Would anyone care to discuss the etiquette of online representations of mail art?

Some of the pieces I've received (both personally and for a project that I'm currently involved in) are copyrighted. Is it acceptable to scan and make online galleries, blog entries or other social media posts of copyrighted pieces? And what of non-copyrighted pieces?

Also, what's the etiquette of scanning and making online representations of one's own mail art?

Perhaps I'm thinking about this too much. Regardless, I'd appreciate any advice or thoughts on the matter. Thanks!

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lady von halbach, probably no one is responding to this because copyright issues were part of a recent controversy that, IMHO, nearly wrecked the IUOMA platform. I don't think anyone wants to return to that horror.

But your questions are very valid. The disputes on the platform had more to do with personalities than actual issues, IMHO.

As you can see from this platform, it is an accepted practice to document mail-art online via blogs, exhibition catalogs & other online publishing. Most mail-art is not copyrighted. The general spirit of mail-art is open access & free sharing. Money is not involved. It is an exchange of gifts between friends.

In terms of posting mail-art online, if you are not sure, simply contact the person who sent you the work and ask permission to post it online. This is very easy to do with IUOMA members, as we can all contact each other via the mailbox provided.

In my experience, posting mail-art online is no problem 99.9% of the time. As I suggested, if you are uncertain, contact the artist.

Regards, DVS

I figured it was not a problem most of the time, but thought I'd ask. And I shall take your advice of contacting the creators of anything I'm uncertain about. Thanks!

Also - if you announce a mail-art call, clearly state your intentions about your plans for documentation in the notice. That way, the artists can participate knowing that there will be a blog, catalog etc and you won't have to go seeking permission after the fact. (If you plan on trying to sell other people's work in some way, it could get more complicated. I have seen numerous instances at IUOMA where people refused to participate because there was a profit motive involved.)

It's all very easy. Happens numerous times in any given day without incident.

I hope this helps.

Here is a really interesting article by Kenny G about copyright & the arts. Kenny G, like the Neoists, is an advocate for total plagiarism.


Your Ladyship -- I herebye relinquish my claims to copyright on any Mail Art I send you.

My position on copyright is below


This message is from the one and only Valentine Mark Herman, aka 'Dotty' (to his friends – nb plural – and cats).

Valentine Mark Herman asserts his moral and immoral rights for this message.

The right and left, as well as the top and bottom, and the middle, too, of Valentine Mark Herman to be identified as the author of this message has also been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Copyleft, Copycat and Copywrong and Patents Act, 2014, and associated EU legislative measures, especially those concerning Mental Health and the Safety of Mail Art (Sending & Receiving Directive, EU 57/2012).

All rights and Dots reserved. No part of this message may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, microwave, existential, astrological, mechanical, Marxist-Leninist-Troskyist-Maoist, photocopying, recording, extra-terrestial, under-water, fracking or otherwise) without the prior written permission of Valentine Mark Herman – which will only be given if a request is submitted with a suitable amount of $100 or €500 bills accompanying it. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this message may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims to damages for crimes against Mail Art and/or Valentine Mark Herman.. Furthermore, their hair will fall out, their cars won't start, their cats will scratch their furniture, their make-up will run, their glue-sticks will dry up, they will be Dotted with non-removable paint, AND their Mail Art will get lost in the post..

Details of all other matters concerning this copyright notice can be found in the small print below...(Sorry, it's so small that you probably can''t read it, but if you get a magnifying glass...)

I think in mail art there is not 'one-and-only' etiquette: there are almost as much opinions about mail art and its 'rules'/etiquette as there are mail artists. And all of them have sense.

Mail art - to my opinion - should be easily accessible. The mail art movement I cherish has been 'invented' as a kind of contra-movement against the established art, like CoBrA, dada and fluxus artists did in their first years. Alas all 'contra' movements one day are embraced by the established art organisations (and/or the artists fall for commerce). So to get access to a piece of the forementioned art nowadays, to have it hang on your wall, or even to touch it, alas will cost a fortune.

The mail artists I admire, feel strongly about 'copyleft'.


Concerning me, all mail art I am sending out is intended for users who can do with it whatever they want to do. Of course I will feel sad if someone cuts out my drawings (it will feel as if they cut in me), but on the other hand this is part of the mail art process, and maybe even there grows something totally new out of it which I would never have thought of myself.
Also I will feel sad when someone will sell my mail art to a stranger and gets rich by that, without sharing the profit. But also that is part (and risk) of the mail art game. And on the other hand I will feel honoured if someone will pay a lot for it (similar, I will feel honoured when my sent mail art gets lost / is stolen in the postal proces because someone wants to hang it on his/her wall).
'No jury, no fee, no return' is a phrase often used in mail art projects, and by sending out - and receiving - mail art we commit to that.

So concerning received mail, I feel free to do with all mail art sent to me what I want, too. As I like to collect and cherish mail art, I won't cut in the art (even - so far - I didn't do with the brain cell life forms mr. Ryosuke Cohen had sent to me, and even though he cuts or tears these brain cell forms by himself to change the parts into new art). And I won't sell it either. I once tried to contact the local (established CoBra-)museum to have it exhibited, but they had a full agenda (or/and weren't interested in mail art, so until now we don't have to fear from this establishment).
So all mail art sent for one of my three mail art projects I feel free to publish on the three blogs.
I assume - and think it obvious - that everyone who sends out mail art, won't disagree with that.

So I frowned my eyebrows when I read that you had received pieces which are copyrighted. Who did send them, and why?
To me, 'mail art' and 'copyright' are contradicted. But as said, there are as many opinions about mail art as there are mail artists.

Among mail artists the issue 'copyright/left' has been subject to discussion several times, and some IUOMA groups are about this, too.
Personally I like (and agree with) the introduction text of the group 'Free art', see the 'Free Art group'.
And I asked some questions in a, then newly founded, group Copyright Copyleft.

As 'copyright' has to do with fees, too, 'mail art and money' has been subject to discussions, and also mail art projects. You can find a group on the item here at IUOMA to, see the specific group on the item.
A funny mail art project about money I think 'fluxus bucks'.

Thanks for bringing my attention to the groups that you mentioned. I've read some of the comments and plan to read them more thoroughly. ...When I clicked on 'fluxus bucks' it wouldn't work! Is there another way to get to that group? I also tried to view your three mail art projects, but it wouldn't work either.

The copyrighted pieces I received appear to be postcard prints of original paintings and photographs. In all cases, they were sent by the artist who created the original piece.

Thank you for your reply! I don't know why the links didn't work; I tried them but they seem ok.

To access a group here at IUOMA you can search by cliicking on 'groups' on top and then use the search function.

Concerning postcards, most artists who have postcards printed, add the copyright 'c' to the text on the back. But if in doubt, as DVS already wrote, one can just contact the creator.

What a great idea to do a mail art project in your library!

Libraries (which are called 'Médiathèques' [discuss]) in my part of France are keejn to encourage Mail Art exhibitions. I have organised about 6 in 3 different cities/Médiathèques

Thank you all for your responses.

...I'm of the mind that once I send something off, it no longer belongs to me. And that anything I receive becomes mine to display/archive and whatnot, so long as I'm not degrading, diminishing or making money off of the creativity of others. I agree with and am fond of the alignments between mail art, fluxus, dada and other such movements. Although I'm new to mail art, I've been making zines for some time. And I'm discovering that the basic ideologies behind mail art and zines are, for the most part, the same: "open access & free sharing."

I work in an art reference library. Both myself and the library's director have been fascinated with mail art for a long time and we decided that we'd like to make a call and have an exhibit (and perhaps start a collection). We've received several postcards that are copyrighted prints or reproductions of original paintings or photographs. All have been sent by the people who created the original works. We made it clear there would be an exhibit and no returns, though at the time we hadn't entertained the idea of having much online (other than a Facebook page to promote the project, on which we've posted some of the pieces received, and a blog entry I wrote as a preview). Now we're receiving requests, especially from those abroad who've contributed, for an online blog or gallery to go along with the project. Hence my questions. Which you've all answered and answered well. Perhaps I'll make a blog that showcases the project with a disclaimer that the sole purpose is to provide free access to the art we've received and that any artist who wishes not to have their art showcased needs only say so and it'll be removed.

Again, many thanks.




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