This is not by me
Although the legal situation remained unclear, Thomas Kaestle, then head of the Kunstverein Hildesheim, found the courage to invite me for a solo exhibition in 2006. In this exhibition he wanted to show not only the video interviews with the lawyers, but also large format prints of the treated flower motif for the first time. He was conscious of the situation that in case of a warning letter, he would also have to share in bearing the consequences.
To further develop the subject matter of the work, in the meantime I had developed a concept intended to counteract the legal uncertainty: I simply wanted to obtain Andy Warhol’s agreement in a conversation with him. The video documentation of our conversation was then to be shown in Hildesheim as a new work. Since Warhol had already been dead for nearly twenty years at this time, I had to take recourse to a collage procedure again and edited excerpts from old film interviews with him together with new shots of me as the interviewer.
The artist proved to be as taciturn as ever in the conversation. The discussion about our comparable aesthetic strategies of treating found material and our shared passion for automated, machine- or software-based art production fell mainly to me. It was only when it came to making fun of traditional notions of creativity and originality that the Pop Art artist became more involved. We also talked about his own experiences with censorship. Like almost all of “his” pictures, his Flowers are also not by him. The magazine Modern Photography had printed replicas of hibiscus blossoms by the photographer Patricia Caulfield in 1964. Warhol discovered them there and subsequently further processed them into his screenprints. This appropriation of the Flowers led to his first lawsuit. Yet for Warhol, who does not understand, as he himself explains, why he does not automatically acquire with the purchase of a magazine the right to use the images depicted in it, the concept of intellectual property remains abstract. My request for permission consequently leaves him somewhat perplexed. With my convincing demonstration of the net.art generator, however, I was able to talk him into allowing me to use the Flowers. The problem thus seemed to be solved – at least initially. Since then, not only the colorful prints of the digital collages, but also the video installation with the lawyers and my conversation with Warhol have been shown in several exhibition venues – with no problems .
Yet the story does not end there by far, because the film clips used for the Warhol interview also have an author, who asserted his rights and intervened when I published the video. However, we were able to settle the case among ourselves, among artist colleagues, without legal assistance...
In the Artists' interest?
What has held my interest in the topic of copyright, and ultimately even motivated me to engage with it academically in the form of a doctoral dissertation, is the question of the interlocking of copyright and aesthetic theory. As the philosopher Eberhard Ortland explains, European copyright, which centers around the person of the author as creator and especially takes the author’s ideational relationship to the work into consideration, could not exist without recourse to certain notions of the artwork and of artistic creativity. At the same time, generations of artists have worked on undermining traditional concepts of authorship and work. What is the relationship then between these developments and copyright?
In addition, the contradiction, which arose for me in practice, of a copyright that is based on the one hand on the idea of aesthetic autonomy, but which increasingly limits this autonomy on the other hand, provides questions for an academic investigation. Without really being able to go into detail at this point, in conclusion I would still like to make a connection between current developments – the stricter laws, their more rigorous execution, and especially the general “copyright panic” triggered by various campaigns of the media industry – and global economic development. Intellectual property is the foundation of the “knowledge economy”. It is only through a worldwide enforcement of intellectual property rights – the principle concern of the TRIPS agreement – that global corporations see their investments and profits as being secure. In this overall scenario artists play a rather subordinate role. The internationalization of intellectual property rights has introduced a development that brings the concept of intellectual property back closer to its beginnings, as a way of regulating competition independent from authors. In this context, the moral rights in European copyright are increasingly becoming a disruptive factor in unobstructed global trade. Nevertheless, artists still have one important role. The purported protection of their interests is excellently suited to passing more rigorous laws. It seems that most have not yet noticed, though, that artists are thus being used merely as a pretext for asserting completely different interests. Against this background, I regard my work as striving for an emancipated artistic position in the discussion of intellectual property.
 Thanks to the participating lawyers: Peter Eller, Munich; Jens Brelle, Hamburg; Dr. Rolf auf der Maur, Zürich; Dr. Sven Krüger, Hamburg.
 Selected: Mag:net Gallery, Manila (2006), FRISE, Hamburg (2007), Medienkunstverein Dortmund (2008), Mejan Labs, Stockholm (2009), hub:kunst.diskurs, Hanover (2009).
 Eberhard Ortland, Urheberrecht und ästhetische Autonomie, in: “Geistiges Eigentum”, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 5, 2004, p. 775. Ed.: Ulrich Steinvorth, Michael Schefczyck, Christian Schmidt, Eberhard Ortland.
net.art generator, Cornelia Sollfrank, Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Nuremberg, 2004.
expanded ORIGINAL, Cornelia Sollfrank, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2009.
Translation: Aileen Derieg
Published (in German) in: Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Schriftenreihe Bildung und Kultur Band 3, Das Urhebrrecht neu denken – Plädoyer für eine gegenwartstaugliche Reform, 2010