Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Copyright in Bali

I had always understood that Bali had no copyright law, and no need for one. I learnt what I know about art and artists in Bali from a book (Copyright, by Plowman and Hamilton, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980) which I picked up from the second-hand department of Wildys, thinking it useful reading for the course I was taking at City Poly (yes, it was a long time ago).

Pointing out that there are no words in the Balinese language for "art" or "artist", the authors explained that the artist in Bali was a craftsman who sought only to serve the community. The idea of leaving something for posterity never crossed their minds. A participatory cultural model had evolved there, and artistic property did not exist: "the expression of any new idea is there to be used by all".

That struck me as a fine idea, and the creep of copyright into new and previously uncharted territory together with the antics of the absolutists has caused me to reflect more than once on the idyllic nature of a society without copyright. But now I read that a Balinese artist, Nyoman Gunarsa, has been trying to take action against a gallery over forged paintings claimed to be his work. Of course, I sympathise with him, but simultaneously I regret the passing of a society that needed no copyright.

The Republic of the Maldives - a country very close to my heart at the moment, as we prepare a large shipment of mosquito repellent to send out to our daughter who is working for a development charity there at the moment - might be about the last place to do without a copyright law. But they are considering one, and the arguments against it seem to be based on the high cost of buying official copies of software that are presumably widely copied at present - the classic, and understandable, plea of the LDN. (But why does the Ministry of Education's website bear a copyright notice?)

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online