Sunday, February 08, 2009

[Opinion] The Plagiarism of Hope--veinglory

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.


Teddy Pig said...


First: The picture itself is derivative in pose. (Nothing special or very identifying about it.)

Case in point: The photographer who actually took the picture said so himself. He thought it could have been any number of pictures he had seen that could have been used.

Second: This is not a lazy Photoshop macro being used.

Shepard Fairey the artist here actually redrew and reframed and recolored and added the word HOPE to the image to fit his needs. As this particular artist has done with tons of other art to create something unique to him.

You would know this if you knew this artist.

Fairey is similar to other controversial artists, Warhol for example, who take their images from other works (Like Campbell Soup Cans.) and other graphic arts and remake them into an entirely different message.

I think Fairey has some good lawyers and I would not put it past him to generate as much controversy as possible. Much like his continual arrests for graffiti.

It;s part of what he does as a street artist.

Teddy Pig said...

In other words... This is the art world not a stupid literary review journal and public notoriety is GOLD.

The amount of time this artists and his work is talked about in the press and keep people coming to the galleries will only add more zeros to the price of the next work he does.

veinglory said...

I do know the artist, and I know that people could tell from his work which photo was used, and that when asked he confirmed it. Although it was done with immense skill is is a derivative work. The underlying photo was recognisable to many people. If any photo could have been used it would have been wise to use one in the public domain. As he did not, and admits he did not the contributing photographer is due some kind of fair payment rather than none at all.

Teddy Pig said...

So in other words Campbell Soup is owed money whenever that Warhol goes on sale right since it is a image of their product and that is their design?

Since you are making the assertion that he must compensate someone please point out in the four considerations of Fair Use Law where he should be legally held accountable.

Teddy Pig said...

Emily, the photographer has stated he does not want any money so AP is flying solo.

I have a Frank Kozik silk screen in my living room that cost me around $400 and the image Frank used and colorized into the work is something he found from an old 60 skin flick. Do I think for a minute that Frank ran around looking for the original artist or the actor for permission before using that image on a Pearl Jam poster?

Um NO!

I have also watched several arguments before all this went down where real "art experts" attempted to show how derivative or copied Shepard's work is.

He has obviously seen the same thing... In his own book Supply & Demand he lays out several times side by side his work, along with the inspirational art drew from.

He is very open about all this. There is no shock or awe or money changing hands. His admission in this case to me was not one of guilt, it is simply what he has become famous for... It is his art and like it or not that is what people including myself pay him for. The reconceptualization of images.

That and he sells his work for $40 to $50 bucks a pop online and by the next week like the Obama Hope poster it can reach thousands of dollars on eBay. I am right now working on obtaining some other of his pieces and hoping this does not price me out of the market.

So dang it stop posting about him or I will never get the three prints of those Lotus Ornaments. Damn it!

Treva Harte said...

You got me reading about Andy Warhol and there was a discussion (in artistic terms, not intellectual property ones) of how he had changed and transformed the commercial image to make it art. I suspect he was pretty careful to think out those aspects, too, since he'd done commercial art originally.

I'll be curious to see how the artist explains this if there is litigation.

Teddy Pig said...

Treva, for a quick answer Warhol's estate has an agreement with Campbell Soup but only in regards of what they might be using those images on other things like ashtrays or coffee cups etc.

No stipulations are made on the actual Prints, Posters or Lithographs made depicting Warhol's work.

So probably they want only a cut of the t-shirt sales damn it which always seems to be the case.

Treva Harte said...

I kind of figured he had worked something out. Andy wasn't stupid.

Teddy Pig said...

Nah, I just think that type of mass production of his work on common household objects could be interpreted in some way as damaging to the Campbells Soup Company putting them in trouble with the whole Fair Use Law.

Unfortunately for AP that preexisting legal situation lends more credence to Fairey's attorney stating this work is art and thus Fair Use.

Treva Harte said...

I'm not going to speculate on what private agreements were set up with Andy Warhol and the owners of the images he originally used. Intellectual property can also be a case-by-case scenario. I'll bet someone has done some intensive study somewhere though.

Teddy Pig said...

Treva, Warhol could not have cared less. Such as his Marilyn Monroe where he himself used someone else's promotional news photo without permission. He never asked anyone or cared and boy would I love to own one of those.

My point is in the art world not only has all this been done before and been met with much critical acclaim and success. It was done the exact same way before with no legal ramifications and no one getting a cent from the artist who did it.