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Another Seuss Cancellation Thread (Summer 2023)

Started by Parasaurolophus, June 21, 2023, 03:01:13 PM

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Wahoo Redux

Haven't heard about this in a while:

IHE: Vermont Law and Graduate School Can Cover Slavery Murals, Court Rules

QuoteThe Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Vermont Law and Graduate School can permanently cover a pair of controversial murals depicting slavery without infringing upon the artist's rights.

Samuel Kerson painted the two 24-foot-long murals—which show scenes of a slave market and of Vermonters helping people escape on the Underground Railroad, among other things—on a wall at the law school in 1993.

For years, students complained that the colorful images contained racist caricatures. Finally in 2020, after George Floyd's murder by police, the institution decided to cover the murals with panels to hide them from public view.
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.

apl68

It's a great shame to have art destroyed like that, but if the public that the public art is meant for finds it offensive then the institution doesn't have much choice but to accommodate them. 

The artist has got to be terribly frustrated.  You don't create work for a commission expecting the purchaser to eventually destroy it.  Yet it is technically the purchaser's right to do so, especially when the art is on the side of a public building.  If the art comes to be a real problem for the purchaser, then out it goes.  It's not like they could have just given several dozen feet of mural back to the artist when they didn't want it anymore. 
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: apl68 on August 22, 2023, 07:49:35 AMIt's a great shame to have art destroyed like that, but if the public that the public art is meant for finds it offensive then the institution doesn't have much choice but to accommodate them. 

The artist has got to be terribly frustrated.  You don't create work for a commission expecting the purchaser to eventually destroy it.  Yet it is technically the purchaser's right to do so, especially when the art is on the side of a public building.  If the art comes to be a real problem for the purchaser, then out it goes.  It's not like they could have just given several dozen feet of mural back to the artist when they didn't want it anymore. 

An artist's moral rights typically extend to the destruction of the work (although the law on moral rights is poorly developed in general, in particular in the US). That's (presumably) why, in this case, it's being 'permanently covered' instead.
I know it's a genus.

kaysixteen

What are 'moral rights', and where do they come from?   How can what are/ are not, 'moral rights', be ascertained?

nebo113

Having grown up in the "Green Book" south, amid white/colored waiting rooms and water fountains, and movie theaters with a third balcony and entry on the side and refreshment stand unseen by us white folk, I am ambivalent about removing all vestiges of that evil.  It is too easy to forget.  Sometimes, we must be forced to remember and confront our past.

marshwiggle

Quote from: nebo113 on August 22, 2023, 06:45:05 PMHaving grown up in the "Green Book" south, amid white/colored waiting rooms and water fountains, and movie theaters with a third balcony and entry on the side and refreshment stand unseen by us white folk, I am ambivalent about removing all vestiges of that evil.  It is too easy to forget.  Sometimes, we must be forced to remember and confront our past.

And the biggest danger is the conceit that "we would never have done those things". As Bill Maher said, "You aren't better; you were just born later."
It takes so little to be above average.

Puget

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on August 22, 2023, 01:25:47 PM
Quote from: apl68 on August 22, 2023, 07:49:35 AMIt's a great shame to have art destroyed like that, but if the public that the public art is meant for finds it offensive then the institution doesn't have much choice but to accommodate them. 

The artist has got to be terribly frustrated.  You don't create work for a commission expecting the purchaser to eventually destroy it.  Yet it is technically the purchaser's right to do so, especially when the art is on the side of a public building.  If the art comes to be a real problem for the purchaser, then out it goes.  It's not like they could have just given several dozen feet of mural back to the artist when they didn't want it anymore. 

An artist's moral rights typically extend to the destruction of the work (although the law on moral rights is poorly developed in general, in particular in the US). That's (presumably) why, in this case, it's being 'permanently covered' instead.

I'm honestly trying to understand the claim here-- maybe this is a difference between US and Canadian law, but my understanding of US law is once the artist has sold the artwork, it is just like any other property-- it is now the property of the buyer and they can do anything at all they like with it, including destroy it. If an artist wants to retain control over their work, they they need to not sell it (perhaps they can put it on loan to display it).

In this particular instance, I'm also not sure what the "preserving history" case is-- the murals were painted on 1993, they are not from some distant historical period.
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

apl68

Quote from: nebo113 on August 22, 2023, 06:45:05 PMHaving grown up in the "Green Book" south, amid white/colored waiting rooms and water fountains, and movie theaters with a third balcony and entry on the side and refreshment stand unseen by us white folk, I am ambivalent about removing all vestiges of that evil.  It is too easy to forget.  Sometimes, we must be forced to remember and confront our past.

I had cause to think about that just yesterday.  Our oldest staff member was going through microfilm of the local paper from 1961.  She was amazed at how different the racial climate was then, as reflected by the paper's dutiful reference to every black person it mentioned as "Negro," as if that were the most important fact about the subject.  She reflected that she was 12 years old then and living here, and just never noticed it.  I pointed out that had she been 12 years old and black then, she would never have been able to forget it--she'd constantly be reminded by parents not to go to certain places, or do certain things, to always stay out of the way of any white person she met and always address them with the greatest politeness to avoid trouble.

This wasn't even the "Deep South."  This was an industrial town with no history of plantations or lynchings or race riots.  The company that built the town kept workers and worker housing segregated and gave white workers the better jobs, but paid everybody a fair wage for what they did.  The local "colored" school was actually equal as well as separate, with good facilities and a strong academic record.  When desegregation came it was accomplished with no particular drama or resistance, as seems to have been the case in my own home town elsewhere in the state (Unfortunately all anybody remembers about integration in our state is the Central High crisis in Little Rock). 

Relations between black and white were probably about as amicable here as anywhere in the country.  And yet black people were never allowed to forget, day in and day out, that they were second-class citizens.  And apparently most white people who were around at that time just had no clue that black neighbors' experiences were that different.  When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s all of us, black and white, knew about the segregation that had existed only a decade or two before our time.  We just couldn't comprehend it.  It was a different world.  And it is something we need to remember.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

ciao_yall

Quote from: apl68 on August 23, 2023, 10:16:26 AM
Quote from: nebo113 on August 22, 2023, 06:45:05 PMHaving grown up in the "Green Book" south, amid white/colored waiting rooms and water fountains, and movie theaters with a third balcony and entry on the side and refreshment stand unseen by us white folk, I am ambivalent about removing all vestiges of that evil.  It is too easy to forget.  Sometimes, we must be forced to remember and confront our past.

I had cause to think about that just yesterday.  Our oldest staff member was going through microfilm of the local paper from 1961.  She was amazed at how different the racial climate was then, as reflected by the paper's dutiful reference to every black person it mentioned as "Negro," as if that were the most important fact about the subject.  She reflected that she was 12 years old then and living here, and just never noticed it.  I pointed out that had she been 12 years old and black then, she would never have been able to forget it--she'd constantly be reminded by parents not to go to certain places, or do certain things, to always stay out of the way of any white person she met and always address them with the greatest politeness to avoid trouble.

This wasn't even the "Deep South."  This was an industrial town with no history of plantations or lynchings or race riots.  The company that built the town kept workers and worker housing segregated and gave white workers the better jobs, but paid everybody a fair wage for what they did.  The local "colored" school was actually equal as well as separate, with good facilities and a strong academic record.  When desegregation came it was accomplished with no particular drama or resistance, as seems to have been the case in my own home town elsewhere in the state (Unfortunately all anybody remembers about integration in our state is the Central High crisis in Little Rock). 

Relations between black and white were probably about as amicable here as anywhere in the country.  And yet black people were never allowed to forget, day in and day out, that they were second-class citizens.  And apparently most white people who were around at that time just had no clue that black neighbors' experiences were that different.  When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s all of us, black and white, people knew about the segregation that had still existed only a decade or two before our time.  We white people thought it went away a decade or two before our time. We just couldn't comprehend it.  It was not a different world.  And it is something we need to remember be aware of.

There. FTFY.

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: Puget on August 23, 2023, 08:21:31 AMI'm honestly trying to understand the claim here-- maybe this is a difference between US and Canadian law, but my understanding of US law is once the artist has sold the artwork, it is just like any other property-- it is now the property of the buyer and they can do anything at all they like with it, including destroy it. If an artist wants to retain control over their work, they they need to not sell it (perhaps they can put it on loan to display it).

In this particular instance, I'm also not sure what the "preserving history" case is-- the murals were painted on 1993, they are not from some distant historical period.

Moral rights typically protect the author's rights to attribution, and to preserve the integrity of their work by preventing its modification or destruction in ways that might damage their honour or reputation. Depending on the country, these rights can sometimes be waived contractually. In any jurisdiction that recognizes such rights, then, you actually cannot legally alter or destroy an artwork, even if it's your private property, if the artist or her estate object to it.

In the US, the situation is somewhat complicated because the US signed the Berne Convention but maintains that its provisions are satisfied by extant laws. Basically, some states have moral rights provisions and others don't. Federally, the The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 establishes some rights, including the artist's right to prevent a work's destruction--provided it's of 'recognized stature'. (That provision is predictably problematic, of course, but there you have it. There's at least a little case law outlining what it means, including a two-tiered standard from Carter v. Helmsley-Spear, Inc. that gets used a fair bit.)

Anyway, I was just saying that the fact that the work is being permanently covered rather than destroyed is significant, since it gets around potential litigation grounded in moral rights.
I know it's a genus.

Puget

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on August 23, 2023, 05:36:22 PM
Quote from: Puget on August 23, 2023, 08:21:31 AMI'm honestly trying to understand the claim here-- maybe this is a difference between US and Canadian law, but my understanding of US law is once the artist has sold the artwork, it is just like any other property-- it is now the property of the buyer and they can do anything at all they like with it, including destroy it. If an artist wants to retain control over their work, they they need to not sell it (perhaps they can put it on loan to display it).

In this particular instance, I'm also not sure what the "preserving history" case is-- the murals were painted on 1993, they are not from some distant historical period.

Moral rights typically protect the author's rights to attribution, and to preserve the integrity of their work by preventing its modification or destruction in ways that might damage their honour or reputation. Depending on the country, these rights can sometimes be waived contractually. In any jurisdiction that recognizes such rights, then, you actually cannot legally alter or destroy an artwork, even if it's your private property, if the artist or her estate object to it.

In the US, the situation is somewhat complicated because the US signed the Berne Convention but maintains that its provisions are satisfied by extant laws. Basically, some states have moral rights provisions and others don't. Federally, the The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 establishes some rights, including the artist's right to prevent a work's destruction--provided it's of 'recognized stature'. (That provision is predictably problematic, of course, but there you have it. There's at least a little case law outlining what it means, including a two-tiered standard from Carter v. Helmsley-Spear, Inc. that gets used a fair bit.)

Anyway, I was just saying that the fact that the work is being permanently covered rather than destroyed is significant, since it gets around potential litigation grounded in moral rights.

Interesting, thanks! I had never heard of such a law. I could see an artist demanding that someone give them back a painting rather than destroy it, but you can't really do that with a mural. I can't see the artist winning a case that involved forcing the university to keep the mural on their wall (their property)-- it seems like the university could pretty easily argue this both on property rights and forced speech terms. But of course I'm not a lawyer and could be completely wrong.
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

kaysixteen

I notice you didn't tell me where these moral rights come from... but let's try another question: if artists have such moral rights to prevent destruction (or significant alteration?) of their works, then who qualifies as an artist, and what qualifies as art?

Wahoo Redux

Quote from: kaysixteen on August 23, 2023, 09:41:55 PMI notice you didn't tell me where these moral rights come from... but let's try another question: if artists have such moral rights to prevent destruction (or significant alteration?) of their works, then who qualifies as an artist, and what qualifies as art?

I suppose the "moral rights" come from any basic respect for something someone created or owns----kind of like the moral rights to your personal dress, hairstyle, or the décor in your house; it is something that is specific to you, so it should be respected.

We also (...well, most levelheaded people) recognize that art serves a function in society that is not merely decorative or entertaining; art is serious expression that challenges, enlightens, uplifts, memorializes, deconstructs, saddens, outrages etc.  This is part, I would suggest, of the "moral rights" of an artist's expression not to have hu's message altered.

I think I heard somewhere that the legal definition of art has something to do with the concept that if one reasonable person finds value in a work of art, then it is a work of art----but I couldn't find that online.

I did find 17 U.S. Code § 101.

Then there is the First Amendment.

But K16, rather than trying to be all Socratic about it (which never seems to work), why don't you just come out and tell us what you are trying to get us to infer.  Is there some Christian art or the Ten Commandments you want seen on a public building somewhere?
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: kaysixteen on August 23, 2023, 09:41:55 PMI notice you didn't tell me where these moral rights come from... but let's try another question: if artists have such moral rights to prevent destruction (or significant alteration?) of their works, then who qualifies as an artist, and what qualifies as art?

Moral rights come from the civil law system of Europe. Think of them ad a natural extension of intellectual property rights. Or do you mean something else?

As for your other tack... do you want to read a dissertation, or...? Because that's what would be needed to thoroughly answer those questions. Though even then, you might not be satisfied; there's a whole subfield of philosophy devoted to such questions, after all, and none of us agree with one another.
I know it's a genus.

nebo113

Quote from: marshwiggle on August 23, 2023, 07:43:57 AM
Quote from: nebo113 on August 22, 2023, 06:45:05 PMHaving grown up in the "Green Book" south, amid white/colored waiting rooms and water fountains, and movie theaters with a third balcony and entry on the side and refreshment stand unseen by us white folk, I am ambivalent about removing all vestiges of that evil.  It is too easy to forget.  Sometimes, we must be forced to remember and confront our past.

And the biggest danger is the conceit that "we would never have done those things". As Bill Maher said, "You aren't better; you were just born later."


It never occurred to me to wonder why only white kids were in my schools......