Alternative Law Journal
The arts impact on many different areas of our l1ves. At any one time, we can be creators, consumers, infringers and/or admirers. The arts can be the vehicle through which culture expresses itself, through which new cultures are formed or through which the destruction of old cultures begins. The role of the law in this eclectic phenomenon remains controversial, but no one can deny its importance. All agree on the need for legal protection, but who to protect? Creators, consumers, infringers, admirers and even the culture itself, all have competing demands.
The aim of inviting articles on the area of the arts was to explore contemporary legal issues impacting on the arts within our society.
A core article is from Ant Horn, 'Creators and the copyright balance', an analysis of the copyright balance debate between copyright holders, copyright users and creators. The article provides an interesting discussion on the impact of new types of creations on the one hand, and the increasing demands of free trade and globalisation on the other.
In a similar contemporary vein, articles by Katrina Gunn and Craig Forrest provide a thought-provoking critique of the ownership of art and antiquities stolen, looted or forcibly sold in the context of armed conflict. The illicit trade in Iraqi cultural heritage and the way in which the Coalition states have reacted to the trade is discussed in the Forrest article and demonstrates the fluidity of ethics in times of conflict with the promise of a quick buck to be made. Are legal protections sufficient? More to the point, what chance do legal protections have in the international arena, when nation states prefer political goals over the protection of ancient cultures?
Australia is not immune to the tension between the protection of ancient cultures and political goals. The Arts Law Centre of Austral1a has provided a brief on current Indigenous arts law issues and explores the opportunity for more adequate protection of Indigenous works with the introduction of a new Bill contain1ng resale rights for Indigenous art in certain circumstances. This brief reflects a small part of the overall work undertaken by the Centre, which actively advocates sound policy and protection c:fthe arts in our ethnically diverse society.
Last year, the Centre was granted funding from the Australia Council to trial an Indigenous project to improve arts law service delivery to Indigenous artists and their organisations across Australia. Called 'Artists in the Black', the project will aim to improve protections available for Indigenous artists and their access to them. This is a timely project. We have one of the richest ancient cultures of the world, yet its artistic expressions are frequently copied, exploited and misused.
This edition also takes a look at the role of the media in filtering information and forming public opinion. In this vein, a brief by Gill Boehringer reviews the way that the media filtered information relat1ng to Phuong Ngo in the now infamous trial relating to the death of John Newman. On the lighter side, we welcome a brief from our celebrity lawyer James O'Loughlin, pondering his struggle to provide fair commentary on increasingly judgemental media reporting.
We are also fortunate to have two articles analysing the Australian government's ongoing response to terrorism in the form of increased powers to ASIO. As lawyers familiar with the difficult task of trying to balance competing rights of victims and perpetrators, it is easy to see the potential for grave exploitation of these powers.
SABINA LAUBER IS a Sydney lawyer now working for the United Nations Development Fund for Women in Bangkok.
KELLIE EDWARDS is a Sydney lawyer and writer.
© 2004 Stuart Roth (cartoon)