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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Origami Artists Won’t|Fold for Filmmaker

MANHATTAN (CN) - Six leading origami artists constructed a copyright complaint against British-born, New York artist and filmmaker Sarah Morris, claiming the "found designs" that allegedly inspired her 2007 "Origami" series were found from them.

The 35-page federal complaint contains an additional 45 pages of exhibits comparing the origami creations with Morris' counterparts.

"The worldwide popularity of origami, the ancient art of paper folding, has increased dramatically in the past several decades," the artists say. "The application of mathematical formulas has made it possible to design and create lifelike, three-dimensional figures from a single sheet of paper. Modern origami is a unique sculptural art with millions of enthusiasts (also known as 'folders' or 'origami artists') who use the Internet to share images and communicate about their interests. In addition, there are local and international folding groups, as well as conferences, publications, competitions, and art exhibits featuring origami.

"Plaintiffs are among a small number of artists who are capable of designing highly complex origami models. Plaintiffs have created and published crease patterns for some of their models.

"The lines of a crease pattern represent the folds needed to create a three-dimensional origami model from a sheet of paper, but the intricacy of these geometric diagrams gives crease patterns their own aesthetic appeal. Crease patterns thus lend themselves to derivative works, such as colorized versions."

Plaintiffs Robert J. Lang, Noboru Miyajima, Manuel Sirgo, Nicola Bandoni, Toshikazu Kawasaki and Jason Ku say they hold copyrights to dozens of designs, including an angel, bat, cat, dragon, falcon, grasshopper, June bug, parrot, Pegasus, praying mantis, rabbit, rhino beetle, swan, tarantula, weasel and wolf.

The artists say they have exhibited their creations in New York, Miami, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Frankfurt, and Abu Dhabi, and their works have been published in exhibition promotional materials, auction catalogs, and news articles.

"Since the mid-1990s, Sarah Morris has been internationally recognized as an artist and film maker," the complaint states. "In 2007, Morris debuted her 'Origami series,' which consists of approximately 37 works. Morris has represented in interviews and promotional materials that the works in the Origami series are based on 'found origami designs' or 'traditional' patterns. In creating most of the works, Morris transferred crease patterns to canvas and applied household gloss paint to the spaces between the lines. Morris also created drawings by colorizing the lines of crease patterns."

The artists say that Morris "found" her designs from them: "Twenty-four of Morris's works are substantially similar to copyrighted artworks belonging to plaintiffs ('Plaintiffs' Works') because Morris has unlawfully copied Plaintiffs' Works for commercial use. Attached as Exhibit A and incorporated herein by this reference is a chart showing each plaintiffs artwork and the corresponding infringing work."

Lang, a 40-year origami practitioner and self-described "master," wrote "Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Secrets for an Ancient Art," and claim that Morris stole seven of his designs.

Miyajima, a professional origami artist and instructor, published models and crease patterns in "Origami Tanteidan Magazine and Origami Tanteidan Convention Book." He counts seven infringed works.

Sirgo, president of Spain's "paperfolding association," the Asociacion Española de Papiroflexia, says he wrote several books on the art, and believes Morris used his macaw design.

Kawasaki, of Japan, wants to protect his self-titled "Kawasaki Cube #1," which was published in the United States for the collection "Origami for the Connoisseur."

Bandoni, of Italy, believes his "Cyclommatus metallifer" was lifted.

Ku, who lives in Massachusetts, says Morris copied his "Harpy."

The artists allege 20 counts of copyright infringement, and demand unspecified damages and injunctive relief.

They are represented by Oakland, Calif.-based attorneys Andrew K. Jacobson with Bay Oak Law and Caroline N. Valentino with Haims Valentino.

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