Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Copyright and Respect for the Art and the Artist

In light of my recent post, I went back and revisited a draft I had started in January:

Joseph Wu Origami Inc. on Facebook

If you look at the flow of conversation between Joseph and one overzealous and demanding fan (at first I thought he must be a young kid; glad he changed his tune, by the end), the attitude of the fan is emblematic of a prevailing problem in the age of the internet, that appears to be rather unique to origami.  Nothing else comes to mind in any other medium or artform where complete strangers across cyberspace make impositions, rude comments, and unreasonable demands of artists to teach them how to duplicate their work.  And if the artist is resistant, coercion is sometimes employed on the part of the "fan".  On Won Park's Moneyfolder Group, I remember those who would write in accusing others of "withholding" information for not sharing diagrams in their possession but with which they do not have permission from the creators to distribute.  And I recall whiny entitlement attitudes from coercion artists who express indignation and offense when the creator refuses to go out of his way to spoon-feed directions to the demander.  If the creator refuses to share, guilt by claiming "this goes against the principles of peace and love and sharing that is at the heart of origami"  Origami is about its selfless, giving nature, you see.  I guess it's supposed to work in one direction.

I was thinking of the following story, relayed by Thomas Sowell, after communicating with a small business owner who has some of my origami work on consignment. She was interested in the dollar koi, which Won gave me permission to sell, as a customer keeps asking about the one they have on display in the shop.

At the moment, it's not enjoyable for me to fold. Just a bit burned out on it. It takes me about an hour and a half to fold, not including the MC application. And then of course, there's the time invested in being able to fold it well. So I said it should probably sell from $30 to $50. A bargain, in my opinion! A real steal...PLUS, the buyer would be getting a dollar instant rebate, back!

Anyway, the shop owner at the time thought it sounded a bit pricey; but I think that perception comes from people who don't distinguish the difference between origami children's paper craft from origami museum-quality art pieces.

Thomas Sowell:

A tourist in New York's Greenwich Village had his portrait sketched by a sidewalk artist, who charged him $100.

"That's expensive," the tourist said. "But it's a great sketch, so I'll pay it. But, really, it took you just five minutes."

"Twenty years and five minutes," the artist replied.

People tend to respect things more if you place a higher retail value on them. $30-$50 on my folding of Won Park's koi is a bargain basement price. Sometimes, I've parted with a piece in a budget range, affordable to the buyer.

Of course, I've given quite a number of them away, to friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

That's because I'm a swell guy.... sometimes.

Artists who can make a comfortable living doing what they do best- their art- can devote their time to exploring and further developing their art.  Those who can't or don't choose to make a living at it will only do origami in their spare time.

The sharing of knowledge; the cross-pollination of different ideas enriches all and furthers the Art.  But when someone like Robert Lang devotes his time and effort, his research and personal education, into producing an important work like "Origami Design Secrets" (it's in the post-ODS era that I think the current explosion in designs and number of creators has skyrocketed), should Dr. Lang and CRC Press simply give out free copies to everyone who wants one?  Because sharing is caring and the spirit of origami is all about being generous and giving?  Why should origami designing be the one unique field where knowledge is given freely without compensation to the artist while you yourself are paid for what you do best?  Why don't you devote 100% of your time and work, free of charge?

Another zen story:

Gessen was an artist monk. Before he would start a drawing or painting he always insisted upon being paid in advance, and his fees were high. He was known as the "Stingy Artist."

A geisha once gave him a commission for a painting. "How much can you pay?" inquired Gessen.
"Whatever you charge," replied the girl, "but I want you to do the work in front of me."

So on a certain day Gessen was called by the geisha. She was holding a feast for her patron.

Gessen with fine brush work did the painting. When it was completed he asked the highest sum of his time.

He received his pay. Then the geisha turned to her patron, saying: "All this artist wants is money. His paintings are fine but his mind is dirty; money has caused it to become muddy. Drawn by such a filthy mind, his work is not fit to exhibit. It is just about good enough for one of my petticoats."
Removing her skirt, she then asked Gessen to do another picture on the back of her petticoat.

"How much will you pay?" asked Gessen.

"Oh, any amount," answered the girl.

Gessen named a fancy price, painted the picture in the manner requested, and went away.
It was learned later that Gessen had these reasons for desiring money:

A ravaging famine often visited his province. The rich would not help the poor, so Gessen had a secret warehouse, unknown to anyone, which he kept filled with grain, prepared for those emergencies.

From his village to the National Shrine the road was in very poor condition and many travellers suffered while traversing it. He desired to build a better road.

His teacher had passed away without realizing his wish to build a temple, and Gessen wished to complete this temple for him.

After Gessen had accomplished his three wishes he threw away his brushes and artist's materials and, retiring to the mountains, never painted again.

And finally, this one also comes to mind:

This guy was a well-known Taoist painter, and some rather important official commissioned him to draw him a cat. The painter asked him to return sometime later for the work. The official came back the next day but was told it wasn’t done, so he came back the next week, and the next, then the following month, then that next month…
This went on for about a year, the official wanting just the one drawing of just one darn cat he’d asked for way too long ago, and the painter asking him to return another time. Finally, the official came again for his cat, and the painter sat down at his desk, picked up his brush, and with one single stroke drew a truly spectacular swish of a cat.
The official was… not too happy. He was more surprised than upset, spluttering something about the wait and why didn’t the painter just do that the first day?  The painter apologized that he couldn’t have.
He then stood and opened the door to his cupboard. Out spilled hundreds upon hundreds of drawings of practice cats.
For most, origami is just a hobby and pastime.  For others, it is their livelihood.  Artists who create, who generously share their work, should have their intellectual property and rights respected- not just because it's a legal thing to do but because it is the right thing to do.  If you value the art you should also value the artist.  And if you still fail to wrap your mind about the copyright issues involved as it relates to origami, just compare it to musical compositions and how song creations enjoy copyright protections.


Maureen Strachan said...

Surprised no other comments. Maybe people are feeling well chastened. Anyway bravo! I would especially like to take this opportunity to thank all the origami artists out there on the web who have shared their diagrams with all of us hobbyists (and there are very many). I am actually amazed at the generosity of the origami community. Again, thanks all of you.

Paper Paladin said...

Hey Mareen,

I only just now noticed your comment. Thanks for weighing in and sharing your thoughts.

No surprise on lack of comments because people in general seldom leave behind a comment on this blog.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

“There is an old story of a boilermaker who was hired to fix a huge steamship boiler system that was not working well.

After listening to the engineer’s description of the problems and asking a few questions, he went to the boiler room. He looked at the maze of twisting pipes, listened to the thump of the boiler and the hiss of the escaping steam for a few minutes, and felt some pipes with his hands. Then he hummed softly to himself, reached into his overalls and took out a small hammer, and tapped a bright red valve one time. Immediately, the entire system began working perfectly, and the boilermaker went home.
When the steamship owner received a bill for one thousand dollars, he became outraged and complained that the boilermaker had only been in the engine room for fifteen minutes and requested an itemized bill. So the boilermaker sent him a bill that reads as follows:

For tapping the valve: $.50
For knowing where to tap: $999.50
TOTAL: $1,000.00”