STAR-BULLETIN / NOVEMBER 2006
This Kim Taylor Reece photograph of a kahiko hula dancer was the center of a copyright infringement case.
Parties settle hula art lawsuit
There will be no battle of hula experts.
The parties involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit over a Kim Taylor Reece photograph and a stained-glass piece depicting similar images have agreed to settle.
"It's such a relief. It's a very big relief that we were able to settle it," said Kanoe Reece, who owns the copyright of the photograph taken by her husband.
According to the terms of the settlement, Marylee Leialoha Colucci can keep her stained-glass artwork but will not be able to sell it or put it on commercial display. And the insurance company for Island Treasures Art Gallery in Kailua, where the artwork was on display, will pay Reece $60,000 to be applied toward her legal expenses.
The two sides put the agreement on the record in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren last Friday. They are still hashing out the details, including what constitutes commercial display, and have not yet signed any paperwork, the lawyers in the case said.
Colucci has expressed a desire to display her artwork in a library.
"I still retain ownership and all the rights in my piece that are important to me," she said through her attorney.
The case divided artists and Hawaiian cultural practitioners.
Both Reece and Colucci are Hawaiian and hula dancers.
Colucci and Island Treasures had lined up hula experts to testify that the women in both pieces were performing a traditional hula movement called "ike" which cannot be copyrighted.
Reece had lined up hula experts to testify that the images depicted in both pieces of artwork were not performing the ike. She claims Colucci's stained-glass piece is a copy of her husband's photograph.
Colucci said she had never seen Reece's photograph before she created her stained-glass artwork and got her inspiration from her experience as a hula dancer and a photograph of her niece performing the movement.
Both sides say the lawsuit has taken a toll.
Reece said people who support Colucci harassed her over the telephone and at her husband's galleries.
"It was really hurtful," she said. "We settled because it was so painful."
After Reece filed the lawsuit in September last year, all of the artists who had hula artwork on display in Island Treasures removed them out of fear they too could be sued, said gallery owner Gail Allen.
"No one wins in this case," Allen said. "I feel sorry for Lei and for the Hawaiian people."
The settlement also disposes of a defamation lawsuit Colucci filed against Reece's husband over public statements he made.