Sunday, July 12, 2009

So Sue Me: The Art of the Copyright

Everyone knows that copyright is a big deal, especially in art, where we are banking on the ownership of our creations in order to extract all possible value and buy groceries. And let's be honest, having someone steal your images and pass them off as their own is like winning the lottery. Not only would you be able to prosecute and make some money, but if you spin it right, you could generate some more cash off the publicity. On the other hand, if you change something substantially, it should be yours home free and is even covered Constitutionally as free speech (just be prepared to fess up to the fact that you used something/someone else as a starting point).

Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans is a great illustration of this perspective. Obviously he was banking on the iconic nature of an object and it's originator while modifying the 'can' enough that it is an entirely unique and original item. I don't think this could have been made today without a pretty big law suit going down. There are many instances of appropriation with owned images and icons, but the minuet that the piece gets some monetary attention, the lawyers are called out (I am now thinking of a Mr. Burns type, "release the hounds"). A sad truth that does not seem to stop many artists in their 'borrowed' creations. Besides, that 'illegal' factor adds some mystique to the whole 'art' thing and can serve as the conceptual justification for some people in their art making. Personally, I do enjoy a bit of smart-ass and liability in art periodically.

For a chuckle:

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