Steal This Image Says Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


Robert Rauschenberg

Here’s some BIG art world news that’s sure to have major repercussions. The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation is adopting a new fair use policy for images of the American painter and artist best known for his “combines” of non-traditional materials as well as his work. What this essentially means is that many previously copyrighted images will be free for those who want to reproduce them–including the media and regular folks who might want to snap a photo of his art and post it on Facebook or other social media site–as long as they are not using the images for commercial purpose.

This new policy eliminates the charging of royalty fees and the need for reprint and licensing permission for “noncommercial, scholarly, and/or transformative purposes,” according to information released by the foundation.

“Traditional notions of copyright and attempts to control images have proven incompatible with the nature of the digital age,”says Christy MacLear, the Rauschenberg Foundation’s chief executive. “The system has created barriers for the wrong people.”

The one caveat to the new policy is that the foundation is encouraging those wanting to use Rauschenberg images to seek them from them instead of just pulling images from the web, which is often riddled with low quality images and incorrectly identified items. The new policy will lose the foundation approximately $100,000 annually in revenue, according to Ms. MacLear. But, she says, it’s more important to continue Rauschenberg’s legacy and what she says she thinks would be his wishes at this point in time.

Rauschenberg famously spent time in the Hamptons with artist John Gruen and his wife, artist Jane Wilson, in Water Mill in 1959. Many photographs of that time were taken by Mr. Gruen and reprinted in his book “The Sixties: Young in the Hamptons.” The artist,  whose early works anticipated the pop art movement, also visited Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning during that time with his love, artist Jasper Johns, in tow.

Rauschenberg, who was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993, was featured at Guild Hall in East Hampton in 2005. He lived in Manhattan and Captiva Island in Florida until his death in 2008. Interesting tidbit–the artist unsuccessfully lobbied U.S. Congress to pass a bill compensating artists when their work resold. A version of the bill later passed in California. Rauschenberg became an advocate for the awarding of artist royalties after taxi baron Robert Scull sold part of his art collection, including Rauschenberg’s 1958 painting “Thaw, that he had originally sold to Scull for $900 but brought $85,000 at  auction in 1973.

Robert Rauschenberg (1968)

Robert Rauschenberg at the Stedelijk Museum in 1968.

One thought on “Steal This Image Says Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

  1. Very good idea. It would be Rauschenberg’s images out there on the web, make them even more well-known. Publications would want better copies and perhaps background info and could turn to his reps.
    Let’s see if it works!

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