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Aboriginal get original

The most absurd intellectual property rights claim ever?

With their earthy tones and lizard motifs, Prince Harry’s paintings won admiration at home and last week earned him a grade B at A-level. But his work has stirred anger in Western Australia, where he is accused of stealing Aboriginal themes.

The moral pygmies claiming ‘ownership’ of the images drawn by artists who died hundreds of years ago must be the world’s biggest losers. Inacapable of artistic expression themselves, they demand the unearned greatness of their remote ancestors.

How sad that genuine aboriginal achievements are drowned out by the moochers!

The first foreign cricket team to visit England (in 1868) was comprised entirely of aboriginal players. Subsequently, Australian cricket authorities tried to forget about this as more than a century passed without a non-white player. Are they excluded from clubs, does the welfare system turn an entire race into a dependent underclass?

I don’t suppose that the professional racial-awareness poverty pimps are demanding that aborigines stop getting welfare and solve their problems by economic means.

For the record, one of my French ancestors wore the Crusaders’ red cross on white background in Palestine. Does this mean I should sue England soccer supporters for ‘violating’ my heritage, after all their king only went on the Third Crusade?

15 comments to Aboriginal get original

  • Guy Herbert

    Am I reading the original story wrong? Where’s the claim to IP ownership, or the claim for damages? And where do you get that the complainers are themselves not competent artists?

    It is a bizarre piece of identity politics for sure, to say the Prince somehow isn’t entitled to reinterpret traditional symbolism without understanding it… but that’s not quite the same as claiming ownership.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    The artworks must not be very good if Harry couldn’t get an A or A* in his A-levels. ;-)

  • S. Weasel

    Well, the article refers to a “major test case” in the near future, but not much indication who’s testing whom for what. It’s really vague, but it does refer broadly to this as an IP issue. I can’t even begin to understand what sort of law would apply to painting someone else’s traditional totem animal.

    Do they really want to apply, say, trademark law and protect the lizard the way Disney protects Mickey Mouse? Doesn’t that belittle their beliefs far more than the original offense? (The original offense, apparently, being an admirer but not a co-religionist).

    This is like Scientologist contortions: our scriptures are protected by copyright but we want all the protections of a church.

  • Guy Herbert

    To go through Eton–which is a fine academic school–and come out with a B in art and a D in geography, shows an extraordinary level of all round ability and/or intellectual curiosity.

  • The irony of that article is that it appears to be ripped off from The Guardian.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    The Pherecydes tartan is dominated by a sort of little boy blue and has a yellow stripe in it so I’m not particularly fond of it, but I wouldn’t like Henry IX appropriating it…or my lizard.

  • Jonathan L

    Its a little like complaining that Monet perverted a perfectly reasonable form of Art, English Landscapes, when he decided to paint out of focus and claim that it was something new. As a he was not English he obviously had no right to steal our heritage, Constable was painting ponds before him.

  • Julian Morrison

    Look at it this way: if somebody made an art sculpture that depicted a skinhead in the form of a fountain, eternally peeing upon the Union Jack, then some Brits might get irritated about the “misappropriaton of their cutural symbols”, too.

  • Mrs. Raven

    But wouldn’t that simply be interpreted as freedom of expression? After all, the artistic community thought Christians were out of line for protesting Andre Serranos’ “Piss Christ.” If the Aboriginals can sue over a lizard, why can’t the Christians sue Serannos for defacing their symbol?

  • CPatterson

    The lizard is also a symbol widely used by south western American Indian tribes. Will this lead to a battle between indigenous peoples as to whom the symbol is more sacred?

  • mad dog

    I said it before and some will call me deranged for saying it again, but, IMHO:

    Itellectual Properety Rights = mental taxation.

    I sure some taxes could be described as useful but in the main, many are not. This is one example that causes lost sleep for creative ideviduals and tends only to benefit lawyers.

    Having fought and won several IPR cases I would still be more than happy to give up my rights if everybody else gave up theirs. While the idea may be reasonable (or perhaps reasonably argued) the results in many cases are less than understandable.

  • Jonathan L

    Look at it this way: if somebody made an art sculpture that depicted a skinhead in the form of a fountain, eternally peeing upon the Union Jack, then some Brits might get irritated about the “misappropriaton of their cutural symbols”, too.

    Perhaps, but such a work of art could only be made for the purpose of upsetting Brits which is I think is a different matter all together. Personally I would just think that they are sad and should get out more often.

  • John Doe

    Would Australian aboriginies be allowed to use the British Coat of Arms on their business stationery with the words “By appointment of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll “? Why not?

    These symbols and words are not in the local “trademarks” or “intellectual property” data bases? Would the Royal family be called “moral pygmies” for claiming others refrain from using their Coat of Arms?

    So why should Harry Harry be allowed to COPY (not create) a very distictive patterned lizard in his paintings — which represents several tribes and clans from Western Australia? By doing so, he’s denoting that he is associated with those tribes.

    Aboriginal culture cannot be understood in the same way western culture is. This is not an intellectual property rights issue about “logos”, “trademarks”, “property” or “ownership”. Among other things, its about identity.

    For two hundred years, the British govenment (and its representatives) have stolen aboriginal land, attempted genocide, discarded aboriginal culture and tradition and stolen aboriginal children. Surely we can refrain from stealing the one thing the aboriginal community has left: their personal spriritual and traditional language and stories all of which are rooted in these very distictive symbols.

    If we can’t do that, who is the real “moral pygmies”?