We asked the creator of Capitol Hill’s most visible public art to comment on his decision to settle the lawsuit he brought against photographer Mike Hipple for violating his copyright on the Broadway Dance Steps. Here’s a message we received via e-mail from artist Jack Mackie. “I do not want my work to be part of a coffee company’s ad campaign, Mackie writes. “I do not want my work to be part of a sales pitch for condos on Broadway. I do not want my work associated with banksters… all of which I have had to deal with. I want my work to be seen as it was intended and in the setting for which it was created – Seattle’s sidewalk on Capitol Hill, Broadway.” His entire e-mail — including an image he included illustrating one of his points — is below.
We wish Mr. Hipple would have reached his understanding earlier. At the outset he received dubious counsel on copyright from uninformed parties. They then helped him dig an unfortunate hole. We’re happy he has decided to stop digging.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Anyone can make photographs of any public art and do most anything they want with the photograph. They can frame them and give them to their uncles and aunts as gifts, they can post them on their facebook pages, or they can make Valentines with them and give them away. What they can not do, and this was the basis for the lawsuit, is offer to commercially sell them, which Mr. Hipple did, twice.
Artists hold copyright to their work, period. The Federal Law that states this was well vetted and argued before becoming law. This law comes with strict standards that must be met to gain copyright. I met all of these standards. My copyright is secure meaning it comes with protections and it comes with controls. Artists are the only people who get to say how images of their work will be used. I do not want my work to be part of a coffee company’s ad campaign. I do not want my work to be part of a sales pitch for condos on Broadway. I do not want my work associated with banksters… all of which I have had to deal with. I want my work to be seen as it was intended and in the setting for which it was created – Seattle’s sidewalk on Capitol Hill, Broadway. I do not want it used by whoever might think it a cool idea to appropriate the image for their current fancy. It was with glee that I took the news of Tom Petty sending cease and desist orders to Michelle Bachmann for appropriating his work without his permission.
It was stated that my Dance Steps are merely “instructional,” that Mr. Hipple’s photograph “depicts dancing” and the Dance Steps in the photograph are incidental and unnecessary. In the attached picture you see Mr. Hipple’s photograph juxtaposed to his very posed model without the Steps. Are the Steps vital to his photograph depicting dancing or are they incidental, unnecessary? You decide.