CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


To copy is to steal: the intersection of intellectual property, cultural practices and visual art

Session 8 Art and Taboo

The University of Melbourne


This paper examines the tension between the conceptual underpinnings of copyright laws and artistic practices that involve various forms of copying and reproduction. The research work is part of a broader comparative research project, which examines the way in which different artistic practices and cultures engage with copyright principles. My paper builds on art historical work, with a particular focus on artistic practices at the intersection of the creative and cultural industries paradigm, thrown into sharp relief through a series of legal cases involving Jeff Koons and Richard Prince, and in particular the emerging doctrine of transformative use. Through this lens I also reflect on the practices of Sherrie Levine, practices that have escaped judicial consideration, yet are every bit as provocative.  The expansion of the visual art into the creative industries paradigm invokes intellectual property regimes and presents challenges that cannot be faced merely through art historical theoretical concepts and understandings. Through a series of legal and artistic case studies the paper demonstrates the cultural and art form specific assumptions that are impacted by principles of copyright law, and reflects on the extent to which artistic projects might be curtailed by intellectual property regimes and commercial imperatives.


Kate MacNeill is the Program Director of the Master of Arts and Cultural Management and an Associate Professor in the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne. With a background in law and economics she had extensive experience in policy work in the government and non-government sector prior to returning to study art history, and obtaining a PhD in contemporary Australian art. Her research interests include the intersection between law, ethics and artistic practices and the nature of leadership in the arts industry. She teaches Art and Law, and has a special interest in intellectual property and artistic practices. Associate Professor MacNeill has supervised PhD students in the areas of creative industries, contemporary art, leadership in the arts and memorialisation and public art.