What’s Mine is Mine!

In 1976 I made a half hour video about the artist Norman Lewis, a personal friend. Nineteen years later I sold a few copies at a very nominal cost of the copyrighted film to a few people who were also friends of Norman Lewis for their personal use. Twenty years after that when visiting a retrospective show of Norman’s work at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts my wife said, “Isn’t that your film they are showing?”

It was. The room attendant took me to see the Saturday supervisor who took my phone numbers. A week later I received a call and an email from a museum representative apologizing profusely and offering their standard fee of $300 for use of the film. They had the film but not my name and the woman who “donated” it had been “trying” for years to find me. My name is prominent at the end of the film and there is only one of me in the United States. That’s what Google is for. Also, the curator of the show was given my contact information long before the show was hung by another museum curator but chose to not to reach out to me.

Somehow, the seven minutes of my edited film credited me with a name, even my mother wouldn’t have recognized.

Meanwhile, three small segments of the film appeared on CBS Sunday Morning as part of a piece on Norman Lewis and the show at PAFA. Long story short: after a visit to the museum we agreed on a $1,000 payment and that in future all requests for usage would be forwarded to me. CBS agreed to pay $500 for usage and we agreed that it would remain on their website for one year.

Good for them, good for Norman Lewis, and good for me. Amazing.

Gary Schoichet