July 28

Shifting with the Paradigm – Hazel Dooney on Using Creative Commons

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Shifting with the Paradigm – Hazel Dooney on Using Creative Commons

“Nevertheless, the disadvantages of restricting the distribution of my work far outweigh the advantages. Unfettered sharing encourages a wider awareness of my work and me.” – Hazel Dooney

If you pay attention to the contemporary art scene, you are aware of of Australian artist Hazel Dooney. Or, perhaps you read about her here on a post I published last year: Hazel Dooney: A Courageous Uncompromising and Successful Visual Artist. She works as hard at her creative life and shares her successes, trials and tribulations like no other artist I know.

As one of the most prolific visual artist bloggers you will find, she shares intimate details of hard fought battles with her serious bi-polar condition, head butting with gallerists and clueless would-be collectors, her father’s terminal cancer, working the creative process and managing her career.

Hers is the most revealing behind and in front of the scene look you will ever get at the struggles of making it as an artist. This is not made for television, it is real. Unless you cannot resist the guilty pleasure, there is no need to tune into to the reality TV show, Work of Art, when you can access the real deal on Dooney’s Self vs Self blog.

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What you will find when you follow her is that Hazel Dooney is as articulate with her writing as she is creative with her art. In both, you will find she does not shy away from confrontation or making points that make other people uncomfortable.

A few weeks back, she wrote and suggested I republish her blog post on her views and use of Creative Commons (Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.) where she said, “I think this brief piece on how artists should view the rights in their works and how value is shifting is quite important. It might piss some people off but I think it deserves a wider airing and discussion.”

I believe what Dooney is stressing is important and that we cannot avoid assessing the reality of how digital media and our interconnectedness truly have changed everything. What was will never be again. Facing what is and making it work for you is the only reality and only way to make headway in the shifting paradigms we face. Sitting still is not the answer. The famous Will Rogers saying hold’s up well here. “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” Let’s hear from you with your opinions.

Shifting with the Paradigm – Hazel Dooney

Hazel Dooney - iPhone self-portrait A lot
of artists and photographers warn against the unauthorised use of images
from their web sites, even if such use is ‘non-commercial’. I can’t
help feeling that they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

Copyright
is a contentious issue. Like many other visual artists, composers and
writers, I’ve thought hard about the consequences of relinquishing
control over my work. Not that I have much choice in the matter: every
image I upload to the web is likely be downloaded by someone else and
re-distributed without my permission. And now that we all have
cell-phone cameras that can SMS, email and access the web, even works in
the real world can be captured and shared with ease. Nevertheless, the
disadvantages of restricting the distribution of my work far outweigh
the advantages.

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Unfettered sharing encourages a wider awareness of my work and me.

I have licensed my images (and my words) under the flexible and user-friendly terms of Creative Commons for the past four years, allowing non-commercial users “to copy, distribute and transmit the work” under the following conditions: the user “must
attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor
(but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of
the work)”
. They must neither use the work for commercial purposes nor “alter, transform, or build upon the work” without my explicit permission.

Operating
under this license is a fair and effective way of allowing reasonable
public engagement with my work and my ideas and effectively ‘unleashes’
it so it can be reproduced and shared freely without impinging on those
rights from which I might derive the most financial benefit, now or in
the future, or on other rights I might have, such as ‘fair dealing’ or
fair use rights, so-called moral rights, or even the rights of others
either in the work itself or in how the work is used, notably privacy
rights
.

Many
artists think that Creative Commons undermines their rights. They
clearly don’t understand that while it allows others limited use of
one’s work, it doesn’t support, in any way, the idea that someone can
steal it and claim it as their own.The specific terms of the Creative
Commons license I use precludes the ‘mash-up’ of my work without
permission or, worse, attribution.

On a
personal level, I like to think that others can draw whatever they think
they need from what I do – quote it, adapt it, synthesize it, copy
parts of it, whatever – to create something distinctively different,
providing they acknowledge me as the source. There is a big difference
between plagiarism and appropriation, just as there is between forgery
and reproduction.

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Using
another’s work as a starting point is not at all new. Artists have fed
off each others’ ideas, themes and subject matter for several hundred
years. The ‘modern’ tendency towards appropriation took root with Andy Warhol,
whose unabashedly literal reproduction of press images and package
design in the 1960s ruptured once comfortable boundaries between
inspired originality and ‘copying’.

Warhol’s
soup cans, soap boxes and screen-printed multiples of Elvis were
important and liberating in their day. They appear a bit mundane now,
especially given how easy technology has made replication of any sort.
But Warhol’s real innovation was recognising long before any
venture-funded dot.com entrepreneur that attention was a form of
currency. He was unperturbed when his own works – even images of him
personally – were copied, re-worked and widely distributed. For him, as
for the web generation he has inspired, ubiquity had replaced rarity as
the key element of defining value.

In
the new economic reality of the art world, increased awareness promotes
increased opportunities for artists to exploit not only their work but
themselves. The locus of value is shifting – from the ‘product’ to the
‘producer’. Unquestionably, the wider distribution of ‘product’ (even if it’s free product, shared without restriction) enhances the audience’s awareness and with it, the value, of the producer.

As
artists, we need to be focussing less on preserving our rights in our
product and more on enhancing the value of ourselves as producers and
being imaginative about how we exploit and extract that value.
Above: an iPhone self-portrait at The Cullen Hotel, in Melbourne

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About the Author

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

Barney Davey

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  1. Creative Commons is a great way to share your art with the world in a generous manner, without hurting your ability to license or earn money from it.

    I encourage all artists and writers to consider adding a CC license to their website!

  2. I recognize that CC is a handy standardized way to issue usage licenses while holding copyright, but it is also fostering the idea that all is in the commons. I would like the license terms a lot better if they emphasized, in the informal descriptions, more strongly that the creator owns the work. The actual license terms do that pretty well, but the descriptions gloss over the question, and I’m not all that comfortable with the notion that everybody really reads the license terms.

  3. The thing that’s amazing is that those who don’t follow how images and music spread online don’t realize that the more your stuff gets spread, the more likely people are to buy it. A recent survey done in the UK showed that people who illegally download music spend significantly more money on purchasing music than those who don’t. I’d like to think that the same rules hold true for art images.

    I’ll be first to admit that I keep a folder on my computer full of art that I’d like to own some day. I’ve downloaded all of those images from the Web. I work my way through every few months and purchase something that I’ve been watching for a while. I developed this habit from my wife, who has an even more extensive collection.

    A remix of your work could well be the best thing that ever happened to you. If a popular blog or website gets ahold of your work, or a remix artist posts something with your work in it, that could be the tipping point that sends your popularity over the edge – you never know.

    The limited gain you keep by enforcing a heavy lockdown on your work mostly just means that people will find other work to share.

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