More Crap From Dead Artist’s Family Members | 04/20/2006 | Artist’s family asks Google to take down today’s `painted’ logo The Mercury News is reporting today on the news that deceased artist Joan Miro’s family has asked Google to take down a version of their Google logo that yesterday incorporated parts of his art due to copyright. So let’s get this right. Google chooses to create a special logo to honor the art and memory of Miro and his birth in 1893 and his family wants to get all pissy about it?

First off, and I don’t venture into politics, finance and taxes much at all, but in general I think massive inheiritances of either money or art rights are a terrible thing. Fundamentally I think the fact that wealthy families generate huge unbelieveable warchests of cash/art/real estate whatever to dole out to those fate chooses for the luck of birth is stupid. One thing I admire about Bill Gates is that he’s said that while he will leave some cash to his family that the bulk of his estate will be given away. Personally I’d like to see something like a $3 million maximum that any one individual can every inheirt. $3 million gives you more than enough to live out the rest of your life while encouraging you to leave the remaining amount of your wealth to those who need it more, your charities of choice. If you put a 100% estate tax on all assets more than $3 million this would do the trick and this would massively improve the charitable giving in this country helping those that need it most. You’d probably have to put a provision in for spouses and partners but beyond that no one individual should ever inheirit more than $3 million.

Now back to Joan Miro’s family. What a crock of crap. Great art especially belongs in the public domain after an artist dies. Time and time again dead artists’ family get all proprietary about their dear deceased loved one’s work and send off BS letters like this cease and desist to Google. This in no way harms them. In fact you might say that building awareness of the life and work of Miro only makes their assets more valuable. But at the whim of some whiny family member they hit Google, who was trying to do a nice thing in honoring Miro, with a cease and desist. When families horde away great art and suggest that the public shouldn’t see it we are all that much poorer for it. And even if it did somehow negatively affect the value of Miro’s art, ok, well I’m sorry, personally I don’t very well care much if the Miro family has $48 million instead of $50 million due to the intense negative publicity of something like, god forbid, being on Google’s homepage.

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  1. David Walker says:

    Thomas – for shame! You probably shouldn’t have ventured into this territory. For one, history has proven that charity thrives when government taxes LESS, not more. Secondly, living in a free-market and a Constitutional Republic means that we have the freedom to succeed AND fail. If someone should want to leave what he has earned, through hard work, innovation, investment or what-have-you, then that should be his choice, and not that of our government.

    Consider this: If I amass a wealth of 50 million, you’re telling me the government will confiscate 47 of that because it’s not “fair” to leave that to my relatives. Well, what if one of my children was autistic and 3 million doesn’t start to cover their lifetime medical expenses. What if my son suffered from a stroke that costs him over $150,000 a year alone in medical costs? You’d be in the trap of legislating to “punish” and having to create an endless path of spaghetti laws to provide “exceptions” where our fearless leaders see fit. Personally, that’s way too much power in the hands of power-hungry men for me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You should calm down.

    You wouldn’t have a fit if this was some other kind of business infringement, but art should be free for everyone?

    Google has money. The could have hired an artist to paint an original Miro-inspired work for a logo. Instead they took a cheap cut/paste shortcut.

    Also, I’m not sure what your art family/wealth connection is. Do you know for sure if Miro’s family is wealthy?

    Also, check out the Pollock-Krasner Foundation: two dead artists giving back to society.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Personally I’d like to see something like a $3 million maximum that any one individual can every inheirt. $3 million gives you more than enough to live out the rest of your life…”

    Or, 640 KB ought to be enough for anyone?

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    David. It’s largely about triage. Massive amounts of wealth generally speaking exact a huge toll on society. I see little point in anyone amassing more than about $50 million in general when for the rest of their life they can’t spend it, just horde it away, and provide little benefit to the rest of society.

    While I am all for the concecpt of capitalism and it’s benefits in allowing them to accumulate this obscene wealth during their lifetime, I think that these people at some point should give back most of this money to help others. vs. in general enriching wealthy heirs who many times live extravagent lives of leisure oftentimes resulting in destruction and the loss of the family fortune anyways through multiple generations.

    As a society, if someone needs more than $3 million of medical care, why should one individual be more entitled to this super high quality of care than someone not born to a wealthy individual?

    In the very minor few instances where a special case might be damaged in a limited way (you can still provide pretty good care with $3,000,000 annuititzed over a lifetime) this does not outweigh the good that could be provided to millions of others for healthcare or others through the redistribution of that wealth at death.

    This most likely of course will not happen due to the power that the wealthiest families hold over lawmakers but there may come a time when we see a more rational approach to redistributing wealth upon death.

    Certainly though with regards to art, I believe that a greater good is done by releasing great art back into the public domain upon death than by hording it away for years where it cannot be shared or incorporated into a broader context of our world culture.

  5. David Walker says:

    Thomas, I believe we can safely say that we will never see eye-to-eye on these issues. You very clearly believe in a bigger government with the ability to legislate a select morality on the masses. I believe in a completely free society that lets individuals succeed and fail equally, and lets them suffer or rejoice in the consequences of either.

    Regarding the art – I would like to see art made more freely available, but the ownership is that of the family and as such, is their right. I, however, would never support the idea of the government using it’s exclusive power of deadly force to change the circumstances, as non-ideal as they may be.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    David, should an invidual face the decision of allowing 100% of their wealth over $3million deductions to go to the Govt. vs. a charity of their choice I think you’d find the vast majority of folks donating the money rather than leaving to a bigger government. If you wanted to ensure that you could also give the heirs a first right to donate the money if no charity were named prior to the govt. getting it.

    This would vastly enrich our society. Whether the money went to help poor kids, orphans, build better art museums or cultural institutions, go to medical research, etc. As a society wealthy capitalists could still direct the money to their charity of choice.

    In fact with more charities handling much of what falls to government today you could actually have less government. Money that did go to the government could be used for tax cuts rather than bigger government as well.

    I’m not for bigger government actually. I think that through a combination of tax rebates/cuts or charitable giving that this wealth could be better depolyed than by leaving vasts millions of dollars to people who may never spend it or if they do spend it on an extravagent luxury life of leisure.