Senior Tiwi artist Bede Tungutalum is a painter, carver and printmaker and one of the founders of Tiwi Designs the well known Indigenous screen printing business based on Bathurst Island. In 2004, he approached Artists in the Black after seeing prints of his limited edition linocut work "Owl Man" for sale on the internet and through galleries in Australia.
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative Ltd approached Artists in the Black (AITB) for assistance with governance issues which were threatening the closure of Boomalli despite a history of over 20 years.
Christine Tschuna is an Wirangu artist with the Ceduna Arts and Cultural Centre. In June 2006 she signed a Licence Reproduction Agreement with a company with produces postcards and tourist memorabilia. After the company stopped returning her calls or emails Christine turned to Artists in the Black for assistance. Arts Law pro bono lawyer Robert Lempens of Camatta Lempens in Adelaide offered to help Christine.
At the request of Desart, AITB undertook to assist in the preparation of standardized contracts and employment conditions for art centre staff in the Western Desert area.
Worora man Donny Woolagoodja is a renowned artist whose giant Wandjina artwork featured at the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. He asked Artists in the Black to help him prepare a document which would protect him from being held responsible if participants on his tours were injured and which would also enable him to restrict participants from photographing and publishing images of culturally sensitive sites.
Ilbijerri Theatre Company in Victoria is the longest running Indigenous theatre company in Australia creating innovative contemporary works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Ilbijerri asked Artists in the Black to help clarify these issues in a way which recognized and protected the contributions of the workshop participants but also made sure that Ilbijerri had all of the rights it needed to stage a successful production for the public.
Jilalga Murray-Ranui is an Indigenous visual artist who is passionate about producing digital images, paintings, and smaller works of art inspired by the Pilbara landscape, people, animals and lifestyle
In July 2010, Jilalga was approached by Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) to create a large mural on a bridge. The MAC and the Victorian Department of Transport had entered into an agreement in relation to the creation of a public art work and Jilalga had been retained by MAC to do this work. She was not a party to the agreement between MAC and the Victorian Department of Transport so she was concerned about how that agreement might affect her copyright and her moral rights.
As an Indigenous artist, Jilalga receives a free subscription to Arts Law which she used to access Arts Law’s Document Review Service. Arts Law arranged for lawyers Jarod Benson and Jessica Karasinski of Minter Ellison to help Jilalga to understand the agreement.
“For me the size of the contract and the wording was very daunting. Arts Law helped me understand it. And they helped me renegotiate parts where I felt uneasy or concerned. Another concern I had was distance between all parties. I lived in Perth, the Victorian Transport department was in Melbourne, Mungabareena was in Wodonga, and then Arts Law was in Sydney. I was worried for a little while about the distance - I felt like I was just one lone artist on the other side of Australia. But it was reassuring that Arts Law made contact with some Perth lawyers to assist me. I felt good that I had local people on board to help me and that gave me a bit more confidence.”
Jilalga asked the Department of Transport and MAC to consider the amendments suggested by Jarod and Jessica. Those amendments were accepted and the contract was changed in a way that gave much greater protection to Jilalga.
The mural project http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2011/02/10/3135519.htm was unveiled in February 2011. Jilalga reflects on the process:
“Arts Law gives you the confidence to have your say by talking with you, then talking to the other party and negotiating on your behalf if and when you need it. By working with Arts Law, I felt reassured that my rights were worthy, and that my rights deserved to be heard and respected.
I enjoyed the process, all people involved worked positively together. I was so happy about the work I produced for the community, especially the Koorie community. The project was a success for the community, for the organisations involved, and for myself as a practising artist.”
This story demonstrates that it is important for artists to be aware of their rights and to be vigilant with agreements dealing with copyright of an artist, especially when the artist is not a party to the agreement. Artists should consider their moral rights (such as making sure they are named as the artist of the work) and should not be afraid to negotiate to protect their rights.
Further resources you might find useful:
- Arts Law’s information sheets: Contracts: an introduction
- Arts Law’s sample agreements: Public art: design and commission agreement
Artist Lawrence Omeenyo is a painter, sculptor and elder of the Lockhart River Community. He works through the Lockhart River Arts Centre. After Arts Law had worked with the Lockhart River Art Centre drafting wills for their artists, Arts Law decided to approach the art centre to see if it was possible to license one of the artist's images for Arts Law's 2010 Christmas card.