(photo: Julian Beere)
Turnaround 3 – Helen Porter & guests
Waltham Forest Arts Club meets in the Red Room of Ye Olde Rose & Crown (Hoe St, Walthamstow) on the last Monday of each month. The meetings usually start at 7pm and are free to attend or for a small donation towards the cost of hiring the room for the evening. Non members are also welcome.
The meetings vary in terms of their purpose – from e.g. quite informal discussions about member’s art works to more formal presentations about ideas/issues relevant to members as practising artists – be they amateur, semi professional or professional.
Waltham Forest Arts Club’s aims to encourage and enable its members to produce, exhibit, participate in and appreciate a diverse range of art forms within Waltham Forest and further afield. We are currently presenting the TURNAROUND programme of exhibitions at our pop up gallery in Wood Street Indoor Market; a programme of weekly exhibitions that will go some way towards achieving these aims.
Some of the issues that arise out of such a process/project as TURNAROUND are copyright and intellectual property; the legal rights we have as producers and consumers of art. What do we need to know, individually and collectively, about the legalities of making, showing, selling, documenting, reproducing, discussing, buying, lending and owning a work of art, craft or design? These questions encompass a huge field of legal knowledge and expertise and would take a great deal more time to cover than the few hours the Arts Club has for a monthly meeting.
At February’s meeting (27/2/11) we were happy to welcome speakers from Queen Mary, University of London, School of Law, Legal Advice Centre. The guest speakers were invited to make a presentation responding to a series of questions about copyright (and other legal concerns) Arts Club members had devised at a Monday meeting late last year. The speakers made a power point presentation addressing 4 key questions followed by an open Q & A session about a variety of legal concerns. The speakers responded to the questions in considerable detail - examining principles such as those of originality and intellectual creation, examples of court cases determining e.g. ‘what is a permissible borrowing of an idea’, to some of the limitations of UK copyright law, and ways of responding to an incidence of copyright infringement. There were also responses to questions about privacy and confidentiality, and about legal concerns over art criticism and comment.
The speakers were very careful in not giving advice in response to actual incidents and specific situations or experiences brought by Arts Club members. The legal knowledge was communicated on the basis of hypothetical situations concerning a diversity of artistic practises. Members were advised should they want advice about a specific legal concern/dispute they could make an appointment for a consultation*. The areas of the arts and contemporary culture which featured prominently were photography, video and online/digital media. What in terms of intellectual property is involved in the making of a video/film? What legal rights do the various participants in the production of a video have? How are the rights liable to conflict and so lead to further dispute?
There is in such a set of questions the matter of context to consider. While we hope the law, civil and criminal, applies to and treats everyone equally there is a sense that some law, particularly civil law, is more relevant to some than to others. We could compare the large scale production of a Hollywood/international movie to that of a relatively minute local production. There may be very different motivations and stakes involved in legal concerns when comparing the two productions.
My concern (as someone involved in trying to facilitate various free/low cost public arts opportunities in a local and mainly amateur context) is, is the influence of copyright law and other legalities potentially prohibitive? If such altruistic arts activities are to become increasingly subject, even vulnerable, to the mores of corporate transaction would e.g. TURNAROUND be feasible? Could TURNAROUND afford and/or get access to appropriate legal tools and advice? Here in is a dilemma. We expect the protection of the law from exploitation however the same protection imposes legal constraints on our freedom of expression or rather what and how we think we are free to express.
Waltham Forest Arts Club is very grateful to the speakers from Queen Mary (UoL) Legal Advice Centre for giving their time, expertise and other resources freely at this month’s Monday meeting. Their presentation generously revealed some of the complexities and uncertainties about legal matters in the arts. More information about The Centre is available at:
Some of the conclusions I came to, having attended the talk, are that civil law regarding copyright and other legal issues is unlikely to be easily understood by a lay-person and it is not a field in which there are likely to be clear cut and easy answers. Interpretation plays as significant a role in law as it does in art.
Should I find myself concerned about a legal matter or involved in a legal dispute then one of my first actions would be to try and gather the facts/evidence about the subject of the dispute. The evidence might exist in a variety of forms and media. I would try to take the evidence to someone who is experienced and qualified to give advice on the basis of that evidence. Fortunately there are organizations, such as The Centre, that can offer free advice about legal matters in the arts.
The opinions/views expressed in this post are those of the author and not Waltham Forest Arts Club or the Legal Advice Centre.
* ‘The Centre’ provides advice however not provide legal representation in court.
Legal Advice Centre, School of Law Queen Mary University, University of London
Mile End Road, London E1 4NS
Tel: 020 7882 3931 Fax: 020 7882 7006