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Appropriation art and cultural institutions

Marina P Markellou

Keywords: appropriation art; contemporary art; copyright; exceptions/limitations; fair use; museums; copyright clearance policy; law cases

This article explores the possibilities and pitfalls connected with the creative use of pre-existing images with themes linked to appropriation, creativity and collaborative practices.

Appropriation is an absolutely legitimate art practice, as far as the art world is concerned. However, on the one hand, this artistic movement has been frustrating the legal experts, since it ignores and thus challenges major criteria of the copyright law such as originality and authorship. On the other hand, it has attracted the attention of the National Courts in applying the fair use exception or proceeding in a broad interpretation of the citation exception for artistic purposes.

Many museums and art galleries have embraced appropriation artistic practices in recent years in order to transgress the traditional notion of the museum as a cultural depository or a centre of research and to establish a creative dialogue with the public, to force the public to think about art.

But what are the copyright implications of this movement? When do creative acts stop and copyright infringement begin? What are the museums' obligations towards this phenomenon?

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