Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘copyright’

19 MAY, 2014

1,000 Dog Portraits: How a David-vs-Goliath Copyright Nightmare Became an Illustrated Celebration of the Canine Condition

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The art of making creative lemonade out of legal lemons.

“Dogs are not about something else,” Malcolm Gladwell once wrote. “Dogs are about dogs.” And yet dogs can be about something else — but perhaps their greatest gift is the way in which they infuse with love and light even the most troublesome of something-elses.

In 2011, Robynne Raye, founder of design studio Modern Dog, got a startling note from a friend who had spotted at Target merchandise for a Disney movie featuring dog drawings strikingly similar to the artwork on the endpapers of Modern Dog’s monograph published in 2008 to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary. In disbelief, Raye and her team ordered some of the merchandise. As soon as it arrived, they instantly knew that 26 of their dog illustrations had been blatantly plagiarized for profit — a certainty induced not only by the intimacy with which every artist knows his or her work, but also by the fact that the illustrations in question depicted the company’s own beloved dogs.

A true David-and-Goliath copyright battle ensued as Modern Dog launched a lawsuit against Disney and Target, two behemoths so militantly lawyered up that they had never lost an intellectual property case. As round after round of legal bullying commenced, Modern Dog held out, with friends and supporters chipping in to help with the impossible legal fees. At one point during the proceedings, one of the defendant’s lawyers attempted to illustrate the defense case — premised largely on the rather ridiculous notion that the replica-like similarity between the drawings was the result of natural coincidence — with the following argument: “You know, there are only so many ways to draw a beagle.”

That outrageously absurd comment became the inspiration for 1,000 Dog Portraits From the People Who Love Them (public library) — an immeasurably delightful compendium envisioned by Raye, which begins with a chapter titled “1000 Ways to Draw a Beagle” and proceeds to depict just about every breed, with loving contributions from such celebrated artists and designers as Debbie Millman, Marian Bantjes, Stefan G. Bucher, and Jessie Hartland.

Beagle by Brandon Bay

Scruffy the Wonderdog by Debbie Millman

Cluny by Leon Robertson

Flou-Flou by Mark Kingsley

Clementine by Jessie Hartland

Though Modern Dog persevered and after years of trying battle got a well-deserved settlement from their unrelenting corporate Goliath, the book endures both as an homage to the universal love of our canine companions and as a testament to Modern Dog’s particular spirit of finding inspiration and cause for celebration in even the most trying of circumstances. Still, one of the most heartening touches is the tome’s dedication:

This book is dedicated to Attorney Thomas Cline and his Golden Retriever Jake Cline.

Tom fought with dignity and grace for our rights as creative people against some of the largest corporations in the world.

Vengeance by Stefan G. Bucher

Greyhound by Minjin Yang

Striped Dachshund by Patti Haskins

Greyhound by Tim Gough

Sausage Dog by Kristi Davidson

Bowie by Robynne Raye

Untitled by Jen Roos

Otto by Justin Hall

Starry Night by Amy Adair

Pug by Rachel Levit

Komondor by Nina Naeher

Ingrid, Pit Bull by Lori M. Rowe

Roger by Marius Valdes

Moser by Marian Bantjes

Riley the Mutt by Linda Solovic

Sigmund by Laura Huliska Beith

Pedro by Kerri Smith

1,000 Dog Portraits From the People Who Love Them is an irresistible delight in its multiplicitous entirety. Complement it with Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs and The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs.

Images courtesy of Robynne Raye / Modern Dog

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09 JULY, 2013

Vi Hart Explains Stravinsky’s Atonal Compositions and Why We Hear Music the Way We Do

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What experimental composers have to do with copyright wrongs and the neuroscience of language.

The magnificent Vi Hart — mathemusician extraordinaire, who has previously stop-motion-doodled our way to understanding such mysteries as space-time, Möbius strips, Fibonacci numbers, and the science of sound, frequency, and pitch — is back with another gem, this time illuminating Stravinsky’s atonal composition for Edward Lear’s classic nonsense poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat.” Stravinsky actually borrowed the basis for his composition from the 12-tone technique Arnold Schoenberg invented, which Hart explains as well. Enjoy, and keep an eye open for Hart’s delightful sideways sleight against the brokenness of copyright law, one that would’ve actually left Stravinsky particularly miffed.

What’s interesting about 20th-century 12-tone composers is that they were actually trying to get away from the implied context and invisible meaning people were so used to. … The whole structure of the 12-tone row is designed to help break free of old musical habits. How are you supposed to hear the pure truth of the notes A-flat, F, D-flat, when the existing music has taught your brain to hear it as a Neapolitan chord in the cue of C? … But Stravinsky didn’t want children growing up to think music was supposed to sound a certain way — he knew that whatever language people speak to children is a language they grow up to speak and to think in.

And on the off chance you haven’t yet seen it, don’t miss Hart’s fantastic video on how to tame trolls and deal with negative comments — an essential piece of digital literacy that every single human should be shown before being given an internet-enabled device.

Open Culture

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29 JUNE, 2011

BBC’s The Beauty of Maps

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What cartographic creativity has to do with the limitations of copyright law.

More than a year ago, I featured BBC’s excellent program, The Beauty of Maps: Seeing Art in Cartography, at the time only viewable on BBC’s highly restrictive iPlayer. The series has since been pulled from iPlayer and is unavailable on DVD — a shame of media obsolescence, since it was a remarkable celebration of creativity in cartography. But its presence on YouTube, more than a clandestine treat for map-lovers, makes a powerful case in the copyright debate on having “illegal” content online, even if it’s unavailable elsewhere. It breaks my heart to think about the invaluable knowledge and insight rotting away in siloed archives and, in my book, any law that enables this is a broken law and one that begs breaking. Enjoy.

Our love affair with maps is as old as civilization itself. Each map tells its own story and hides its own secret. Maps delight, they unsettle, they reveal deep truths, not just about where we come from, but about who we are.”

Hereford’s mappa mundi is many things — an encyclopedia of all the world’s knowledge, a memento mori, a remarkable piece of medieval art. It remains a unique testament of a vanished world and a vivid illustration of the depth, complexity and artistic genius of maps themselves.”

For more on the genius and charisma of cartography, don’t miss these 7 must-read books on maps.

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