Our purpose in this posting, suggested by our attorneys, is this:
We want to clearly explain why Kai (who many know as Brian Andreas) no longer has access to some of his own work. We want readers and those who have expressed confusion to understand why Kai and his new work can only be found through Flying Edna. And we want our story quietly offered as a balance to what is completely absent from or entirely misrepresented on the StoryPeople site and in their communications with customers and wholesale partners.
I will preface all this by saying one word: perspective. There are big things happening in our world, and the challenges Kai and I have encountered pale in comparison to those who do not have access to affordable healthcare, clean water and air, fresh food, and a safe, warm place to live. The topic of copyrights is not as urgent as climate change or fighting for equality. It is infinitely less devastating than the ripple effects of a global pandemic.
HOW IT SHOOK OUT
As anyone who has been through a divorce will attest, the erosion of a relationship is a complex unfolding of events - an evolution of personal practices and beliefs, shifting viewpoints and convictions, and decisions made along the way - both small and large - that have impact. Both are responsible for what is and is not said, what is and is not done.
Kai and his ex separated in 2010. Divorce proceedings began in 2012. I met Kai in 2015. At the time I met him, both parties had already engaged in serious relationships with other people, clearly in agreement the marriage was long over. In 2015 it appeared the divorce was in the final steps. However, they were unable to reach agreement. The divorce ultimately lasted 8 years, dragging on until it finally reached a lower court judge in 2019. The appeal then took another year, hindered by complications of COVID, until 2020.
The lower court judge eventually assigned to their divorce was not impartial. He veered in the opposite direction of the retired Iowa Supreme Court judge that had negotiated their mediation. This judge dismissed legal contracts, testimony from employees and reputable professionals, and neglected to address inconsistencies in testimony and legal documentation which directly conflicted with statements made. He even ignored IRS advisories. When you exclude information, context shifts. The story is reshaped. And, making crucial documents inadmissible meant they were not able to be referenced in an appeal.
In the end, Kai’s ex was awarded the entire company (with which his name was synonymous) and ownership of two-thirds of Kai's copyrights. This means his ex owns a portion of the copyrights attached to internationally recognized art and writing created solely by Kai, under his former legal name, Brian Andreas.
To be clear, his ex did not create, write, or edit any of Kai's work. This is why for nearly 25 years, the work sold at StoryPeople was attributed only under the name of the artist, Brian Andreas.
Effectively, his ex was granted digital files of Kai's work that had been sold at StoryPeople up to 2012, including the copyrights attached to those exact images and words. Kai was awarded all of his notebooks, prototypes of the wood sculptures, all of his original artwork, as well as full ownership of everything created from 2012 on forward.
This court award is worth examining. Kai does not create digitally. Everything he writes and draws and paints is done by hand on paper or wood, with brushes and ink or graphite. So while he retained the entire body of his original work from notebooks and prototypes, he lost the copyrights for particular formats that were reproduced from those notebooks.
The work sold at StoryPeople was never done as work for hire. It was always licensed separately from Kai to the company, and registered in legal copyright solely in his name. There was even a documented case that proved the art was not connected to the company, but to the artist. The car manufacturer Audi had taken a story of Kai's to use in a commercial without his permission. Kai took them to court in Iowa and won.
So while it was clear Kai was the sole artist and had all necessary legal contracts protecting his artistic work in place, the lower court judge disregarded all of them, including intellectual property legal precedent.
When marital assets involve someone's reputation, name, and clearly identifiable work, the split simply cannot be a clean one. It is analogous to dividing an author's publications or a musician's body of compositions, and then giving the spouse of the one who was solely responsible for the art not only full financial rights, but also permission to rewrite, move the words or notes around, all while the original maker still lives. The awarded spouse also continues to benefit from the artist's name and reputation in the marketplace. She can also erase his name entirely from his art and his stories, and instead credit them to herself or to the company, StoryPeople.
The lower court judge's decree was punitive and at odds with precedence and Iowa divorce law. Attorneys involved assumed the Iowa Supreme Court would provide balance in the appeal. They did not.
WHAT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY SPECIALISTS HAD TO SAY...
After the final decree, I sought the guidance of lawyers who specialize in intellectual property. The team I chose represents clients in D.C., Seattle, New York and Los Angeles. They found the decree a bad, irresponsible, and sloppy ruling primarily because they saw multiple ways either party could end up in court in the future. They felt the Iowa Court of Appeals should have caught and addressed this. They did not.
The lawyers confirmed that in regards to creative content as a marital asset: it is precedent in the courts to grant the non-creator spouse either a financial interest or right of use, never control of the actual copyright.
This was difficult to hear.
Our next question was: if there are no clear boundaries from the courts, how can we create our own so we can move on with our lives? We asked this, because from the time time of the court's award through this present moment, we see that:
- they use the font Kai had created of his handwriting
- they print his digital signature on prints and products for which he has not given permission
- they pick and choose how Kai’s drawings and stories are put together, cobbling together images with words in ways that in no way reflect his aesthetic
- his ex publicly stated on social media that when she was awarded the company, she asked the sons to "copy" Kai's work. When challenged by customers and Kai, she attempted to diminish Kai's authorship by saying his older work was a "company style" created by studio artists
- the divorce decree is posted on the StoryPeople site and customers and wholesale partners are regularly referred to this document
- they continue to create prints (digital copies of Kai's original work) that carry the Brian Andreas signature, without stating anywhere on the StoryPeople website that the artist is no longer involved with the company and may be found elsewhere
- the old storypeople email address Kai used personally and professionally for over two decades is now owned and kept live by his ex. He has no access to it and cannot require them to shut it down.
Our lawyers tell us that although this is unfortunate and morally unethical behavior, it is not necessarily illegal unless it deeply impacts Kai's ability to make a living through his artwork.
Our lawyers suggest we continue to correct people who attribute Kai's work incorrectly on social media and keep this page available to those who have questions.
WHAT CAN BE DONE...
Kai has 25 years of name association and generations know his work.
But algorithms and social media work in complicated ways, and the reality is that Kai has to correct misrepresentations and answer emails almost daily because of confusion surrounding his name and his artwork.
Everything Kai now creates carries his new signature and/or the Flying Edna studio signature - so it's quite clear when you've purchased or received something authentic from the artists who originally created it.
We would love your help in spreading the word that Kai is alive and making new work, with a vibrant artistic home at Flying Edna.
In this unparalleled time in our world's history, everyone is touched by loss and significant change. We are all rebuilding and redefining our relationships, our stories, our identities.
Lies run rampant in our world right now with seemingly little consequence. People say outrageous things and are believed. Even when irrefutable proof sits side by side with the story told, intelligent people do not always discern one from the other. We are an extraordinary but imperfect species. The only thing we can control is our own efforts at authenticity.
As I write in Creative Anarchy, "what we choose to create from imperfect and challenging moments carries energy. It matters not just that we move through something, but how we move through it..." There is a balance to be found in letting go of those who have done you harm and finding ways to create that are not defined by loss, but rather by the joy of understanding your life in a new way.
And so, we began again. From the ground up.
Flying Edna is our shared studio space. Two artists. And a dog. Committed to the integrity of making choices in our small business that align with our ethos. And connect us to you.
always in motion,