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February 20, 2005

They're Copyrighting the Commons, Again

In the wake of the big to do over the 'copyrighting of Millennium Park', TWhid of MTAA wondered about the implications for Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park ballyhoo:

I wonder if Christo and Jeanne-Claude have security guards keeping professional photographers away from "The Gates"? I would really be interested to know their official stand on the copyright of images of “The Gates,” especially since they make all their money from images of the sculptures as opposed to the sculptures themselves (which many times cost them money). Part of this answer is at the bottom of this page. The artists say that they "have donated all merchandising rights" [emphasis theirs] to a charity and Central Park.
Granted, the two situations are totally different in terms of politics needed to be navigated in order to realize the piece. (Perhaps Christo and Jeanne-Claude had their arms twisted to donate the merchandising rights.) But in terms of copyright issues I don’t see that there would be much of a difference.

Well, as it should happen, the two situations are now looking strikingly similar.

Via the MAeX Art Blog [Update: it seems James and Barry were all over this a couple days ago], we find Robert Lederman (of the street artist advocacy group ARTIST) checking in at InfoShop News a few days back with this:

Today, 2/17/05, a representative of Christo's German publisher informed street artists, photographers and art vendors around Central Park that they would be subject to arrest for selling any images of The Gates. I got the number of this person, Dr. Fils, and had a lengthy talk with him.
Christo's publisher claims a vast new degree of copyright and trademark protection. They claim they will prosecute anyone who sells their own original photos of The Gates; who makes and sells a drawing of The Gates or who even uses the words, The Gates, without their permission. They claim to have copyrighted the words, The Gates. They also claim to have an agreement with the media that media sources may only use news photos of the gates for the period the installation is up. That after that the media will only be allowed to use "official" photos of The Gates.
They also claim that all of Central Park is now "private property."

I can't, at the moment, find any other reports that will verify this.

Update: In a breaking development, Audrey Tiernan, a New York Newsday photojournalist, had her foot stepped on today by C&J-C's personal photographer, Wolfgang Volz. While apparently no injury resulted, an article on the incident was filed, which offers us the following tidbit:

A moment later, Jeanne-Claude sternly warned Tiernan that pictures of the artwork are trademarked and can't be sold. Vendors have been selling pictures of the outdoor exhibit to tourists.

Full story, in all of its riveting detail, here.

"They're Copyrighting the Commons, Again"
Posted by Dan at 12:45 PM


This should be illegal. It's public property. To the barricades!

Posted by: Barb on April 4, 2005 at 04:33 PM

Referenced in this post:

A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics) FAQ
Bloggy: Copyrighting public space
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Gates—Frequently Asked Questions
Iconoduel: The Internets Catch Me Up With the Weeklies—But who owns the skyline?
InfoShop News—Christo: Another greedy corporate artist
James Wagner: whose gates?
MAeX Art Blog: The Gates... copyrighted!
MTAA-RR: More on Cloud Gate copyright issues
Newsday: 'Gates'-makers scuffle with Newsday photog—Joshua Robin