Here's yet another interesting example (via Eyeteeth) of the clash between two opposing attitudes: permissions-based vs. fair use culture. The writer of the article quotes people from one side of the controvery, like the president of the Author's Guild which is an old-school bastion of copyright extremism. In fact, the article doesn't even bother to mention that there is a philosophical controversy raging, which makes it seem like Google is just behaving badly. When you hear Ted Feder of the Artists Rights Society and others like him talking about artists' "moral rights" being violated, first ask yourself "how?" and then ask yourself what benefits were thrown out with the bathwater over such a minimal and (to my mind) fair use. (There's even a legal concept that describes this minmal use: it's called De Minimis).
Mercury News - Posted on Thu, Apr. 20, 2006
Artist's family asks Google to take down today's 'painted' logo
By Elise Ackerman
After angering authors last fall with a wide-ranging book-copying project, Google may now be alienating some visual artists as well by allegedly reproducing famous works in drawings on the search giant's home page.
Today, the family of Joan Miro was upset to discover elements of several works by the Spanish surrealist incorporated into Google's logo. Google has since taken the logo off its site.
The Artists Rights Society, a group that represents the Miro family and more than 40,000 visual artists and their estates, had asked Google to remove the image early this morning.
"There are underlying copyrights to the works of Miro, and they are putting it up without having the rights,'' said Theodore Feder, president of Artists Rights Society.
In a written statement to the Mercury News, Google said that it would honor the request but that it did not believe its logo was a copyright violation.
"From time to time we create special logos to celebrate people we admire,'' the statement said. "Joan Miro made an extraordinary contribution to the world with his art and we want to pay tribute to that.''
Google has changed the logo on its homepage to commemorate events such as the Olympics or Albert Einstein's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Miro's birth in 1893. He died in 1983.
In September, the Authors Guild sued Google for reproducing works in its "library project'' that were still under the protection of copyright. In a news release, Authors Guild president Nick Taylor called the project "a plain and brazen'' violation of copyright law.
"It's not up to Google or anyone other than authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied,'' Taylor said.
According to the company's Web site, the library project aims to create a virtual card catalog for "all books in all languages'' while "carefully respecting authors' and publishers' copyrights.''
Feder said the society had raised the issue of copyright violation with Google at least once before when the Mountain View-based company incorporated work by Salvador Dali into its logo in May 2002.
Feder said Google removed the Dali images soon after it was contacted by the society. As of mid-afternoon today, however, he had yet to receive a response from the company.
"It's a distortion of the original works and in that respect it violates the moral rights of the artist,'' Feder said.
Google's logo allegedly incorporated images from Miro's "The Escape Ladder,'' 1940, "Nocture,'' 1940, and "The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers,'' 1941.
Feder said the society receives hundreds of requests each day from media organizations who are interested in reproducing a copyrighted work in some form. He said the authorization process is simple: all Google needed to do was send an e-mail asking permission to use the images.
"We would have asked the estate or the family, and they would have said yes or no,'' he said.