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Handshake Deals, Copyright Law, and Rock and Roll

Somehow, none of the parties involved in this story—about the artist who painted the cover for Jethro Tull’s Aqualung—come out looking all that great.

Burton Silverman was paid $1,500 (a little over $10,000 in today’s dollars) for three paintings. He cashed the check; the record company used the art. All in a day’s work, right? Until Aqualung became a massive success, anyway.

So I have a hard time being sympathetic to the charge that Silverman was somehow wronged. On the other hand, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Tull’s Ian Anderson—a guy whose net worth is estimated north of $100 million—would just throw Silverman a bone. I mean, to insist that the original agreement was on the up-and-up is one thing; to needlessly disparage one of the most iconic album covers in the history of rock is just…petty.



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