Monday, November 06, 2006


An interesting copyright dispute going on in Hawaii. Artist Kim Taylor Reece has sued a local gallery (but apparently not the artist who created the work at issue) over a stained-glass artwork that he claims infringes one of his photographs. You can see both the glass piece and the photograph at this link to a Honolulu Star Bulletin story on the dispute.

Just from looking at the pictures, it does appear that the main similarity between the two works is the model's pose, but, as a member of a Hawaiian cultural group that is supporting the glass artist correctly says, "these are movements that we've done for 2,000 years that have been passed down from generation to generation. He cannot own this position. What he owns is his photograph of that particular model."

The photographer counters that "I'm not saying I own the pose. What I'm saying is that she copied my image" -- and argues that

"both dancers have their left arms in the same position, with the left hand on the same place of the face. Both have their right arms pointing up and with kupee (bracelets) of identical thickness, position and makeup on both. Both images are shown at the same angle, with the viewer looking up, with the dancers in the same posture. In both, the dancer's legs are together. The windblown hair on the dancers is very similar."

The natural question is how much of that flows from the pose, which both sides agree cannot be protected. Wouldn't the fact that "both have their right arms pointing up" be a function of the pose? Similarly the fact that "the dancer's legs are together"? My guess (again, based on this one newspaper article) is that, once you strip away all the features that are really part of the pose (and perhaps some other elements -- like the "kupees" -- that one would expect to see on a typical dancer striking that pose), there isn't much left in this case.