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Lights on Paris--at the Source!

Thursday, May 01, 2014 9:31 AM | Alma Robinson (Administrator)

CLA Group at the Google Complex in Paris

As we were preparing for our recent professional development program, Lights on Paris: Intellectual Property and Cultural Policies in the Digital Age, my colleague Bob Pimm recommended a new book, How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean. This sweeping review of the history of Paris' development as a unique cityscape with its stunning bridges, public squares, sweeping gardens and grand boulevards, also highlights the visionary leaders and city planners who, starting in the 17th century and continuing through successive generations, determined that Paris would be the most beautiful and admired city in the world.

Consistent with the enhancements of a built environment devoted to beauty and public enjoyment, Paris also welcomed the infrastructure that would support culture, not only nationally, but globally. UNESCO, the international organization that supports cultural rights and world heritage preservation, is based in Paris, as well as CISAC, the umbrella organization that represents the interests of more than three million artists around the world, serving 227 authors' rights societies in 120 countries. 

The legal framework supporting artists' rights was born in France. The world's first copyright law, which was enacted by the Constituent Assembly of France and ratified by King Louis XVI in 1791, stated: "The most sacred, the most unassailable and the most personal of all properties is the work, the result of the thought of the writer." 

A generation later in 1829, the world's first organization established to collect artists' royalties, SACD, the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers, was formed in Paris. Fast forward to the 20th Century: The resale royalty right for visual artists, enacted only by California in the US and currently the subject of contentious litigation in our federal courts, has been a right of French artists and their heirs since 1920.

No wonder that Google chose to build the Google Cultural Institute, the showplace for its digitization of works of art, in Paris.  During our visit to the Institute, which is not open to the general public, we were indeed "wowed" by a digital rendering of the famous Marc Chagall painting which was hung from the ceiling of the Paris Opera in 1964.  The Google image, shown here, can be manipulated to show details that are not normally visible.  

Upstairs, the Institute's first artists-in-residence were plowing their imaginations: Adriana Ramic is adapting Google Translates to the task of interpreting communication pathways between insects (yes, ants, for example), while Yousef Bushehri is designing portable pop-up structures that can be built with 3D printers for a variety of uses, such as displaying art in public spaces.    

Later that afternoon, our group visited the Opera House at the Palais Garnier, where we strained to view the original Chagall canvas, installed more than 80 feet above the orchestra section. We were convinced that art lovers as well as art historians, conservators, and students will benefit from the detailed observations which Google has enabled through technology. Unseen by any outsiders, except through Google's camerawork, was a pool of water in the basement that, we learned during our tour at the Garnier, was installed as the response to a fire that burned down the previous opera house in 1873.

Speakers at our seminars, which were held at Orrick's office in Paris, deftly described the latest developments in trademark, copyright and patent practice in France and the European Union. Corey Salsberg, Senior Legal Counsel at Novartis in Basel, Switzerland, discussed efforts to establish pro bono patent programs in developing countries. This project, which aims to assist low-income inventors, is similar to CLA's California Inventors Assistance Program.

Gadi Oron, the General Counsel of CISAC, reported that global collections of royalties for authors of all genres totaled $11 billion during 2012. Representatives of SACEM, the French collecting society for musical artists, and ADAGP, which represents visual artists, as well as SACD, outlined changes in royalties collections in the various art disciplines. California Attorney Eric George spoke about current resale royalties litigation against international auction houses on behalf of California artists and estates.

Our experts also included Judge Anne Elisabeth Crédeville from the French Court of Cassation, who represents the judiciary on the CSPLA, the Higher Council of Literary and Artistic Property. This committee was founded in 2000 to advise the French government on copyright matters during the development of internet and digital media.

UNESCO Program Officer Rochelle Roca-Hachem described how various treaties and directives that protect cultural rights internationally are implemented.  She was followed by CLA's founding executive director, Hamish Sandison (now practicing law in London), who analyzed the relationship between international cultural rights and the rights of individual artists. 

Patrick Hauss, European Regional Director of Corporation Service Company, informed us that the internet map is about to get more complicated. New sets of domain names based on cities, such as .Paris and .Berlin, as well as corporate brands, e.g. .Intra-Bank, and activities, for example, .sport are going to be authorized later this year by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. 

A panel on fashion law described how luxury goods, many of which are based in Paris, defend their brands from counterfeiting. Consistent with artists' challenges in the U.S., jewelry designer Géraldine Valluet shared the difficulties that individual designers confront in protecting their work from knock-offs.

Wrapping up our seminar program, efforts to defend against counterfeiting and internet fraud were described by speakers from Hermès, Google and U.S. Homeland Security,which plays a role in combating internet piracy while working with Interpol and other international agencies to return stolen art and artifacts to their countries of origin.

It was challenging to follow up our Welcome Dinner in a private room at the Bistro Vivienne, which was sponsored by Novartis, but we certainly tried. At the Duc des Lombards, a legendary jazz club, we were enthusiastically acknowledged ("California Lawyers for the Arts is in the house!") by master guitarist Ed Cherry, whose resume includes work with Dizzy Gillespie, while we feasted on a four-course meal that featured Magret de Canard.

And how do you end such a stimulating week of information and sensual delights? With a sip of Cognac, of course. For a very special last day in France, Moët Hennessy offered our travelers a tour of their facilities in Cognac, only a 2.5 hour rapid train ride from Paris to Angouleme in the Southwest.

Following a seasonal lunch with roasted guinea fowl, hosted by Maurice Hennessy (shown here with Alma Robinson in a photograph by Benjamin Goldenberg) at the family estate, we ended the day with tours of the vineyards and secured facilities where 200-year old Cognac is stored in aged barrels. Consistent quality has been assured for two centuries by the Fillioux family, which has been at the head of the tasting and blending committee since the early 1800s, working right alongside the Hennessys for seven generations.
Alma Robinson, Executive Director
California Lawyers for the Arts



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