Why should the licence of an artwork be interesting?

[Rhizome Editor's Note: An interesting debate has begun to unfold, on the significance of copyright licenses to works of art, between AFC's Paddy Johnson, MTAA's TWhid, and Rob Myers. Below is an excerpt of Myers's eloquent response to the debate. Click-through to the links above for the full missives.]

Most artworks have a legal status as copyrighted works, as designs, or at the very least as insured objects. Some, such as works by Carey Young, are legal documents themselves. The law provides a kind of ontology for artworks. But unreproducable artworks are more interesting when the unreproducability is a technical rather than a legal effect.

Artworks often have certificates of authenticity, and contracts and guarantees were the stuff of 1960s conceptualism. Sales documents are important in establishing provenance, and recipts are important when filing tax returns. But usually the paperwork of an artwork is of peripheral interest at best.

Alternative licenses are not part of the legal orthodoxy of society though. They are a signal of dissent (or at least a desire for reform). They are political to a degree. Applying one to a work is a small political act. [More....]