Conceptual art, as Sol Le Witt implies, is a visual arts phenomenon that works around the locus of the idea or concept; furthermore, Le Witt states: “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.” Conceptual art encompasses the following forms: installation, video/film, performance and sound art. The overlapping of ideas and blurring of demarcations among manifest forms within conceptual art may pose a threat to the conventional nature of artworks, and at the same time, brings about uncertainty in terms of protection for the artists. The ephemeral quality of conceptual artworks seems to be irreconcilable with the current legal framework for the arts. This is because while the current Copyright Law was successful in addressing issues of intellectual property at the time of its inception, it has failed to keep up with the times, and must now be amended to extend protection to those who seek to thrive in one of the most promising sectors in the country. And since Conceptual Art is a rising phenomenon nowadays, it is deemed justifiable, pioneering and helpful to evaluate and provide recommendations on the gaps that exist between the current law and what ought to be included in it.
Beginning with several views on ownership, copyright, and the history thereof, this paper will revolve around the transition from traditional/modernist art to conceptual art, and the consequent need for the current copyright law to adjust accordingly. By dissecting several aspects of conceptual art, recommendations will be put forth about the following issues: idea/expression dichotomy, copyright infringement and prior access, conceptual separability, and substantial similarity.
Copyright law exists to protect man’s intangible asset, creativity. It ensures compensation for the artist, it makes the art industry flourish, and most importantly, it encourages others to create their own useful and valuable works. Thus, when amendments are needed, they must be made to ensure the continued fulfillment of the law’s purpose. COPYRIGHT LAW AND CONCEPTUAL ART:
Preserving Man’s Creativity….
But what is the meaning of “mine” and “not mine”?... Chilly words which introduce innumerable wars into the world. - John Chrysostom
Views on Ownership and Copyright
It is difficult for ownership to exist within a singular thread of definition for it encompasses a movement, a right, a way of perceiving, and a mode of production. Ordinarily, there are two ways of understanding the concept of ownership. The first, which is the norm, refers to its factual and legal rudiments. It is ownership as governed by imperative human laws that tolerate, regulate, and forbid peoples’ transactions pertaining to things owned or what is called “property.” Laws, therefore, define how ownership is acquired and retained, in accordance to several factors like a country’s ideals or how it functions or even how its economy is built – whether democratic or dictatorial, capitalist or communist, etc. In other words, ownership is the legalized possession and utilization of something, whether tangible or intangible. In the Philippines, an owner has the right to enjoy and dispose of his property as far as the law permits, has the right of action against a mere possessor, and has the right to exclude any other person from the enjoyment and disposal thereof. Hence, ownership by law is exclusive disposition. On the other hand, another approach refers to a more ethical kind of ownership that is not solely based on facts, but on questions of ontology and the pursuit for meaning. What does it really mean to say that someone owns something? Does a landowner truly and absolutely own his land simply because his kin have been residing on it for many, many years already? To what extent does an author “own” his words? And what of...
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