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The Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), a federal agency in the Executive Office of the President, seeks opinions on how the federal government should enforce copyrights and handle infringements. In a two-part survey, IPEC not only solicits written submissions about economic costs associated with intellectual-property violations, but also requests specific recommendations on how such violations can be dealt with. All comments should be sent by email.

Public Knowledge, a digital-issues interest group based in Washington, DC, writes, “The request for comments seems geared to take in complaints from big media companies and other major holders of copyrights, patents, and trademarks,” but also that it is “open to everyday consumers, citizens, and members of the public.”

An area that art historians may wish to address, for example, is the way that copyright controls on images have made it difficult for electronic texts to include copyrighted art images. For artists, an area of concern is the high cost of registering copyright in a visual image, and lack of good bulk registration tools at the US Copyright Office for visual-image rights holders.

Read more about the issue on the Public Knowledge website, which also includes a sample letter that you can tailor to your needs. Deadline: 5:00 PM on March 24, 2010.

US State Department Ends Ban on Muslim Academics

posted by Christopher Howard

Today the US State Department announced the removal of a ban on two foreign Muslim scholars, Adam Habib from South Africa and Tariq Ramadan of Switzerland, from entry into the United States. The American Association of University Professors and the American Civil Liberties Union, among other groups, had lobbied for several years to allow Habib and Ramadan into the country for various activities, including a position at the University of Notre Dame for the latter.

Peter Schmidt of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which has the full story, writes: “Secretary Clinton’s orders did not tackle the broader question of whether the Obama administration planned to end ‘ideological exclusion,’ the controversial practice, adopted by the federal government after the 2001 terrorist attacks, of denying visas to intellectuals based on their viewpoints.”

Free Public Program in New York on Orphan Works

posted by Christopher Howard

CAA invites members in the tristate area of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey to attend an upcoming panel on orphan works, entitled “Lost and Found: A Practical Look at Orphan Works.” The program is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Lost and Found: A Practical Look at Orphan Works
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Meeting Hall, New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York

How should the law treat “orphan works”? Please join us as we discuss proposals that would enable copyrighted works to be used when their owners cannot be located to obtain necessary permissions. What should be the obligations of potential users with respect to searching for copyright owners? How should infringement claims be handled if a copyright owner emerges? Do different types of copyrighted works present unique issues? What roles might registries and recognition and detection technologies play? Our speakers will address these and related questions, focusing on orphan images.

June M. Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts, is the panel moderator. Speakers are:

  • Brendan M. Connell, Jr., Director and Counsel for Administration, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
  • Frederic Haber, Vice President and General Counsel, Copyright Clearance Center
  • Eugene H. Mopsik, Executive Director, American Society of Media Photographers
  • Maria Pallante, Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs, US Copyright Office
  • Charles Wright, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Legal and Business Affairs, A&E Television Networks

“Lost and Found” is sponsored by the Art Law Committee (chaired by Virginia Rutledge) and the Copyright and Literary Property Committee (chaired by Joel L. Hecker) of the New York City Bar Association, in conjunction with Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts.

Media Coalition invites listeners to join an audio news briefing discussing the upcoming Supreme Court case US v. Stevens on Thursday, September 24, 2009, at 2:00 PM EDT. Speaking will be David Horowitz from Media Coalition; Laurie Lee Dovey of the Professional Outdoor Media Association; Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship; and Chris Finan from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

In 2004, Robert J. Stevens was convicted under a federal statute, passed in 1999, which made it illegal to distribute or own media depicting animal cruelty. Stevens, a writer and filmmaker from Virginia, had assembled footage of pit bulls fighting and hunting, mainly in international locations where dogfighting is legal. Last year, Stevens’s conviction was overturned, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case on October 6, 2009. Read CAA’s description of the case and statement on this issue.

This summer, CAA signed an amicus curiae brief supporting the National Coalition Against Censorship’s claim that acts of expression, not actual involvement in illegal activities, are protected under the First Amendment and are not subject to criminal penalties. Media Coalition, a trade association that defends First Amendment rights of the mainstream media, filed its own amicus brief in late July.

To RSVP for the audio news briefing, please contact Kai-Ming Cha at 212-587-4025, ext. 12. To hear the briefing, call 1-888-387-8686 and enter access code 1066257.

CAA Signs Anticensorship Amicus Brief for US v. Stevens

posted by Christopher Howard

US v. Robert Stevens involves a federal statute that makes it a crime to own, possess, or display depictions of animal cruelty, if the acts portrayed are illegal in the state where someone owns, possesses, or sells them—even if the acts portrayed weren’t illegal when or where they were performed. The actual case involves a man who was convicted under the statute for a video about pit bulls that contained footage of dogfights in places where they were legal—not to promote dog fighting but to describe how the dogs have been/are used. The conviction was reversed on appeal on the ground that the prohibition on the depiction alone violates the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. It is important to emphasize, though, that cruelty to animals itself is illegal in most states, and CAA is not advocating for the repeal of those laws—just the law that bans any depiction of animal cruelty.

CAA has signed an amicus brief prepared by the National Coalition Against Censorship that will discuss the implications for free expression, focusing on some well-known art situations, such as Adel Abdessemed’s cancelled show at San Francisco Art Institute, Wim Delvoye’s tatooed pigs, and Hermann Nitsch’s performances. Whatever the ethical issues such work raises, we claim that pure expression—as opposed to actual acts of animal cruelty—should not be subject to criminal penalties, and that the government’s argument in favor of criminalizing speech if its “social cost” outweighs its “value” is so far-reaching that it would chill all kinds of protected expression and exhibition.

This case is relevant to not only artists but also art-history professors, as they may want to teach about ethical issues in art, including the treatment of animals in bioart, etc. The law as it stands might chill their ability to show such work.

CAA Statement

The College Art Association joins the National Coalition Against Censorship in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in striking down Section 48 as unconstitutional. Section 48 is unconstitutional because it could deter and punish the production, distribution, and even the simple possession of constitutionally protected speech. If the decision is reversed, not only will some lawful expression depicting animals being killed or injured be subject to criminal sanction, but the ramifications are also far-reaching: Congress and the states could outlaw the creation and possession of artworks that depict certain types of conduct simply on the basis that the conduct itself is illegal.

This would chill a wide range of expression, including, potentially, art that depicts such criminal activities as terrorist acts, drug use, and certain types of sexual behavior. Although CAA does not condone cruelty to animals or any other sort of unlawful conduct, CAA has long and firmly opposed artistic and scholarly censorship of all kinds.

Paul B. Jaskot, President, College Art Association
Professor, Department of Art and Art History, DePaul University

Linda Downs, Executive Director, College Art Association

A Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, may not intervene in the sale of artworks that the late artist donated to Fisk University. For more than three years the cash-strapped Nashville school, which owns a substantial bequest that includes O’Keeffe’s famous Radiator Building – Night, New York (1927) and Marsden Hartley’s Painting No. 3 (1913), has wanted to sell those two paintings to—and share the display of many other works in the prized collection with—the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Travis Loller of the Associated Press and Jack Silverman of the Nashville Scene have more details.

CAA encourages you to sign a petition that supports the integrity and value of university and college art museums.

Rose Board Responds to Museum Crisis

posted by Christopher Howard

The board of overseers at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University released a statement yesterday, found here and here, to counter provost Marty Wyngaarden Krauss’s missive from last week about keeping the building open to art exhibitions beyond this summer. Since late January, when the university first announced plans to close the museum and sell its collections, the school administration has backpedaled several times, claiming to transform the museum into an art study and exhibition center (which it already is), to not sell the entire collection, and to continue hosting exhibitions. To which the board responds:

In her letter, Krauss attempted to clarify future plans for the Rose Art Museum once the University closes it on June 30, 2009. Despite the existence of the current Board of Overseers for the museum, Brandeis has named a new committee to “explore future options for the Rose.” In addition, the current position of museum director will be eliminated. According to Jon Lee, chair of the Rose Art Museum’s Board of Overseers, “Without a director or curator, the Rose cannot continue to function as a museum under any meaningful definition. Since the University’s announcement on January 26, 2009 that it would close the museum, membership and Rose Overseer dues, and all donations have ceased or been asked to be returned. This amounts to more than $2.5 million.”

“When the Rose family originally founded the Rose Art Museum, they were very clear about its mission and the integral role it would play as a part of the Brandeis community,” said Meryl Rose, a member of the Rose Art Museum’s Board of Overseers and a relative to the original museum founders. “A museum with a collection and reputation such as the Rose needs a director, and while Krauss’s letter states that the collection will be cared for, it does not erase the fact that the Rose as we know it will cease to exist under the administration’s current plans. The administration is carrying out an elaborate charade, the first step of which is to turn the Rose from a true museum as its founders intended, into something quite different….”

Again, the full statement can be found here and here. Richard Lacayo, art and architectural critic for Time, wrote about Brandeis’s announcement last week and quotes Rose director Michael Rush:

So long as the Rose remains open as a museum, it remains subject to the ethical guidelines of American museum groups that do what they can to discourage the kind of emergency sales that Brandeis is contemplating. But I spoke later with Michael Rush, the director of the Rose, who will soon be gone, along with several other significant Rose staffers. He was skeptical about what the university was doing. “They’re talking about keeping the Rose open,” he said. “But there’s no director, no curator, no education director, no funding stream and no program.”

An update to Lacayo’s report is a message from Jon Lee, Rose board chairman, which notes that Massachusett’s Attorney General office is watching developments closely. Relatedly, Art in America has published an interview with Meryl Rose, in which potential legal action is briefly discussed.

The situation at Brandeis is one of many taking place concerning unusual uses of restricted endowments and related funding. In his article “New Unrest on Campus as Donors Rebel,” John Hechinger of the Wall Street Journal writes, “As schools struggle more than they have in decades to fund their core operations, many are looking to a rich pool of so-called restricted gifts—held in endowments whose donors often provide firm instructions on how their money should be spent.”

Read more of CAA’s coverage of the Rose Art Museum. The museum itself has been keeping a comprehensive log of articles and reviews.


posted by Advocacy Administrator

The Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2009, legislation introduced in both houses of Congress, would allow a fair-market-value tax deduction for charitable contributions of literary, musical, artistic, or scholarly compositions to collecting institutions such as museums, libraries, and archives. At present, a donating artist, writer, or composer can only deduct the cost of materials used to create the work, which is not a fair incentive to donate and also hurts the missions of public and nonprofit institutions nationwide to increase public access to these unique creations.

The sponsors of the bill—Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) for S 405 and Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) for HR 1126—hope that past enthusiasm for such legislation will grow in the current 111th Congress. Although similar Senate bills have passed five times in previous years, the House version of the bill in the 110th Congress had 111 cosponsors. Now that a new Congress is underway, more cosponsors are needed to help advance the bill.

The American Association of Museums has worked with the Association of Art Museum Directors to provide a draft letter that you can use to encourage your federal lawmakers to cosponsor the bill. With your help, this important legislation for both artists and institutions can move forward.


posted by Advocacy Administrator

On Tuesday, March 23, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will reconsider the case of a Swiss professor and Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, who was banned from entering the country in 2004, reports John Schwartz of theNew York Times. Based on a provision for ideological exclusion in the USA Patriot Act, Ramadan was declined a visa by the US government to travel to America and take a position at the University of Notre Dame.

The American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN American Center all support the American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging a 2007 ruling that upheld the government’s decision. Arguing for Americans’ First Amendment rights to hear Ramadan, this coalition is also calling on the new presidential administration to end ideological exclusion.

The Patriot Act allows the US to deny a visa to anyone whom it believes has endorsed or espoused terrorist activity or persuaded others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity. The ACLU, however, claims the government used the provision more broadly to deny entry to scholars, writers, and activists whose political views it disfavored. After the ACLU initially filed suit, Schwartz reports, the government asserted that Ramadan made contributions from 1998 to 2002 to a charity in Switzerland, called the Association de Secours Palestinien, which theTreasury Department had deemed a Hamas-affiliated terrorist organization.


posted by Advocacy Administrator

Representative Peter King, a Republican from the State of New York, reintroduced the Free Speech Protection Act (HR 1304) to protect the First Amendment rights of Americans who are sued for defamation in foreign courts. With the rise of libel tourism, the fear of a lawsuit has become a deterrent for American authors, journalists, and publishers seeking to publish works on topics such as terrorism. The bill provides protections that will deter foreigners from suing Americans.

Recently there has been a rise in “libel tourism,” where foreigners take advantage of plaintiff-friendly foreign court systems, such as in the United Kingdom, in order to sue Americans for defamation. When sued in foreign courts, it has been difficult for Americans to countersue, as they could not establish standing in US courts. Without the ability to retaliate, there is nothing to discourage the practice of libel tourism.

The Free Speech Protection Act does the following to protect Americans and deter foreign libel lawsuits:

  • Allows US persons to bring a federal cause of action against any person bringing a foreign libel suit if the writing does not constitute defamation under US law
  • Bars enforcement of foreign libel judgments and provides other appropriate injunctive relief by US courts if a cause of action is established
  • Awards damages to the US person who brought the action in the amount of the foreign judgment, the costs related to the foreign lawsuit, and the harm caused due to the decreased opportunities to publish, conduct research, or generate funding
  • Awards treble damages if the person bringing the foreign lawsuit intentionally engaged in a scheme to suppress First Amendment rights
  • Allows for expedited discovery if the court determines that the speech at issue in the foreign defamation action is protected by the First Amendment.

While the goal of the bill is to protect Americans from the exploitation of libel tourism, it does not intend to limit legitimate cases of defamation. Nothing in the bill limits the rights of foreign litigants who bring forward good-faith defamation actions against journalists and others who have purposely and maliciously published false information.

In 2008, New York State passed a similar bill entitled Rachel’s Law. King’s bill raises the issue on the federal level so that all American’s rights can be protected. Senators Specter, Lieberman, and Schumer have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

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