Intellectual property rights in visual art

Stephen Garan’anga Visual Art
The recently held national Intellectual Property and Intellectual Property Rights workshops for artisans, craft entrepreneurs and visual artists proved to be a critical eye opener for practitioners as they had an insight on the ground work and understanding of marketing techniques and of intellectual property (IP) to enhance the chances of their business success.

They also learnt much on how to protect their own copyright, and respect the copyright of others to avoid the greater possibilities of theft, disputes concerning ownership and litigation.

The IPRs workshops conducted by African Colours Artists’ Association in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare with the graces of the National Galleries of Zimbabwe in the respective provinces who hosted the events as well as providing crucial logistical support was also a wake up call for artists to unite and often come together to share information and discuss challenges bedevilling the sector.

IPRs infringement issues require collective effort to establish and pursue legal measures. With the funding of the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust with their partnership with Sweden and the European Union, this writer as well as the chairperson of the African Colours Artists’ Association researched and compiled an educative document titled “Essence of Intellectual Property in Visual Arts and Craft Marketing” which seeks to indicate why, which, what, where, when, whether and how consideration ought to be given to the effective management of IP assets by using IP tools for successful marketing of craft and visual art products.

In particular, it seeks to help artisans and visual artists to establish:

◆ Which IP issues are relevant to them;

◆ Why they should consider protecting their creative output with IP rights (IPRs);

◆ How to identify the creative output that may be protected with IPRs;

◆ What type of IPRs and protective measures are best suited to their particular needs and business;

◆ What the costs and practical business benefits are of such protection;

◆ How to access relevant information on IP and locate relevant intellectual property offices;

◆ Whether to join copyright collective management institutions or associations;

◆ Where to go for assistance on IP matters, and in particular whether to use the services of IP agents, IP attorneys and/or IP consultants; and

◆ Whether all necessary basic measures and procedures have been put in place to start implementing an IP policy and strategy as an integral part of their business and marketing strategy.

Revelations of the workshops revealed far too many cases of artists’ IPRs infringements by various art dealers, art institutions, media platforms and the artists themselves which have been unacceptably left unattended and the rare few that have been resolved in our local courts exposed the ignorance of the judiciary on the IPRs’ issues with regard to visual arts and crafts. Also the penalties inflicted on the perpetrators were not deterring enough and therefore aggravating the situation. The participating crowd who largely represented various artists’ and crafters’ associations, art galleries, print media houses, individual artists and other stakeholders were baffled by the absence of the requested representatives from key custodians of the Zimbabwean laws who included the Ministry of Justice, the relevant Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture and Zimbabwe Intellectual Property office.

They dearly wanted these authorities to have shed light on various questions they had on the implementations of the law, remedies etc.

The participants in the various provinces appreciated the AAA efforts with regard to the critical IP and IPRs workshop and the funding from the partnership of the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust with Sweden and the European Union that made everything possible.

They too appreciated the free distribution of DVDs of the Essence of Intellectual Property in Visual Arts and Craft Marketing which also in-cooperated the Copyright Acts of Zimbabwe and the 2005 Users’ Guide To Copyright Law In Zimbabwe which was done by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe. A number of the DVD copies were given to the various representatives of various associations and organisations for further distribution to their membership.

The participants considered the comprehensive Essence of Intellectual Property in Visual Arts and Craft Marketing document as an empowerment tool for them and wished it could be distributed to every practitioner in the country.