Friday, March 18, 2011

I own Greg Paul's Albertoceratops!

Famed palaeo-artist Gregory Paul has thrown down his gauntlets on a number of paleo-art topics in a series of mass public emails (here, here, and here). While a few of his issues were reasonable, specifically that people stop plagiarizing his specific works, many of his demands were not. The most ludicrous of these being the following:

I am going to have to regretfully require that other artists either stop using my materials as source material and do entirely original restorations from beginning to end, or make arrangements to provide compensation if they do so when engaging in commercial projects.

He later clarified this to include his skeletal reconstructions:

The basic rule needs to be that that an artist produce their own skeletal restoration based on original research. This would include using photos of the skeleton, or an illustrated technical paper on the particular taxon. This then goes into your files as documentation of originality, and you can publish it.

So boiled down Mr. Paul has stated you can not reference his skeletals AT ALL if you are creating your own palaeo-art, as he owns the skeletal. Well that might sound good on paper Mr. Paul, but you really should have thought this claim through...

For you see, by your rules Gregory Paul I can state quite definitively that you do not own the reference rights to your skeletal of Albertoceratops (fossils of which are pictured above), but in fact I own them! Bare with me as I explain.

Okay so first a few definitions and clarifications up front. First to me referencing would mean looking at something (picture, fossil, whatever) for inspiration on your own work. In the case of a fossil skeletal, I would use it to roughly figure out proportions of limbs, bodies, heads, etc within a specific critter so that my 3D model is built with the right relative size within itself (my precise method posted here on ART Evolved in fact). However beyond this my own work bares no actual similarity to the skeletal in the final product. When properly referencing yours shouldn't bare much similarity either!

Tracing an outline you fill in later or reposing the bones on a skeletal and than presenting them as your own final product is NOT referencing. That is out right plagiarism, about which Mr. Paul is completely correct.

Now to claim no one else can reference your work (which immediately becomes a ridiculous assertion in the first place really, but I'll humour this line of logic so I can get to my punch line) you must own the material on which this work is based. I am NOT arguing Mr. Paul doesn't own the actual composition of his skeletals, but to say I can't reference them at all takes this claim to a new level.

So scattered throughout Mr. Paul's emails, skipping the majority of side tangents where he strokes his own ego about his accuracy, artistic greatness, and research prowess etc. I have managed to derive the following formula to how he creates and, I guess, therefore how he owns his fossil skeletal restorations:
  1. Artist looks at fossil skeleton
  2. Artist measures fossil skeleton,
  3. Artist puts fossil skeleton on paper
  4. Ta-da said Artist now owns fossil skeleton!
So by this formula I can see why Mr. Paul can now claim he owns his skeletal restorations. He is the sole generator of the fossil, and thus he has sole claim to it. However I think he has purposefully skipped some VERY important steps to the fossil acquiring process to achieve this end. My version of the formula goes like this:
  1. Palaeontologist finds skeleton
  2. Palaeontologist digs up skeleton
  3. Palaeontologist prepares skeleton
  4. Artist asks Palaeontologist to look at fossil skeleton
  5. Artist (with permission from Palaeontologist) looks at fossil skeleton
  6. Artist (with permission from Palaeontologist) measures fossil skeleton,
  7. Artist (with permission from Palaeontologist) puts fossil skeleton on paper
  8. Palaeontologist and their institution still retain possession and ownership of the fossil skeleton by way of actually being the ones with the bones!
Oh yeah, there's those scientist people who have a lot to do with getting the fossil bones for Paul to draw. Maybe they fall into this equation a bit more than he is trying to make it seem.

Okay so the fossil's attached scientists (or more appropriately their institution) trump Paul's argument on ownership of his skeletals in this way. The fossil would not be there for Gregory Paul to reference if not for the institution spending the time (and money) to find it, dig it up, and clean it off for him.

So immediately Mr. Paul loses all claims to any of his works being an original reference right here. Mr. Paul does not own the fossils on which his own reference was made. It also means he needed a reference to make his reference. This means it is hypocritical to claim I can not reference him, as he needed a reference too. However the trap he's set himself gets better!

So Mr. Paul stated clearly in the selected quote above "make arrangements to provide compensation if they do" reference one of his skeletal reconstructions. Well we've just established he doesn't own the skeletal, so he should have had to paid the actual owner of the fossil for his own reference.

Perhaps Mr. Paul pays some institutions for this access, but I know as a matter of fact in one key case he did not.

This is Albertoceratops, of which a Gregory Paul skeletal appears in his book the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs. The only known described remains of Albertoceratops nesmoi (TMP.2001.26.1) are currently held by the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller Alberta. As the museum is operated by the Government of Alberta this would then mean the fossils are the property of the Province of Alberta. Under the Alberta Historic Resource Act 1979 all Alberta fossils are the property of the Alberta people. Hmmmm wait a second, I'm a taxpaying citizen of Alberta! I own 1/3724832 of Albertoceratops!

So as I know I haven't received any compensation from Mr. Paul for the use of MY Albertoceratops (or any number of Albertan Dinosaurs discovered after 1979) that his required system of owning references and paying for their use references is total BS!!!

Seriously my tax dollars went into preparing and presenting that Albertoceratops for EVERYONE to see, enjoy, and learn from. Mr. Paul has absolutely no right to claim monopoly on this or any other publicly funded fossil!

If he were to dig up, prep, and then draw a Dinosaur skeletons than we MIGHT be talking a different ball game (I emphasis I said might... I'd argue referencing is such a nebulous thing the court's would dismiss your case immediately unless you were clearly copying a fictional creature's skeletal. However we're talking real prehistoric critters here baby. You can't copyright reality!)

My concluding thoughts:

Feel free to reference any materials or art you'd like for your restorations. Just be sure to make the final product original! Mr. Paul's point about the final product is quite valid. His points about owning references are a joke, especially with public items like fossils. Sadly for him, he alone hasn't got this punchline just yet!

Oh and you can make those cheques out for Albertoceratops to my PO Box please :P


Albertonykus said...

Crowning moment of awesome.

Scott Hartman said...

One fatal flaw in your argument: there's a composite specimen of Albertaceratops at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, a museum I was director at when the specimen arrived. I restored the skeleton before it was even published, and actually put it on the internet (sans any generic name) with my copyright.

So clearly by these rules I now own Albertaceratops. All your ceratopsians are mine!!! Muh wah ha ha ha...

But seriously, clever post.

Nima said...

Yikes, this means I own Greg Paul's Allosaurus fragilis since it's at the Smithsonian which is part taxpayer-funded. As well as his Triceratops skeletal, Alamosaurus, and truckloads of other stuff. Probably his Brachiosaurus to if the Field Museum had any public funding back then.

It's without question that he needs documentation to prove his Futalognkosaurus skeletal isn't just a ripoff of mine! After all, my first version was done first, well before his published Princeton Field Guide. :p

ScottE said...

Nicely done.

Andrea Cau said...

First of all, according to his argument, I conclude that Paul's Tethyshadros in his 2010 Field Guide book belongs to the Italian people. That's mine!
This case shows how hypocritical is Paul's argument:
Note that the first skeletal restoration of that hadrosauroid, made by Marco Auditore and included in the JVP paper (Dalla Vecchia 2009), is two light years above Paul's one. Why Paul did not quote Auditore in his 2010 book as the only real source for his Tethyshadros, since Auditore's skeletal drawings are the only available sources of that dinosaurs (as far as I know, Paul has never visited the Italian museum where the real bones are deposited, so it's impossible that he took the info directly from the specimens, but instead from the only existing published work)?

Osirion (The Underground Temple) said...

The bottom line is G.S.Paul's rights are limited. The way bones fit together for extant animals could not be claimed by any of the naturalist illustrators out there-it would be laughable. The most they could trademark is there style.

E.g. a writer can't copyright words or letters, but they can copyright there combinations. Their combinations speak of ability of an artist TO FUSE TOGETHER CHOICES THAT ARE INDIVIDUAL AN IDIOSYNCRATIC TO THEM.

Mr. Paul can't own the rights to geological antiquity. This is supposed to be science not science fiction--hmm?--but his contention brings up some interesting issues.

Traumador said...

Albertonykus- Thank you. Now where does one buy awesome crown polish :P

Scott- Drat! I didn't know about that composite. Though is it a composite made of original material collected from Alberta or just a cast?

If it is just a cast I'm afraid you too owe me compensation :P

Nima- That would be a great project, go through all known specimens and figure out how many are "public" and how many are "private" (in the sense the museum spent its own raised money rather than gov grants or funding).

I would indeed like to see Mr. Paul's own documentation of "orignality" for some of his stuff. I've heard it said lately he hasn't been to an Albertan museum in over a decade. Where the hell is he getting all his references for the material if not lifting them off people's publications and descriptions?!?

Scott- Thank you kind sir

Andrea- Yeah got to love his logic on all fronts.

For this post I totally took all of Mr. Paul's claims on face value. In reality I find the majority BS.

However that is a very valid point I didn't challenge, but would insist on for his legitimate claimage of skeletals could he try in the first place. Where is the proof he has seriously visited the majority of the museums of the world to personally examine the material himself?!?

As I mentioned above he hasn't been to Alberta in a long time either (in addition to Italy)!. By this very fact he is ripping someone else off by his own logic. Very insufferable!

Osirion- Well said, and one of the majority points I was trying to get at with this amusing post. You can't own a fossil. ESPECIALLY one acquired with public funds!

The man seriously needs to shut up and get some perspective on what he is saying!

Scott Hartman said...

It's original bone from nothern Montana. Most of the Albertaceratops material is actually not from Alberta...but the skull that is the type specimen is. There's also parts of an Albertaceratops skull (from the same bone bed) grafted onto skull bits of Chasmosaurus in a museum in Japan (the whole thing was excavated by Canada Fossils).

So now you know ;)

Osirion (The Underground Temple) said...

Hey guys, I am looking to do muscle studies of hadrosaurian dinosaurs. In particular, Parasaurolophus--so I am looking for David Dilkes' 2000. Appendicular myology of the hadrosaurian dinosaur Maiasaura paper or any other papers on the pelvic hindlimb musculature of hadrosaurs/ornithopods.

If you know anything--help!--set me in the right direction.

The full citation below:

Dilkes, D. W. 2000. Appendicular myology of the hadrosaurian dinosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) of Montana. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences, 90:87-125.

dsc said...

It reminded me of the case over "copyrights" over T. rex skeletons:

T-Rex center of $8.2M area copyright lawsuit

The notion that one can't use his work as a reference is so odd that I find hard to assume he meant it literally.

I think what he really meant was about just painting skin and feathers over his reconstructions, or re-drawing a "new" reconstruction that's just a slightly re-posed version of his own reconstruction. If someone purports to do a skeletal reconstruction, well, then it's actually what one has to do, not just redraw/"reference from" someone else's skeletal reconstruction, but from actual fossils. Referencing from a reconstruction to make a "new" reconstruction only makes a different illustration, but as a reconstruction it's still essentially a copy, not something new.

If these are his actual claims, not copyright over actual dinosaur proportions or a given "frame" of a running stance (or perhaps dinosaurs running in general), as it seems that he's often interpreted, I think it's absolutely right. Perhaps there are some gray areas, but it's still way far from being ludicrous rants of a megalomaniac.