Memorandum submitted by College Art Association
is a membership organization with 14,000 individual members and 2,000
institutional members and represents the broad spectrum of the visual arts
community in the
Central to CAA's mission is support for practitioners and interpreters of visual art and culture and, in this connection, CAA is a strong advocate for the freedom of expression that is the lifeblood of artistic and academic work. Representing its members' professional needs, CAA is committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, connoisseurship, criticism, and teaching that all rely on the uninhibited, robust and respectful exchange of ideas. CAA fosters this exchange through its publications and an Annual Conference, which draws 4,000 to 6,000 attendees, all of which provide venues for the analysis and creation of art at the highest intellectual level.
CAA works within a limited budget that is typical of many non-profit organizations, including learned societies, which, like many non-governmental organizations, provide crucial services for the production and application of human knowledge with relatively humble means. Within these limitations, however, members expect CAA to be an ardent and effective advocate for the arts and humanities in the areas of government funding, copyright and intellectual property, professional standards and practices, career development, and the fundamental principles of freedom of expression.
interest in the New Inquiry is not merely academic but, in fact, is prompted by
CAA's recent first-hand experience with the conditional fee agreement (CFA)
system available to British libel claimants. In February 2008, an art historian
resident outside the
CAA's perspective, the claim that was asserted presented a classic case of
"libel tourism," in this case, involving a United States-based learned society,
a small number of copies of a scholarly journal sent into the
considerations are one of many factors that NGOs need to consider when faced
with a legal challenge. That said, fundamentally, the CFA-based system in the
CAA has traditionally been at the forefront of providing a platform for open academic and scholarly discussion of issues of all kinds, including those that address significant topics relating to diversity, gender, politics and culture. Potential CFA-based defamation claims in the United Kingdom, however, have a dramatic and chilling effect on scholarly debate on these and other issues. When a country's system of compensating defamation claimants quells the exchange of ideas, then democratic, academic and ethical principles are threatened. The result may be quiet, but devastating, in the form of self-censorship, or may be public and direct, in the form of an increase in libel claims and litigation.
with other learned societies in the
CAA hopes that the Select Committee will advance the commonly shared interest in healthy expression by taking steps to reform British law, to ensure that learned societies that publish in the international community will be able to pursue their mission - of fostering discussion and debate in the scholarly community - without being subjected to the extraordinary financial risks presented by a threatened or actual libel claim in British courts.