Bibi Barba’s Story

Three years ago, Aboriginal artist Bibi Barba discovered two artworks from her Desert Flowers series had been replicated by an interior designer in a Polish Hotel without her permission.

Through a search online, she came across promotional photos of the 44-room Eclipse Hotel and immediately recognised the design in the carpet. The caption read: Desert Flowers, inspired by Bibi Barba.

The design was used on bar tops, table tops, wall panelling in restaurants and on the carpet and chairs. The colours were the same too. When she saw her designs used this way, she contacted Copyright Agency | Viscopy and we wrote to the designer to alert her of the infringement and seek a licence for the work. Bibi also suggested as reparation the hotel could offer to hold an exhibition of her work. The hotel didn’t respond and the designer denied she was infringing copyright.

So, Bibi decided to go further.

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She travelled to Poland simply to prove she existed as an Aboriginal artist. The Polish designer has defended her actions on the basis that Aboriginal art is thousands of years old and so is not owned by anyone. She and her lawyer also stated that because Bibi’s work contains geometric shapes, it is not subject to copyright.

Desert Flowers is a series of six paintings she created in 2009, which were sold to private collectors for $3000 to $5000. But the interior designer has not paid Bibi for the use of her work, arguing that she’d “redesigned” Barba’s paintings and the furnishings were just “inspired by Bibi Barba”.

Bibi will continue fighting for compensation from the interior designer and the hotel through the courts over the next few months. Bibi has also been supported by IP Lawyer Terri Janke and the Arts Law Centre of Australia.

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Bibi Barba

For those who appreciate my work and want to reuse it, I do expect to be fairly paid.

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