PornHub Vs The Louvre: The Fight For Ownership Of Classical Erotica

International museums get their Knickers in a twist over erotic art being called out for what it is.

For obvious reasons, your Reprobate editorial team are keen students of the laws surrounding copyright, fair use, parody and public domain, and while these will clearly vary from nation to nation, we don’t know of anywhere where copyright not only extends for hundreds of years but also transfers to the people who have bought a particular work. It seems to us that while you may own an original painting, for instance, you do not own the rights to it – those rights would remain with the artist (or, in some cases the person who originally commissioned it) and after a reasonable period of time from the artist’s death, would become public domain. Indeed, huge libraries of art books and creative reinterpretations of classical art depend entirely on that fact.

So you might understand our collective eyebrows being raised at claims that the somewhat humourless and – some might suggest – greedy executives at both the Uffizi Museum in Florence and the Louvre in Paris have threatened legal action against the ever-enterprising PornHub over their new guide to the erotic art of assorted international museums.

A publicity stunt disguised as public service – or possibly vice versa – PornHub’s new guide to classic nudes sets out to be an “interactive guide to some of the sexiest scenes in history at the world’s most famous museums. Join us as we tour the most respected institutions in western art, guiding you past all the prude paintings and going directly to the good stuff: representations of the naked body in all its artistic glory.”

Jan Gossaert’s Adam and Eve recreated

It’s long been the case, of course, that what would be soft (or not so soft) porn anywhere else becomes the stuff of serious chin-stroking contemplation when deemed classical art, and everyone ignores the fact that the motives behind the original paintings might not always have been entirely high-minded in the first place. PornHub’s cheeky collection – complete with audio commentary by Asa Akira that acts as a possibly more honest museum guide than some of the pompous gobbledegook you’ll find accompanying exhibitions at some prestigious galleries, and unexpectedly good moving recreations of the works by performance-porn artists MySweetApple – possibly pricks the pretensions of the serious art gallery and reveals these works in a more honest way, and I imagine that would be infuriating for some of the more po-faced venues.

While most, ranging from Musée d’Orsay to the National Gallery, the Prado Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have declined to comment or have confirmed that they will not be taking any action – because, let’s face it, anything that gets people back into these places post-Covid is probably welcome – the Uffizi has said “In Italy, the cultural heritage code provides that in order to use images from a museum… for commercial purposes, it is necessary to have permission, which regulates the methods and sets the relative fee to be paid” – which at least is being shamelessly honest in revealing that the outrage is driven by old-fashioned corporate greed as much as moral outrage – while the Louvre issued a cease-and-desist order. The action seems to have worked; neither museum is now represented in the PornHub guide, and the introductory video with Cicciolina is also offline. A sad victory for the hypocritical prudes.

Asa Akira probably knows more about art than most museum executives.

It seems a dubious precedent to set – how many people have used the Mona Lisa or Botticelli’s Venus, for example, either as a straight reproduction or in modified form as an illustration in books, on covers or elsewhere? Allowing corporate bodies – even if they are national museums – to claim ownership of the right to reproduce material that is by any definition, no longer in copyright (in Italy and France, the term of economic copyright is seventy years after the artist’s death) is both dubious and dangerous. This potentially goes far beyond a facetious PornHub page and we should all be concerned by it.

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