Seminar V - Kyungshin Park
Knowledge is Power - Must-Know Legal Issues for Curators
Sunjoo Choi (DCW 2021)
At the fifth seminar of the 2021 DOOSAN Curator Workshop, we examined cases of legal issues relevant to curators with Prof. Kyungshin Park. We focused on legal issues that curators may come across in practical affairs—specifically, copyright issues, contracts in the art field, artist fees, and Korea’s recently-reformed employment insurance pertaining to people in the art and culture community.
We started by defining the concepts of copyright and copyrighted work. Copyright refers to rights pertaining to creative work and copyrighted work generally expresses human ideas and emotions. However, for a copyright to be acknowledged, a number of conditions must be fulfilled. In the case of photographic works, a photographer’s individuality and creativity should be recognized, but for works produced for occupational purposes, there are some cases in which photographers are not recognized as creators.
Since curators deal with works by artists, they must pay close attention to the moral rights of the artist. The moral rights of the artist are untransferable and uninheritable and can neither be infringed upon nor inherited, even after the artist’s death. Through these, artists can demand the right to the integrity of their work so that its identity and content do not get unduly altered. We went over examples of these rights being infringed upon, such as cases of people discarding works that are part of a collection or moving them to another location. We also discussed to what extent we can maintain identity and content when alteration is inevitable, such as in the case of Nam June Paik’s The More, The Better (1988). We also went over scenarios of using intellectual property within the scope of copyright, discussing where one can draw the line between parody and plagiarism when using an artist’s work without their permission, as well as to what extent fair use can be acknowledged, using photographs by Lie Sang Bong, the fashion designer, as an example.
Then, by examining a standard contract in the art field, we reviewed the problems inherent in sellout contracts through the example of Cloud Bread, a book by Baek Hee-na. This was a case in which, although the contract was signed and agreed upon by both parties, all property rights of a work were handed over and became a serious infringement upon the author’s rights in the long term. This controversial example of an unfair contract allowed us to understand that, in addition to asking for intellectual property rights, creators can legally demand their rights be upheld even if they did not sign a contract or if the other party demanded an unfair contract. Lastly, we examined the practical aspects of the new artist employment insurance such as standard fees, insurance rates, contract periods, and applied wages.
Through the seminar, we learned about legal conflicts that curators may encounter, cases of unfair contracts and invalidated curator copyrights, and the numerous problems that may occur while curating an exhibition. In addition, we were able to discuss the multifaceted changes that have occurred in the wake of the emerging technological environment such as artificial intelligence and non-fungible tokens (NFT).