Correspondent Glyn Williams of Derby has written to New Scientist, asking:
"When condensation forms on a clean bathroom mirror, you can draw pictures in it. When the condensation evaporates, the pictures disappear. But when it forms again, they reappear. Why?"
The IPKat, conscious as ever of the intellectual property dimension of apparently unrelated phenomena, wonders whether the tracing of a disappearing/reappearing image in condensation on a mirror is sufficient to vest an original artistic work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 with copyright protection. Under section 3 of that Act, literary, dramatic and musical works must be fixed in writing or some other material form, but the same proviso does not explicitly apply to artistic works.

Scientific answers to Mr Williams' questions will eventually be found on New Scientist's The Last Word page. But answers to the IPKat's questions should be posted below, please!

Find out about condensation from Tim
Artistic condensation here
IT'S DISAPPEARED, SO IS IT ART? IT'S DISAPPEARED, SO IS IT ART? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, October 14, 2004 Rating: 5


  1. I think it's still fixed when invisible, you just can't see it unless you use the steam to reveal the record.

    What about a literary work written in invisible ink? Or in ink that rapidly fades? How permanently must something be recorded to be considered fixed? Adam Ant's makeup wasn't permanent enough.

  2. Yes, it can be cosidered as a composition, thus, protected by th law. But i think i is interesting just as a theoretical question rather than actual practical issue.

  3. Yes, it can be considered as a composition, thus, protected by law. But i think it is interesting just as a theoretical question rather than actual practical issue.

  4. Interesting: the invisible work traced on the mirror is actually fixed, since it remains in place through multiple steam/unsteam cycles, however the image seen under the influence of steam is actually a new work, the result of the underlying invisible work and the condensation (one could invisage different types of steams or gasses producing different works upon the same basic underlying invisible work) -- therefore, long term copyright could subsist in the invisible work, but fresh copyright is created each time the work is made visible via. condensation.

  5. to all of the major RSS feed directories on the Internet.


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