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Open Letter from AA Bronson to the Canada Council Art Bank

The following open letter originally appeared on Facebook late last week:

An open letter to Amy Jenkins,
Head, Canada Council Art Bank

Dear Amy Jenkins,

I cannot sign Art Bank’s Google contract, as you have instructed. As I understand it, the contract gives Google permission to provide access to “high-resolution gigapixel images” of an artist’s work to a world-wide general public for up to five years. In return, the artist receives a one-time fee of $340 Canadian, about $240 US.

I don’t think any artist in their right mind could accept this!

This contract is presented to me, the artist, as a fait accompli with no prior discussion.

I am eager to hear the process by which this project came to be, and by which artists and works were chosen, and the conditions negotiated.

The fee that you offer is what I charge for a quarter page single-use reproduction in a special-interest art book, with an audience of perhaps two to three thousand people…

But the parsimonious fee is not the issue.

In this case, the subject is not only art. Canadian artists are being used to say something reassuring, both about the Canada Council Art Bank and about Google itself.

Here in Berlin, where I currently live, Google was driven out of the city by the cultural sector. Generally speaking, Google and artists do not make good bedfellows.

I suggest that the Council should reconsider a partnership with Google.

If you do continue with the project, allow low-res images only. Otherwise, the artists’ images will be stolen. Please protect our artists’ rights–they are a precious cultural heritage!

The Canada Council has a glorious history and has acted as a model for other arts councils worldwide. I applaud the Council’s practice of devising policies that are driven by artists and their needs, and ratified by peer process, rather than being driven by the political needs of the Council itself. I know that times are changing and that the political reality is tough, but I urge the Council to stay true to course.

Yours sincerely,
AA Bronson
General Idea