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These Origami Artists Won’t Fold

UPDATE:  We’ve re-filed the case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. You can find the updated complaint here, and the exhibits here.

Bay Oak Law and Haims Valentino LLP have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against artist Sarah Morris, who used the crease patterns of at least six different origami artists. She did so without attribution or licenses.

The plaintiffs are Robert Lang, Manuel Sirgo Alvarez, Noboru Miyajima, Nicola BandoniToshikazu Kawasaki, and Jason Ku — some of the most renowned origami artists in the world today. Click here for Robert Lang’s take on the case.

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    Who cares! It’s an art design! These “intellectual property” cases are just an excuse for greedy lawyers to attack an artist that does more with her life than you lawyers – unanimously and internationally known as the scum of the earth. When the absurdity of these types of cases comes to public consciousness in the near future, you will go down in history as the tyrants of opportunism and unrestrained greed. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    It is hardly an “excuse for greedy lawyers to attack an artist.” The defendant used the design (under copyright) of the original artists without their consent.

    So, let’s say you produce a design, and someone copies the design and manufacture the design cheaply and sell it, that’s ok with you?

    so, let me get this straight.

    using something that is clearly fair use, while the defendant is claiming that they can control derivatives (hint: copyright doesn’t allow this), it’s anything other than greed?

    boy am I glad this is covered in techdirt: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110507/01344914197/origami-creators-sue-artist-copyright-infringement-concerning-crease-patterns.shtml

    Someone copying the design and manufacturing it is NOT what is happening here.

    This is someone taking the design and doing something new with it and selling it, and they are perfectly within their rights to do so.

    I care. Yes, art designs that are someone’s livelihood. You don’t get to help yourself to them without consent. I’m sick of artists being exploited. I hope you prevail, and that this case gets lots of attention.

    The plaintiffs claim the works by Morris are derivative. I don’t see that. They’re transformative. She didn’t just change little aspects of the origami crease patterns, she changed the whole medium from patterns intended (I guess) as instructions towards a painted picture. Without context I could never tell Morris’ paintings are based on origami.
    I skimmed through the lawsuit (and Lang’s website) and at no point I saw that the plaintiffs themselves ever intended to or have taken this transformative step. Therefor I don’t see any damages created by Morris. Sounds just like another case where copyright is misused to make a quick buck.

    Robert Lang has exhibited his crease patterns themselves as stand-alone artworks since 2003, before Sarah Morris, so you really can make a direct comparison in this context without even considering the folded models.

    As well, regardless of whether or not you, personally, are able to recognize the crease patterns as being origami is an entirely separate matter. These are copyrighted works that have a direct correspondence with folded models. If you could bare with me for a moment, imagine that instead of crease patterns, Ms. Morris took copyrighted sheet music, colored in the staves, changed the title, and put the work up on display as her own without even crediting the composer. Someone who is not a musician and who has never seen sheet music might make the claim, similar to your claim about origami, that without context they could never even tell that the paintings are based on music. Regardless of whether or not a given observer is capable of making the connection between the more abstract representation of the work and the performed (or in this cases, folded) form does not in any way change the fact that it is a copyright violation.

    I think the issue here is that origami is an art that is nowhere near as mainstream as music. Few people have the ability to create, understand, or appreciate crease patterns, but they are still complex, artistic works that many people devote their lives to. Such artists should expect to have the same rights as any other.

    The music example you described is another example of a transformative work. You take some very extensive steps to create a very different and new artwork. It’s even a weaker defense for Mr. Lang as your example even takes more steps to differentiate itself from the inspiration than Mrs. Morris did.
    It is in both cases a fair use issue and the lawsuit is silly. Why hinder the creation of more art?

    Stig seems to have forgotten that the people bringing the complaint are artists. They hired lawyers to provide legal aid, but the fight is between artists.

    I would say yes this is plagerism and copyright infringement. But not to the standards of Art (which has no standards here). I am an Architect, if someone steals and re-uses my designs to construct a building with the same plan but different materials they have stolen my intellectual property.

    Morris has stolen the plans, the concept, of the work which describe the whole and the relationships between the parts of the work. And as an Artist who’s work specifically investigates Architecture she should be held to a standard where she respects this point. By doing this she has undermined her own work because this lazy act demonstrates that as an “artist” she has only a superficial grasp of the”architecture”.

    Had Morris been a serious artists she would have developed her own Origami patterns. Learning to do this would have given her insight into her subject and resulted in works with depth and meaning. Legal or not her colorized paint by number paintings have been exposed as second hand, superficial and decorative.

    I totally agree on what Paul Randall said. She should be fined for stealing ideas of other people, which is absolutely obvious. Plagiatism is something really despicable and of course people never copy the works of art 1:1 which would be easy to detect. Hope you win this case. In Germany you would! Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    Very interesting blog, very fun to read it:)


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