Category: Ethics

Intellectual property rights for sand sculptors

Intellectual property rights for sand sculptors

Recently, by way of a few online forums, I became aware of an issue that I thought was in need of some serious attention. As a professional sand sculptor I have become used to having photographers of every skill level taking photos of my work. Until recently, I never gave it much thought about where those photos would end up or even for what purpose they may be used. Many of you reading this have undoubtedly at one time or another received an email containing photos of several of the coolest sand sculptures ever created. The lingering question that remains is, who exactly holds the intellectual property rights to these photos? I hope to clear up all the confusion surrounding this complicated topic

Intellectual rights In almost every instance it is the photographer that owns the intellectual property rights of his or her photos. The confusion seems to arise when those photos contain works of art. When a photo contains something that is protected by copyright law such as a painting or sculpture it can not be reproduced without permission from the creator of the painting or sculpture. Even if only a portion of the painting or sculpture appear in the photo, permission still may be required. There is no set standard on how much of the work appears in the photo. The key  factor is something referred to as “substantial part”. If a recognisable element of a sculpture is featured on a photo no matter how small, permission for use is required.

Some exceptions If a photo is used for a news story or as part of a critique then no permission is required for  one time use. Additionally if a sculpture or work of art is on permanent display in a public area then there are no restrictions set on commercial use. This rule does not apply to works of art on temporary display.

Known violations You may think that professional photographers are the biggest offenders of these rights. The truth is that professional photographers are well aware of copyright and intellectual property law. Many of them have been exposed to the same infringement  as the artists and sculptors I have mentioned in this article. With the age of the cell phone camera and photo sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook it is not only the average person but also a horde of internet entrepreneurs that have taken the top honors when it comes to copyright infringement. There are currently no less than two dozen iPhone and Android apps that contain unauthorised use of professional sand sculptors artwork. In addition get rich overnight bloggers regularly steal these images from Flickr accounts to attract more visitors to their blogs.

Stop the abuse I’m not advocating a massive class action law suit to put an end to this rampant abuse of intellectual property rights. There are easier ways you can help put a stop to this abuse and protect your intellectual property rights. To report violations in the Android market follow this link. To report violations to the Apple market follow this link. The best way to protect yourself as an artist is to be aware. Try doing periodic searches on the internet. A good search term is “sand sculpture calendars”, another is” sand sculpture photo books”. If you find any evidence and feel your rights may have been violated, try contacting the author or publisher directly. It never hurts to try to settle these disputes out of the court room. If you feel you are not getting any results, it may be time to contact a copyright attorney. The next time someone asks to take a photo of one of my sand sculptures I will kindly say, “yes, for  your personal use only.” If someone is thinking about using my work for profit, hopefully this will kick-start the necessary conversation…One Grain at a Time.

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Ever thought of destroying a sand sculpture? Better think twice!

Ever thought of destroying a sand sculpture? Better think twice!

I have been creating sand sculptures at public and private events all over the world for almost 20 years now. It has always been in the back of my mind that someone  might not be able to resist the urge to destroy one of my creations. I could not even imagine how I would react if that had ever happened. Unfortunately I was about to find out.

At a recent public event in Yarmouth MA, vandals destroyed roughly 40 hours of hard work that my team and I had put into a centerpiece sculpture for the Summer Kick Off Celebration. My team and I were just finishing up breakfast and getting ready to hit the beach for our second day of carving when I got the call from parks and recreation director Pat Armstrong. I could tell by the tone of Pat’s voice that something was wrong. ” You’re not going to see what you left last night” , she said, noticeably upset. “It’s pretty bad.” My first reaction was to remain calm and try not to over react.  When we arrived on scene, we found that the top three feet of our ten foot sculpture had been knocked off and all of the carved detail that we had done the day prior was wiped clean. In its place were scratch marks, gaping holes and the word sorry scratched into the surface.

Yarmouth sand sculpture

 At that point my team and I could have given up and  explained to Pat that recovery from such a devastating attack was not possible. What we did do, after the police had finished with their initial investigation of the scene, was get right back to work with our trademark “failure is not an option” attitude. Fortunately for us, we had done such a good job prepping the sand, that it was  difficult to do little more than surface damage to the sculpture. The main body, less three feet in height, was still intact. We made a promise to Pat and the residents of Yarmouth that our finished design would be even better that our original plan. That  same spirit was also reflected in a particular group of life guards who volunteered to hold nightly watches over the sand sculpture to prevent the possibility of future attacks.

Over those next two days, as we completed the sculpture the outpouring of support from the community leaders , residents, media and tourists was incredible.  What ever the vandals were trying to achieve by destroying our hard work, they failed. The one thing they did do was bring added attention to sand sculpture as a legitimate form of public art.  Thousands of people turned out to view the progress of the sculpture and many more will continue to enjoy it over the next few weeks. Yes, I think we kept true to our promise to Pat and the Town of Yarmouth.Our sculpture was received very well by the thousands who came to see it. We were even able to include an additional element into the sculpture to pay tribute to all the life guards that graciously volunteered their time to watch over it each night.  There were a few people who were quick to blame the attack on the irresponsible young people. I will make the point that this group of young people, under the direction of Pat Armstrong, were some of the most admirable group of people that this artist has ever met.



Yarmouth Sand Sculpting

sand sculpture yarmouth

The police are still investigating the incident. While it is not the crime of the century, destruction of public art is considered a felony in most states. If the suspects are caught, I would suggest to the judge hearing the case to consider having them volunteer to help us prep all the sand for next year’s event. Perhaps if they experience all the hard work that goes into creating a sand sculpture , it will make them think twice about ever destroying one  again…One Grain at a Time.

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Sand Sculpting Ethics 101

Sand Sculpting Ethics 101

When I was first introduced to the world of professional sand sculpting, I marveled at the level of comradery and cooperation I witnessed. There is a wonderful vibe that surrounds you when in the company of such talented artists. For years I believed that the sand sculpting business was somehow immune to the trappings of cut throat practices. Unfortunately, I would soon learn first hand that, while a majority of sand sculptors have exemplary business practices, there are those in the business that make us all look bad.

In any business there are certain ethical standards that must be followed in order to advance the industry as a whole. Those that disregard these practices, may at first glance appear to be unaffected by their actions. Some might even refer to themselves as shrewd business men. I can assure you shrewd is not the word I would use to describe them.

So here they are, the top 5 reasons ( in no particular order)  that you might want to take an ethics class.

  1. You charge your clients $$$$ for additional sand sculptors but you only pay those sculptors $.
  2. You consider drinking and or smoking on the job part of your “artistic license”.
  3. Your idea of business marketing is to check  out your competition’s website calender of events and  then call all their clients.
  4. You’ve actually yelled at a competitor’s client for not hiring you.
  5. You market yourself at a fellow sand sculptors event, saying you could do a better job for less.

I’m sure there are many more  reasons you might need an ethics corse. I would love to hear any personal experiences from other sand sculptors. Please omit any names. The purpose of this blog post is to raise awareness, not to vilify any particular group or individual.

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