In Malaysia, Art Is Very Much Separated From The Law
As a lawyer, writer of non-fiction and fiction books coupled with being involved in building enclave to promote art, especially writings, in Malaysia, I feel art in Malaysia is disconnected from the law. There are a lot of artists in various disciplines living poorly and dejectedly as they feel they were not protected under the law. Their artworks were stolen, taken away and a lot of them can barely feed themselves and their family. It has happened and is still happening to a lot of giants of the art industry in Malaysia with their names bandied around by others who now own their intellectual properties. We have artists who was found through competitions organized by public or private sectors which will then take advantage of these artists. After they were declared winners, they will gain fame with their works being sold to the masses using the contracts signed.
Contracts to produce musical albums, publish books, sell visual arts at art galleries are contracts signed by artists rarely perused by lawyers protecting their interest especially if they have just been discovered. Most wouldn’t know the implication of entering a contract much less able to dictate terms. Disputes arise when book becomes film, cross-border selling of visual art and plagiarism of art in various forms. The creativity of the artists is being exploited by the creativity of thieves using the guise of digital world and the internet. At a lesser extent, there are those who are still being taken advantage by conman disguised as promoter, publisher, individual person and company.
Actually, the law in Malaysia is enough to control and give protection to all type of art in any form including but not limited to paintings, writings, films, theaters, visuals, sculptures and many others. What is not enough is the understanding and the exposure of the law and public censure, either those needing registration, such as patents or those not needing any registration such as copyright, all are given enough protection in Malaysia. No new law is needed.
Artists in Malaysia need a support system like in Hollywood which has professional agencies to represent them and professional managers who can help them to make better decisions on the contracts they entered. Usually, in the current art scene, most are being managed by their family members. Some are lucky to have professionals such as lawyers among their family members and some have enough money to hire them. Although the art world in Malaysia is considered by some to be small, some Malaysians have been making leaps and bounds in the world through their artworks. It is time for the art world to use the law accorded to them in full and take the world by storm.
Khairul Anuar Bin Shaharudin (@Kruel74)
Lawyer, Writer, Co-founder of PUDGi