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[teacherartexchange] Second Graders Learn Copyright Lesson the Hard Way


From: Judy Decker (judy.decker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Apr 08 2007 - 10:10:36 PDT

Dear Art Educators,

One teacher's second graders learned a lesson in copyright law the hard way.
They created watercolor paintings of dogs in the style of Daniel Kessler.

The teacher was so excited about the children's paintings that she
emailed the artist giving him her Artsonia link. Daniel Kessler was
not flattered by the second graders' imitation of his work. Rather, he
had his lawyer contact Artsonia directly to have the work removed from
the site.

Here is just one sample of the second grade paintings - all were very
similar to Kessler's
Students used different colors but all were similar - with apple on dog's head.
This image will only be at this location for a short time - for
illustrative purposes.

Second graders copying his style was not Fair Use.

You can read the discussion on this thread on Art Education list.

I think we can all come up with a way this lesson could have been done
that would not have violated copyright so I won't list ideas here. I
will post one reply from Pam as it was a good one.

From Pam:

At the risk of being in the minority and raising the ire of some of
this list, may I suggest that Kessler has a point? Because there is
little variation between and among the artworks produced by the
children, I suspect that Kessler viewed this not so much as children
learning about his style; rather that the dogs are copies of his

Kessler's dog illustrations are the source of his livelihood. They
are copyrighted images (this is plainly stated on his website) in the
same way that books are copyrighted. For them to be copied and then
sold--regardless that the copying was by children and regardless that
they are cute--is taking from the artist's source of income.

This list recently discussed the topic of "in the style of" art
lessons. Perhaps this event is yet another layer of consideration
when developing these sorts of lessons.

Wiggins and McTighe's "Understanding by Design" provides wonderful
insights into developing meaningful art-based lessons. These authors
suggest that meaningful art-based lessons have enduring ideas,
essential questions, and other aspects that guide children towards
individual creativity and critical thinking. Under these guidelines,
I think the legal issues with the artist would have been skirted.
Deriving meaning from the artwork and then having children create
their own personal idea of "dog" would have been a solution....

These second graders now know that copying another artist's work is
not Fair Use - even though it was done in an educational setting.
Sure, students have the right to paint a dog in the style of Kessler,
but not the right to display it on the web and not to sell it (even
though their Artsonia profit is very small). I do think the artist
could have handled the situation differently. A direct email to the
art teacher asking her to take the work down would have been better.

Second graders are not too young to learn a little bit about copyright.


Judy Decker

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