saying that people don’t have a right to be afraid or that there is no reason to fear, but I do want to point out that Panzer along with other paid defenders of copyright are not speaking from a neutral position—and not just because none of us can ever be completely objective. Rather, Panzer is interested in persuading you that people do bad things if they think they can get away with it because getting you to think that way is part of what makes money for VAGA and, by extension, for him.

If you watch all the way to the end of the video and you’re curious about the contract of mine that we’re talking about, it’s here.


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