Freakonomics Uses Recent Jeff Koons’ Battle to Examine Copyright Bullying

Now that the high-profile tussle between Jeff Koons and the makers of some balloon animal bookends has come to an end, with the artist walking away and the product still for sale on the shelf, the NY TimesFreakonomics blog got into the “what does it all mean?” territory, filing this great, short read by guest bloggers and intellectual property experts, Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman. The long and short of it turns out to be pure and simple bullying, using copyright threats to shut a person or company down, without actually having to go to court, since the bullied will often back down at just the threat of an expensive legal battle. While they don’t flat out accuse Koons of acting with that in mind, even suggesting that maybe the artist was just “attempting to point out how absurd copyright law can be” (we find this more than a bit generous and/or rooted in a very, very alternate reality), the lean in the bullying direction seems fairly clear. They mention the Chilling Effects website, an ongoing collection of these practices, which you’ll definitely get sucked into for the rest of the morning (and read some similarities to the Koons matter along the way).