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4/21/2006
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Google Angers Artist's Family In Latest Copyright Flap

Google took down its logo honoring Joan Miro after the family objected to its use of elements of the surrealist artist's works.

Google Inc. on Friday acknowledged that it took down its logo honoring Joan Miro after the family objected to the search engine using elements of the surrealist artist's works.

Google often changes the logo on its homepage to commemorate holidays or famous people it admires. In the latest incident, however, the family of the Spanish artist objected because Google had not asked for the rights to use the various pieces of Miro's works.

On Friday, a Google spokesman said the company was "disappointed," but honored the family's request and took down the logo commemorating Miro's birthday. The Mountain View, Calif., company, however, insisted it did nothing wrong.

"Joan Miro made an extraordinary contribution to the world with his art and we wanted to pay tribute to that," a company spokesman said in an email. "Yesterday's logo was inspired by his work, but did not copy any of it."

The Artists Rights Society, which represents the Miro family and asked Google to remove the Miro-inspired logo, said the family was concerned over what they viewed as a violation of copyright and their "moral rights."

"They were very upset about it," said Theodore Feder, president of New York-based ARS, which polices the copyright interests of more than 30,000 visual artists and estates of artists.

Moral rights laws, which are strong in European Union nations, protect artists from having their works modified without their approval. Such laws are meant to protect the integrity of an artist's work.

"A lot of the problems could have been alleviated if Google had informed the family first," Feder said. "But I'm not saying the family would have agreed to it."

Google responded quickly to the family's request, Feder said. "We were gratified that Google did the right thing."

Miro, born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1893, developed his style in the 1920s through the influence of surrealist poets and writers. He died in Majorca, Spain, in 1983.

Google is no stranger to allegations of copyright violations. The company is currently the defendant in separate lawsuits filed last year by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild. The organizations, which represent 10s of thousands of writers, are challenging Google's initiative to scan library books so they can be included in search results.

While many of the works scanned would be protected under copyright law, Google argues its legal because it would only publish snippets of the works in answer to search queries. Only books and documents in the public domain would be offered in their entirety.

Google plans to digitize books from the collections of Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Oxford University and the New York Public Library. The latter two are making available only books in the public domain.

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