07 September 2006

And the Connection Is...

...not quite random. In fact, not random at all.

An article in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail notes that artists are getting perturbed by small-scale reproductions of their works in auction catalogs. At present, artists (and, in fact, all copyright holders) don't participate in post-first-sale profits (see § 109 of the US Copyright Act for our codified version). Leaving aside the obvious financial pain that causes, I suspect that what is irritating the artists is that their one-of-a-kind pieces are being copied… for purposes of advertising those very pieces for a sale from which the artist's benefit is, at best, extremely attenuated… presuming that post-first-sale auctions have a traceable positive effect on the first-sale prices for later pieces, which is entirely speculative. And here is the tricky part: Does it make a difference whether the original piece is two- or three-dimensional? Further, under US law do catalog representations implicate VARA?

Speaking of questionable sales tactics, though, it appears that James Frey and his publisher have settled a bunch of lawsuits over Frey's fictional "memoir." The headline is perhaps the most entertaining part of this NYT article: James Frey and His Publisher Settle Suit Over Lies. It names the author, who certainly had a prime role in the incident—but not "his publisher", Random House, which bears at least equal responsibility. The spin control from Frey's lawyer is pretty amusing, too ("We worked with Random House on whether to resolve these lawsuits and the desire to move on became a powerful incentive to resolve what are otherwise very weak cases"), but it's so expected that I find the headline more interesting. <SARCASM> Of course they're weak cases. That's why they weren't dismissed out of hand. And, too, that's why over $2 million is being allocated for the payout (and don't forget to pay your own lawyers, RH and Frey—they won't forget to ask!). </SARCASM>