When Art and Law Collide: Artist Mandy Davis

When Art and Law Collide: Artist Mandy Davis


Mandy Davis is a successful Worimi artist
from the Great Lakes district in Northern NSW. She’s been painting since 1990 and has
exhibited her art around Australia and in other countries. To date several of her artworks
have been licensed for use by companies and government agencies. But in 2005 Mandy saw her painting ‘Emu’ copied onto a commercial vehicle without her permission. I was just stunned that somebody could do this and think that it was okay. It was important to bring
action on the owners because they obviously were, you know, ignorant to our culture, to
me as an artist. The way the artwork was portrayed on the van was very derogatory and very distorted. And it was my reputation as well because my artwork can be identified just simply through, like other artists, through your style and certain colours that you use. So it was frustrating because most artists
don’t have enough money to take big companies to court and get action, so I felt it
was hugely important that they be aware they were breaching copyright and also it was culturally important to me that they understood how devastated I was for them to think that they could just go out and use artworks willy nilly. Arts Law helped me with my case by providing lawyers on a pro bono basis which I would never have been able to afford, and they were just so
helpful, so sensitive to my needs and always kept me up to date with everything that was
happening. Knowing your rights and having people like Arts Law that now provide such great information and a great website that answers all those questions, that’s extremely important as an artist to protect your work. Being part of the Tobwabba art group, we are a big advocate for protecting our work, but they [Arts Law] looked after the contracts and they explained it to us
and we were very well looked after. I didn’t have a clue what a licensing contract looked like or what I was signing, but we were looked after and well protected in that way. The majority of the money would still come to the artist but also a little bit goes back into Tobwabba to keep the administration side running. We put a lot of our artwork not just in Australia but on the world map as well, and they did a lot of negotiations for our artwork and what percentage we were
to receive and they’d always come back and consult with the artists and see if we were
happy about that and they also ensured that we remained the sole owners of all our artwork and places like that just prove that it can work and it can work when you have the right people looking after you and not exploiting you.

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