If you have tattoos, who owns the rights to the imagery inked on your body? What about the photos you just shared on Instagram? And what if you are an artist, responding to the surrounding landscape of preexisting cultural forms? Most people go about their days without thinking much about intellectual property, but it shapes all aspects of contemporary life. It is a constantly moving target, articulated through a web of laws that are different from country to country, sometimes contradictory, often contested. Some protections are necessary—not only to benefit creators and inventors but also to support activities that contribute to the culture at large—yet overly broad ownership rights stifle innovation.
Is It Ours? takes a fresh look at issues of artistic expression and creative protection as they relate to contemporary law. Exploring intellectual property, particularly copyrights, Martha Buskirk draws connections between current challenges and early debates about how something intangible could be defined as property. She examines bonds between artist and artwork, including the ways that artists or their heirs retain control over time. The text engages with fundamental questions about the interplay between authorship and ownership and the degree to which all expressions and inventions develop in response to innovations by others. Most importantly, this book argues for the necessity of sustaining a vital cultural commons.