Wyoming Arts Council

Who owns my artistic image?

Lawrence Argent telling arts symposium audience about how he saw someone on TV wearing a “Big Blue Bear” costume handing out flyers promoting new tourism tax. Tourism Bureau didn’t ask for permission to use the artists’s image. Argent notified by City of Denver Public Arts Department advising him to protect his image. He had to file a “cease and desist” order to stop use of the image. Blue Bear guy is costume then shown peering into the Colorado Convention Center showed that this was a direct “borrowing” of the image. Mayor Hickenlooper also dressed as Blue Bear in tourism tax proposal commercial the day before the election.

City pulled election signs out of yards and put a disclaimer on the TV ads.

He was in class teaching one day and heard from the city attorney that the mayor was going to put an orange scarf around the neck of Blue Bear to celebrate Broncos getting into playoffs. Argent did not want his sculpture associated with a football team. “My bear will be here forever but the Broncos won’t be.” Mayor called and pleaded with him. Argent still said no. Mayor said he would call next week if the Broncos win.

The Broncos didn’t win. So this all became a moot point.

But this effort is ongoing and takes a lot of time.

Bill Griffith, the man who draws the “Zippy the Pinhead” comic strip did a cartoon about the Big Blue Bear. Argent now owns the original cartoon.

Photographer used Big Blue Bear to promote his business. Argent had to contact lawyer to tell the photog to remove the image from the front of his brochure.

“Don’t mind if you use my image for non-commercial purposes. But it’s a different story when used for commercial purposes.”

He has his own Blue Bear web site on which he sells T-shirts and other stuff.

“This is a continual headache.”

Licensing agreements are very complicated.

“The city wants me to protect the bear image because it’s a part of the city. But whenever this becomes an issue I’m forking out the money.”

The Denver Metro Area Convention and Vistors Bureau asked to use the bear image. He said O.K. but he would have to be paid. But it wasn’t enough. He made the deal is his naivite, he said.

“This has been a journey and a very confusing one,” he said.

“So many issues now with the proliferation of images on the web.”

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