Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Women's Studies Colloquium

Debora Halbert: “The Labor of Creativity: Women’s Work, Quilting, and the Uncommodified Life.”
Presentation Date & Place: October 1 (12:30 to 2:00 pm) in Saunders Hall, Room 624.

While the law of copyright has become important as a regulatory tool governing the culture industries, there is a disconnect between the way people create, the reasons for their interest in creating things, and the way the law “protects” the end result of creativity. While public attention is focused on the theft of intellectual property, the everyday use and meaning of intellectual property is far less clear. Furthermore, the law does not tend to apply as clearly to areas of creative expression populated by women. This means, for example, that artistic expressions in women’s work – quilts, macramé, crochet, cooking, and fashion, are less apt to be protected by copyright than works of art that fit within a more traditional understanding of artistic expression as something that is “fixed in a tangible form” by an “original author.” By contrast, women’s creative work is often collaborative, without direct access to an original author, deemed too “practical” to achieve copyright status, or based upon traditions that are in the public domain.

In this talk, I’d like to walk through a series of stories as they relate to women’s work and intellectual property. These stories range from the legal story of copyright to the stories women tell about their own work. In preparing the paper upon which this talk was based, I collected the stories of quilters in an effort to think through the nexus between creativity and the law. Quilting is a creative activity where copyright plays a very small role except to impose restrictions on the actions of quilters. The women who took my survey saw creativity as part of a connection between themselves, their families and their communities. Their creative work, in other words, is a gift they want to share instead of a product they want to own.

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