Thursday, January 07, 2010
What Would Al Dorne Think?
Here's a little story... a story about apples. A story about an apple orchard, actually, that I've spent a lot of time visiting over the years. Its a beautiful old orchard that was run by a local family when I was a kid. They grew an old fashioned variety of apples called "Russet" that didn't much appeal to me then, so I never even bothered stealing them. But we kids loved to visit the orchard and look around. It was situated far from the road and backed on some woods, so it was a great place to play.
Time passed, I left home and came back grown up. I now owned a dog and liked to take him for walks in the woods. One day I decided to revisit the old apple orchard and was surprised to see the place had been sold to one of those "agri-businesses". They operated it from afar... and actually, they didn't seem that interested in the apple orchard per se. They had planted the front acreage with cherry trees and pretty much let the old apple orchard at the back of the property grow over. Still, it was an excellent place to walk the dog, so I began visiting all the time. In fact, I visited so frequently, I started wearing a footpath into the place! I also noticed evidence that other folks were clearly visiting as well, perhaps to walk the dog, or perhaps to swipe the occasional apple.
To be honest, I swiped a few myself! Since growing up I'd gained a greater appreciation for the old fashioned variety of Russet apples. After a while, I actually got kind of bold and picked a few baskets of them to share with some friends. I noticed that once in a while some others were doing the same thing...
But one day recently I passed by there and was shocked by what I saw: somebody had come along and paved a road right into the back of the property! They'd posted a sign: "Free apples - help yourself!" As you can imagine, cars were streaming in there, parking every which way, and people were carrying out apples by the bushel! Pretty soon they'd picked every last apple off of every tree. The whole thing made me very uncomfortable...
I mean, I know the owners of the property weren't making use of the orchard, and for the most part the apples would just fall from the trees each autumn uneaten and compost back into the ground. But still, just paving a road onto somebody else's property and harvesting all their apples without permission seemed like a bad idea. Not appropriate.. and probably illegal.
So here's the thing: this isn't actually a story about an apple orchard. Its actually a story about the Famous Artists School.
Over the years, I've presented material excerpted from the old FAS course binders of the '50s and '60s. The FAS was sold long ago to new owners who continue to run an updated version of the school. Those owners contacted me after my early posts to say that they were actually pleased about what I'd done, because my excerpts (in which I included links to the school's site ) had driven some interested traffic there way. Great!
But now there's been a new development... a troubling one, that I actually heard about a few weeks ago. Someone has (I suspect with the best of intentions) paved a road right into the FAS's apple orchard... this person, I think, only meant to help others by giving them access to something he thought was going to waste. He probably thought this incredible bounty of beautiful artwork and valuable art lessons didn't belong to anyone any more... that the property had been abandoned, and that no one would care if he showed everyone the way in so they could take all they wanted for free...
Unfortunately, that's not the case. I just this hour received the following message from Magdalen Livesey at the FAS:
An unhappy situation has just come to light. Dan Caylor, at his onanimation blog, is offering PDF scans of all the pages from the 1960 edition of the Famous Artists Course. This material is copyright protected, so what he is doing is basically theft. The upsetting part is that so many of the people who have downloaded these are actually working artists who would be very distressed to know that someone was stealing their work -- yet that is exactly what is happening. It's not as if we are out of business or not findable on the web -- and certainly our artists and designers have as much right to be paid for their work as anyone.
Can you help get the word out? If you take a look at our blog, insideArt, http://www.famous-artists-school.com/index.php/insideart/index/ -- you'll see my post about the piracy and also a notice about the new Course that we're about to launch on line.
I look forward to hearing from you -- and thanks!
As Magdalen says, as a creator of intellectual property I can't agree with what this fellow has done. I'm not sure if all those original faculty members would either, if they were still alive today. Al Dorne, who really is the originator and guiding force of the FAS, I'm sure would not be pleased. I want to give this gentleman the benefit of the doubt - I really do think that, like me, he was simply being (perhaps overly) enthusiastic in his efforts to help others learn about - and be inspired by - the masters of 20th century illustration.
But in this case, I think a boundary has been crossed. You know what they say about "the road to Hell being paved with good intentions"... this road into the FAS apple orchard needs to be bulldozed right now by the person who had the good intentions.
Picking the occasional apple is one thing, harvesting the entire orchard is not ok.