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Rachel Dolezal’s art: infringement, plagiarism, or fair appropriation of Turner’s work?

June 16, 2015 Leave a comment

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Rachel Dolezal’s art: infringement, plagiarism, or fair appropriation of Turner’s work? by Professor Tonya M. Evans, Esq. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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The country is, unfortunately, transfixed on and fascinated and/or otherwise perplexed by the former NAACP Spokane Chapter president Rachel Dolezal controversy surrounding her declarations that she is black. Her statements and assertions include misrepresenting on the Chapter’s Facebook Page a black man as her father when, in fact, both of her parents are white.

Dolezal's art blog headshot.

Dolezal’s art blog headshot.

My interest in Dolezal’s story is not in the racial identity and misrepresentation morass. I’ll leave that to the Twitterverse (#RachelDolezal #AskRachel) and media. But the recent copyright infringement question about the origins of some of her artwork caught my eye.

As HuffingtonPost arts writer Priscilla Frank reported today, Dolezal, … is also an award-winning Mixed Media Artist, according to her art blog. But questions have been raised about whether Dolezal actually created all of her artwork or whether she misappropriated, in at least one instance, the work of another and presented it as her own.

Infringement? No. But there is a strong argument for plagiarism. Review the images and explanations below to understand why and share your thoughts about the issue.

The bio posted at Dolezal’s art blog reads:

“Rachel Dolezal is an award-winning Mixed Media Artist with over 20 exhibitions in 13 states, internationally, and at the United Nations Headquarters. Dolezal completed her Master of Fine Arts at Howard University, where she majored in experimental studio and minored in sculpture. She has over 10 years experience in community development, human rights education, and intercultural negotiations. She is currently an Art Instructor at North Idaho College, Adjunct Professor of African American Culture at Eastern Washington University, Advisor for the NIC Black Student Association, speaker, education consultant, and exhibiting artist.”

A Comparison of the Works

Below is the image under scrutiny that Dolezal claims as her original, copyrighted work:

8_Dolezal_R

Great piece–the second panel of a three-panel work–until someone like Twitter user Jolie Adams schools you on the noted and notable artwork of Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851).

Below is Turner’s “Slave Ship”:

JMW_SlaveShip

Twitter critic, Jolie Adams, created a side-by-side on Twitter in this post

In my humble opinion, they appear nearly identical. Dolezal’s work seems to be a tighter POV of Turner’s painting, with de minimis modifications of color and tone. Commenters knowledgeable about Turner’s work immediately questioned Dolezal’s claims that she created the work presumably without “inspiration”.

Dolezal_The Shape of our Kind_comments

But this isn’t a case of copyright infringement. And here’s why.

Read more…

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Real Housewives of NY “Pop of Color” Trademark Kerfuffle: Not so fast Kristin, Bethenny’s right. Sort of.

June 11, 2015 1 comment

The IP-meets-reality world according to Professor Evans:

So if you’ve ever wondered what intellectual property law professors do after the semester ends and grades are submitted (except for recuperate from hip surgery), this post may clear it up.

We sleep, travel, surf the Interweb, research and write law review articles, blog, review lesson plans and, of course, catch up on guilty pleasure t.v. (one more day until Orange is the New Black!!!!! … but I digress).

Sometimes if we’re lucky, those to-dos (such as they are) converge into a perfect storm. At least that’s what just happened to me.

Case in point. This afternoon, I was flipping through cable news channels and overwhelmed with the horror that is the escaped murderer debacle in New York. I needed something less intense, less serious, less scary, less … real. So I clicked on over to Bravo to catch the “reality” du jour. I landed on one of my fave Real Housewives franchises (yeah, I said it): Real Housewives of New York.

Oh the “Pop of Crazy” RHONY trademark episode. So much went on … where do I begin. Catch the recap here from RealityTea.com.

The main point of this post is to address Skinny Girl® Bethenny Frankel‘s challenge of Kristin Taekman’s statement that she “owns” the trademark to Pop of Color™ for a nail polish line.

To be fair to Kristin, she certainly has filed. But ultimate registration cannot issue until she demonstrates actual use. So, to be fair to Bethenny, Kristin doesn’t own the federal trademark registration. Yet. She remains a work (and trademark registration) in progress.  Read more…

6/30 EVENT: Evans joins Icon Kenny Gamble & other music moguls on Biz of Black Music Panel

June 30, 2014 Leave a comment

BMM-Digital-DS Dollars & $ense–The Biz of Black Music

900AM WURD-Philadelphia uses the occasion of Black Music Month 2014 to examine the influence African-Americans have had on the music industry; the importance of proactively protecting intellectual property; the pitfalls to avoid as a working musician; and the variety of music industry jobs that exist outside of performing.

Professor Tonya M. Evans, who teaches intellectual property, wills and trusts, property and entertainment, joins in this engaging conversation with an esteemed interdisciplinary panel on Monday, June 30th at 6:00 PM at the Painted Bride Arts CenterOther panelists include:

  • Kenny Gamble, international music industry icon of Gamble Huff Records
  • Ivan Barias, producer/songwriter and president of the Philadelphia Chapter of The Recording Academy
  • Damon Bennett, accomplished composer, musician and producer

Stephanie Renee, 900AM-WURD’s Program Director and host of “The Mid-Morning MOJO,” will moderate the panel. Join us for an interdisciplinary talk with music industry professionals on how to succeed in today’s music business. The event is free for all attendees. Please click here to RSVP.

About the Dollars & $ense Series

Dollars & $ense is an interactive professional development series produced by 900AM-WURD, Pennsylvania’s only African-American owned and operated talk radio station (and one of the few in the country). Bringing together workshop-style coaching with small groups of personally invested attendees, Dollars & $ense offers a range of financial literacy and empowerment topics to African-American community.

Response from Aereo CEO & Founder regarding recent SCOTUS Decision

June 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Statement From Aereo CEO & Founder Chet Kanojia on United States Supreme Court Decision

Court decision denies consumers the ability to use a cloud-based antenna to access free over-the-air television, further eliminating choice and competition in the television marketplace.

Aereo-info-graphic__140414141536New York, New York (June 25, 2014) – The following statement, distributed via e-mail to Aereo mailing list subscribers and posted on the Aereo blog, can be attributed to Aereo CEO and Founder, Chet Kanojia:

“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter. This sends a chilling message to the technology industry.  It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ (Majority, page 17)That begs the question: Are we moving towards a permission-based system for technology innovation?”

“Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States.  And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”

“Justice Scalia’s dissent gets it right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’ (Dissent, page 7)  Justice Scalia goes on to say that ‘The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable television systems, see ante, at 16-17, but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its results-driven rule.’ (Dissent, page 11)

“We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done.  We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”

Yours truly,
Chet Kanojia
Chet Kanojia

Founder & CEO

MEDIA ALERT: Prof. Evans to Appear on The Morning Mojo Show 900 AM-Phila 6/26

June 25, 2014 Leave a comment

BMM-Digital-DS

On Thursday, June 26th I will be a guest on The Morning Mojo Show WURD 900 AM- Philadelphia hosted by dear friend and station program director, Stephanie Renee, to discuss my unique path to entertainment and intellectual property law and my upcoming participation in Dollars & $ense: The Business of Black Music panel discussion on Monday, June 30th.

Specifically, we’ll chat about how we met,  my transition from poet to Lawyer by Day, Poet by Night™, and how I gained valuable work experience along the way to inform my professional choices in publishing, law, performance and, ultimately, academia. My segment will air at approximately 11:00 AM but tune in early so you’re sure not to miss it. Shows are archived in case you can’t catch it live.

[Tune in via the Web Live Stream]

Dollars & $ense: The Business of Black Music, is a WURD 900 AM special initiative in honor of Black Music Month, the next installment in 900AM-WURD’s Dollars & $ense professional development series, sponsored by Wells Fargo. I will offer some pointers related to estate planning and IP, and how my practice experience helps to inform my teaching.  Read more…

Evans’ Safe Harbor Article One of 2014’s Best, Selected for Thomson Reuters Ent Law Anthology

May 8, 2014 4 comments

WillametteLawRev-CoverMy law review article, Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age, published recently by Willamette Law Review (50 Willamette L. Rev. 1 (2013)),  has been judged one of the best law review articles related to entertainment, publishing and/or the arts published within the last year!

Accordingly, the editor of the 2014 edition of the Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts Handbook selected Safe Harbor for inclusion in the annual Handbook anthology published by Thomson Reuters (West).

[View & DL Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age]

‘Dumb Starbucks’ parody shuts down but debate over trademark law & parody continues

February 18, 2014 3 comments

By Professor Tonya M. Evans

dumbstarbucks-cupsOn February 9th, The Huff Post and other media outlets reported the grand opening of a store in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, “Dumb Starbucks”. The clever prankish parody even caught the attention of Forbes:

‘Although it looks like Starbucks, smells like Starbucks and even acts like Starbucks (the super-friendly baristas asking for your name were hired off Craigslist), the whole thing is an elaborate goof on Starbucks culture. A list of Frequently Asked Questions posted on premises compared the place to Weird Al Yankovic’s homage to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Dumb Starbucks, you see, is the “Eat It” of $6 coffee drinks.’ Source: Forbes.com

Amazingly, people stood in line for hours for the Dumb Starbucks java, which reportedly was whatever the local grocery store had on hand for the few days Dumb Starbucks remained open. The locals and media alike seemed to get a big kick out of the entire thing. Starbucks execs? Um, not so much. The Dumb Starbucks mastermind, Comedy Central comedian Nathan Fielder from Nathan for You, explained the method to his parodic madness and the Starbucks response to Jimmy Kimmel recently:

The store shutdown for reasons completely unrelated to the trademark vs. parody debate. It seems that Fielder not only caught the attention of the coffee giant, Starbucks, but also the local health department. The Health Department cited code violations for selling coffee without a permit. And there is no word on whether Fielder will attempt to secure the necessary permissions to re-open. But what is sure to re-open and remain so is the debate on whether the First Amendment and parody trumps trademark law. Read more…

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