“This Love Sign is a response to the madly litigious, antagonistic, terrorising, warmongering world in which we live.”
Or so I first declared back in 2003.
Then, some years later, in the twilight of 2007, a major newspaper publisher bastardised the Love Sign on the front cover of one of its magazines. They manipulated the artwork and presented it in a manner many considered degrading. And they did so without asking permission, and without attributing the work.
The magazine in question was the Cairns Eye, the weekly colour supplement in the Cairns Post—the daily newspaper in the region; a News Ltd journal. They’d borrowed a Love Sign from the KickArts Shop at the Cairns Centre of Contemporary Arts—one of my original outlets—ostensibly to use as a prop for a menswear shoot.
Needless to say, I was far from flattered. Several heated complaints failed to gain much of a response. And so I pursued the only course of recourse—and reluctantly, anxiously litigated. How cruelly, tragically, hilariously ironic.
Several months and many thousands of dollars later, the magazine finally admitted fault and we settled out of court. A small apology was published in the magazine (you needed a magnifying glass to see it) and a sizeable cheque was written (a satisfying result, although it just covered my legal fees).
So was it worth all the time, anguish and expense?
Yes it was. It set an important precedent for artists and authors in protecting their intellectual property. It set a new benchmark for moral rights cases in Australia. And I hope it will serve as a reminder to media operators of the ethical responsibilities and legal obligations that come with the hallowed territory of publishing and broadcasting.
As harrowing as it was, it has also become an interesting chapter in the story of the Love Sign—a little artwork that has come to have a life of its own. And, as contradictory as it may seem, the point I was trying to make with a humble road sign back in 2003, and then with a haughty lawyer some years later, are actually one and the same …
Be responsible for your actions, and be respectful of other people. And the world will be a better place.
Perhaps Love really can conquer all.