Sunday, February 08, 2009
I take a pretty firm stance of plagiarism and piracy. But I am not an absolutist. People are going to make slips and mistakes, take the easy path, and be biased to do what is best for them rather than fair for others. So I send my take down notices and protect my copyright as best I can. I have made my own slips and realise that I had to remove bittorrent from my computer rather than have it there as a constant temptation to download works I ought to be paying for. Google images presents a similar ch allege to any graphic artist.
But I do think that sometimes exceptions can be made. For example the famous Obama 'HOPE' poster is a derivative work of a photograph where the copyright belongs to Associated Press. Now the the photography passed over copyright and Associated Press posses it. And they do struggle constantly with people thinking that just because they can access a picture the can modify, share and sell it. Which isn't the case. And the Hope poster was commercially exploited by the artist who must have made a few thousand dollars at the very least, and raised himself to national fame (as witness gallery shows and the recent USA network "character" advertisement about him).
But if an example is to be made it can be an example of hope, not just of punishment. Instead of just suing, AP could state the amount that should be paid for a picture used in that manner, and the name of the photographer who produced it (Manny Garcia) and the manner in which he is paid by agencies such as AP. And let's be honest here, Garcia was a short term hire that AP has long since discarded and so not exactly supporting their stance on the matter.
This matter has devolved into the usual ranting about art versus commerce (or copyright versus fair use, or work for hire versus contracted sale) further dichotomising the abstract issues between high level entities such as AP and the Fair Use project at Stanford university--and evading the matter of the photographers need to make a living and the desire of a nation to achieve justice through acts of generosity. Fairey used a photograph as inspiration and then turned this into financial gain, Garcia made that photograph. Intermediate agencies might instead broker a deal where things are put right by a proportion of the profits and the credit being passed back not only to the copyright owner AP as legally required, but the photographer himself as would be truly fair.