Quilt Artists: Left out in the Cold by the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990

By Moran, Michelle | Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Quilt Artists: Left out in the Cold by the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990


Moran, Michelle, Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review


ABSTRACT
INTRODUCTION
  I. COPYRIGHT PROTECTION FOR QUILTS AS "USEFUL ARTICLES"
     A. Copyrightable Subject Matter and Useful Articles
     B. Copyright Protection for Quilts
 II. VISUAL ARTISTS RIGHTS ACT OF 1990
     A. Policy and Goals of VARA
     B. Visual Works of Art Included and Excluded from VARA
III. QUILT ARTISTS' RIGHTS
     A. Elevating Quilt Artists' Rights to Include Rights of
        Attribution and Integrity
        1. Determining Congressional Intent for VARA
        2. Protection Under State Artists' Moral Rights Statutes
     B. Maintaining the Status Quo for Copyright Protection of
        Quilt Designs
CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

Imagine walking into a museum and observing a display of five original pieces of artwork created in the United States. The display includes a sculpture, a painting, a quilt, a photograph, and a print--all original, all protected by copyright. (1) The Copyright Act gives all the artists an equal "bundle of rights," with one exception: four out of the five artists have their "moral rights" of attribution and integrity protected, but the quilt artist is not entitled to these rights because applied art is excluded from the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 ("VARA"). (2)

A quilt is art because it is beautiful, and a quilt is a useful article because it provides warmth and comfort. The quilt's dual purpose creates an inequity for the quilt artist. The useful articles or applied art (3) status of the quilt eliminates for the quilt's creator the right to claim protections that are readily available to artists who work in other media, such as paint, canvas, paper, stone or metal. These artists are able to protect their rights of attribution and integrity because their works function only as art. Alice Walker's Everyday Use expresses the duality of the quilt with poignancy when the mother asks her greedy daughter, who covets the family's antique quilts: "Well," I said, stumped. "What would you do with them?" "Hang them," she said. The mother is left thinking: As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts. (4) Ironically, if that were the only thing that could be done with a quilt, then the artist would be afforded the same rights of attribution and integrity as other visual artists. The reality of a quilt, however, is that it is more than art. It seems a harsh penalty that because a quilt can be useful, the quilt artist is offered fewer rights, especially when the underlying policy expressed by Congress under VARA seems to speak directly to the artist who created and labored to produce an original quilt. (5)

To understand how copyright law fails to protect useful articles and quilts, Part I provides a basic backdrop of copyright law as it applies to useful articles and specifically how quilt designs have been protected by copyright. Part II discusses the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), which protects the moral rights of attribution and integrity for visual artists. This Part reviews congressional attempts to narrowly limit who is protected under VARA--a departure from the broad coverage under other regimes that protect moral rights. Part Ill addresses how the courts interpreted VARA and applied art within VARA's context. This Part also examines how the courts determine what artworks Congress intended to protect with VARA, with a particular focus on how this issue is treated in the legislative history. Part Ill then discusses how the legislative history supports protecting quilt artists' rights of attribution and integrity because a quilt artist fits the profile of the artist Congress intended to protect with this act.

I. COPYRIGHT PROTECTION FOR QUILTS AS "USEFUL ARTICLES"

A requirement of VARA is that the visual art must be subject to copyright protection and accordingly must be copyrightable subject matter. (6) Copyrightable subject matter is limited to the design elements of the quilt. Therefore, its status as a useful article eliminates the quilt from qualifying for protection under VARA.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Quilt Artists: Left out in the Cold by the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.