Okay, so you're walking through a museum, admiring the paintings on exhibit, and you think to yourself, "I've just gotta have that one!"
Well, you know you can't really have the one that's hanging on the wall. It's a museum, not an art gallery. And, even if they were selling it, what're the chances you'd be willing to part with the kind of cash that museum-quality art sells for?
So you get a brilliant idea: "I'll just snap a photo of the painting, have it blown up to actual size, and hang that on my wall."
Uh, did I say "brilliant?" Perhaps I should have said "illegal." At least, what I just described could be illegal if the painting isn't in the public domain. Sure, the Mona Lisa's been around long enough to be outside copyright protection. But more recent works (i.e., those created after 1922) might still be covered by the copyright laws, and that means that, even snapping a photo for reproductive display could constitute an illegal appropriation of the work.
Keep in mind that the artist who created the painting is the one and only person in the world who can authorize the making of copies of it (that includes, reproductions as posters, photos, computer screen desktops, T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.) until the day arrives when that painting falls into the public domain.
Many television shows go to cable TV for airings specifically because the cable stations don't have to adhere to the more strict rules of decency defined for the stations that broadcast over the public airwaves. But even cable has its limits. And one of those limits is child pornography, something this country deems to be an illegality no matter where it exists.
MTV's youth-oriented program, Skins, made a quick reputation for itself by pushing the boundaries with its depictions of the exploits (often sexual) of a group of teenaged minors. Problem is, those teenaged minors are being played by actors who are...well, teenaged minors. And, while an MTV spokesperson described the show as a "frank" representation of teenagers' "real-world issues" (which, naturally, because it's television, involves a lot of sex issues rather than issues about homework and acne), depictions of underage people engaged in sexually explicit activities could run afoul of the kiddie porn laws. So, according to news reports, MTV has had the producers of Skins tone down some of the episodes.
It's not clear to me whether the "tone down" order came as a direct result of the kiddie porn question or because Taco Bell canceled its advertisements with the show. But I'm guessing the loss of the big burrito advertiser didn't hurt the cause of those who wanted to simmer down the Skins kids' sex scenes.
With the buzz over the censorship of a new edition of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn still going on (see previous post), now there's a new flap over what to do about the language in another literary creation. This time the issue centers not around a white man's 19th century novel but, rather, around a 20th-21st century African American man's play.
I'm talking about August Wilson's drama, Joe Turner's Come and Gone. The much lauded play was scheduled to be performed at an arts magnet school in Waterbury, Connecticut. But the school superintendant pulled the plug because, like the text of Huck Finn, the script of Joe Turner's Come and Gone calls for characters in the play to use the racially charged term often referred to as the "N-word." According to a Republican-American newspaper article, the superintendant opposed allowing teenagers in his school system to speak the word in the performance of the play.
If you're asking yourself why the school doesn't just change the offensive word to something more acceptable, it probably won't surprise you to hear that has already been suggested. However, unlike the works of Mr. Twain (which passed into the public domain long ago), Mr. Wilson's works are fully protected by copyright, which forbids making changes to the script without the copyright owner's permission. And the copyright owner refused to allow a sanitized revision.
Whether or not "the show must go on" in that school just as Mr. Wilson wrote it is something that has been referred to the Waterbury Board of Education. But kudos to the school for at least knowing that it couldn't just revise the script without seeking official authorization from the copyright owner.
When Mark Twain wrote the novel, Huckleberry Finn, he wrote it as a first-person narrative told by the title character, and he used the character vernacular of an only slightly educated country boy. And, of course, only slightly educated country boys of 19th century America hadn't yet adopted the term "African American" as a racially descriptive term. They used that other word (now considered so offensive that, even if I were to reference it here in a purely clinical use, it might still raise the hackles of people who justifiably are taken aback by it). So Mr. Twain used that word repeatedly in his lead character's narrative, and it has been the source of much debate in this country for decades.
Huckleberry Finn, considered a classic of American literature, is also one of the most banned books in America, and it's all because of that word. So, according to an Associated Press story, one man is planning to publish a new edition of Huckleberry Finn that replaces the offending word with the word, "slave." (I suspect there are at least some for whom "slave" is not exactly considered a major semantic upgrade. But I get the basic idea at work here, and I expect you do, too.)
This "cleansing" of Huck raises its own issues in that it's a tampering with classic literature. Literary purists object. If the novel were still under copyright protection, it wouldn't happen -- not without the copyright owner's permission, anyway. But Mr. Twain's works long ago passed into the public domain. That means, from a legal standpoint, you could change as many of the words as you want and not violate copyright law.
For those of you keeping score at home, the count of injured actors in Broadway's new mega-millions musical, Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, is up to four -- and, technically, the show hasn't even opened yet. Not since Macbeth has a stage show seemed this unlucky. Mishaps during daring onstage stunts have resulted in at least one actress having a concussion and another actor undergoing surgery for broken ribs and internal bleeding, and the injuries suffered by four of the show's actors over the course of only one month of preview performances have caused Spider-man's producers to postpone the $65 million dollar musical's official opening night until at least February while the safety issues are worked out.
Yet to be worked out -- at least publicly -- are any remaining legal issues resulting from the injuries. These are, after all, workplace injuries happening to employees while they're on the job. Some of those may be worker's comp issues. But there could also be claims related to unsafe work conditions should it be determined that the production's management created unjustifiably dangerous conditions. According to reports, both New York and federal government safety officials are now keeping a closer watch on this show...and you can bet it's not to admire the costumes.