Book art and unusual displays

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  • What are the copyright consequences of unbinding a book and using it in unusual ways? All pages lined up and pasted along a fence, or all pages used to coat a giant cube, etc. If only the original purchased book is used, or if the book is destroyed in the process, is there a need to seek copyright clearance? Does the fact that this is a public display (sort of) of the content make any difference? :?:
  • There's a lot to this question.

    If the book is lawfully acquired, the owner of the book can dispose of it (first sale). So I think ripping up the book is not a problem.

    I don't think that a copyright holder could suggest that it is a violation of the right to create a derivative work because it seems hard to prove that the copyright holder had some intention to use the original work in this way.
    (I could be wrong here).

    Is the resulting art work a parody or criticism of the original work? If so, great because parody and criticism are exemplars of Section 107 (fair use).

    How is this different than the "Barbie in a Blender" court case?
  • In the US we don't have anything that directly matches the European (e.g. French) concept or moral rights. However, I've forgotten the terminology, I believe there's something about maintaining the integrity of the artist's (creator's) work. Then again, if the "desecration" is done in private, and not displayed to the public, then who's to know?

    My understanding of 'first sale' is that it frees up subsequent distribution only. It doesn't give the owner/purchaser additional liberties with regard to copying, performance, etc.

    Then there's &106A(3)A. &106 is also called the Visual Artists Rights Act, but was cited, along with other sections, in the case Quality King Distr. v. L'anza Research (1988). L'anza makes and sells hair care products, and appealed to the Supreme Court a lower court's decision against them. If &106 can be applied to shampoos labels, surely it could be applied to books!!

    When you get right down to it, it's probably a very fine line between a new creative work, and a desecration.

    Does anyone know of any court-developed tests?

  • Looking at the US copyright code, it specifically applies that protection only to 'the author of a work of visual art' (see Visual art is defined in section 101 ( ), and it's a very specific definition. It also specifically exempts books from being works of visual art. Basically, it seems that unless a work is specifically a 'work of visual art' (a very tight definition), you can desecrate it all you want without fear of repurcussion - see Barbie :)

    BTW - Section 106 is not the same thing as section 106A. Section 106 ( ) details the exclusive rights of the copyright holder, while 106A is the 'desecration' bit... The Sup.Ct. decision ( ) references 106 - L'anza was claiming that their exclusive rights relating to distribution were violated, not anything related to the desecration of the the label... Yes, though, it is kind of silly to have 106 and 106a be entirely separate like that - you'd think they could have come up with a way to differentiate them a bit more...

    So, I'd say go ahead and make beautiful things out of the book :)
  • Might there be a parallel here between this and the JibJab version and accompanying video of 'This Land is Your Land" that's circulated the web recently? This came to mind when reading what the previous post-er said about parody and fair use; also with the Barbie-in-a-Blender case. An interesting article on the topic, which was recently posted to the AMIA list serve:
  • It is understood that the U.S. compensates for its slim protection of moral rights in federal law through its protection of derivative works; and by relying on provisions of state laws dealing with unfair competition, defamation, and privacy, to protect moral rights. I guess the defamation option did not work in the Barbie case, but it might work in a case where the purpose of the activity was defamation of the work or the author.

    I know nothing about how this plays out in the courts, but it is worth knowing that state law can be brought into cases like this--it's not only about copyright. Ross writes that " it seems that unless a work is specifically a 'work of visual art' (a very tight definition), you can desecrate it all you want without fear of repurcussion." I would be more hesistant, but if the use is not about defamation, I guess you would be OK.

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