2 June 2006
I'll sue your glass off
This is not going to be pretty. Glass artist Dale Chihuly is suing two other artists, including one who was associated with him for over a decade, for copyright infringement: says Chihuly, the rival glassmen are copying his free-flowing technique.
The defendants reply that Chihuly is trying to extend his brand name well beyond reasonable limits:
"Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art," said Bryan Rubino, the former acolyte named in the suit who worked for Chihuly as a contractor or employee for 14 years. "If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."
Tulsa glass artist Sarah Diggdon says that it's inappropriate to assert ownership of a given shape:
To copyright a shape like that, it's like in pottery if you copyrighted the traditional vase. It's ridiculous.
And Rubino's attorney points out:
If the first guy who painted Madonna and Child had tried to copyright it, half of the Louvre would be empty.
"What it boils down to," says Carolyn Hill of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which owns a substantial Chihuly collection, "is intent." And intent is a tricky thing to prove.
Note: First paragraph reworded slightly since publication.