Since I’m currently deluged with work, I thought I would offer up some pithy commentary on a few revelations seen in my Google Reader today:

  • The insane conflict between J.K. Rowling, her media partners, and the author / publisher of The Harry Potter Lexicon is over. I don’t know the cost to the author, who has withdrawn his appeal to pay monetary damages to Rowling and Warner Bros. as a result of using “substantially similar” material to the original, but it is probably hefty — and arrived at through settlement outside the courts. This is a better result than quashing the Lexicon altogether. In exchange for money and adding some more original commentary to the book, he will be able to publish his book in January. Consumers will be happy, but the precedent is still mixed: what level of transformation to the original is needed to not infringe? More abstractly, who is really protected when artists have the ability to prevent works like the Lexicon from being published? They certainly wouldn’t compete against each other, or usurp the other’s profits. If anything, one might think it would help Rowling. Pretty shocking.
  • Donn Zaretsky at The Art Law Blog gives excellent commentary on the furor regarding the National Academy Museum selling two art works in order to stay solvent. Incidentally, the Museum’s governing body voted overwhelmingly for the sale  on condition that the work be displayed publicly. Rumors are that Walton’s Crystal Bridges museum in Arkansas is the buyer. ( You know this author is REALLY looking forward to Crystal Bridges. ) But as you might suspect, many in the art community are freaking out over what they see as a transfer from the public to the private domain and from irresponsibility on the Museum’s part. It will come as no surprise that one of the voices leading this ridiculous charge is Lee Rosenbaum, whose illogic and poor arguments were the subject of a recent bashing on this blog. Sadly, something that is going unnoticed, is that not-for-profits will often suffer from mismanagement due to a poor incentive structure to survive, grow, and produce efficiently.
  • Also from Art Law: this report about a California VARA case. Amongst other things, VARA creates certain so-called “moral rights” in artists. Contrary to a post I wrote before, these rights can be waived. A moral right is much more important than any other contractual right, so clearly you can never part with it. That would just… uh… wrong! In any event, one of the rights vested in artists is “the right of integrity” which allows artists to enjoin others from altering or destroying their work because I guess, even though an artist doesn’t own the work, artists have a right to see their work stand as the artist intended. I’ve just now realized that we may have Ayn Rand to blame in part for this moral rights mess in the US. Consider Howard Roark’s dynamiting of Cortland and some of his justifications for it. ( Some Randroids probably just wet their beds. Oh, except that I forgot they are relentless defenders of IP no matter how inane or harmful the protection. Anyway, I have not forgotten that there was a “breach of contract” involved. ) Apparently, in the California case, the artist is suing for damages from the city for painting over his mural, when it discovered graffiti on it, instead of spending money to restore it (i.e. instead of paying the artist a huge sum to restore it). Sigh.
  • Finally, more arrogance out of those funny fellas at The Economist outfit, which publishes the More Intelligent Life blog. It implies this week that intelligence is a function of “museum admissions, literary festivals, the broadcasting of opera to cinemas, the growth of classical music on the radio, and the quality of leading television series such as “The Wire”…” The author suggests that increasing education is a reason why. I would suggest that those connected with The Economist consider some stronger explanations. Perhaps with living standards rising, they have more money to spend on more frivolous items. In other words, this is probably a marginal utility issue. Of course, the things that the author lists make fine complements to increased education, but that, too, may be a lag from the ultimate root.