Monday, January 30, 2006

Art, Architecture, and Licensing

This piece in yesterday's L.A. Times about the increasing use of prominent architecture in advertising campaigns correctly points out that under U.S. law no fees are due for such uses -- "buildings are protected only in that architects cannot duplicate structures or architectural plans without permission." But site fees collected by Disney Hall and the nearby Music Hall reportedly bring in about $150,000 per year, this despite the fact that "when advertisers ... don't want to pony up a site fee, they can and often do film from the parking lot across the street." One thing that isn't quite clear from the article is the status of an artwork by Keith Sonnier that's installed on the facade of the Caltrans building. In contrast to the building, that artwork is protected by copyright, something the reporter seems to recognize ("The Caltrans building draws into broad relief the distinction between art and architecture"), but he then goes on to quote Sonnier that his "plumes are up about" having his work up turn up in commercials and noting that "I have a preference that it nor be used at all unless I'm contacted first." It seems to me that, unless he gave it away in his contract with the owner of the building, he has every right to that, and to a share of the licensing fees.