Los Angeles, CA - Recently, with the rise of Shepard Fairey and Thierry "Mr. Brainwash" Guetta, appropriation art has become a major "thing." Not since the days of Warhol has it been so hip to take works from other artists and add your own vision, spin, or angle to create a "new" piece of art.
In legal jargon, we call such pieces "derivative works." A derivative work is a work that builds upon an underlying work that someone else earlier created.
Legally speaking, most appropriation art pieces are infringing unless: (a) the artist for the derivative work owns the underlying work and the derivative, (b) the artist for the derivative work gains the permission of the owner of the underlying work to use the work, or (c) the use of the underlying work is so minor, or the derivative work so greatly transforms the underlying work, that the use qualifies as a fair use*.
Below are a few examples of appropriation art. The artist attempts to "transform" the underlying work by adding her own expression. Do you think it qualifies as a "fair use" under prong (c) above?
As a hint, perhaps you can recall (or Google) the lawsuit filed by the AP photographer against Shepard Fairey for his Obama "Hope" piece. How did that one go?
*fair use is a whole 'nother ball of wax, which we will cover in a future post.
I'm all for creative people honing their skills by using various mediums, photography, tutorials, brushes, etc so long as it helps them to finally produce a piece of work that is original, unique and entirely theirs.
However, for a while i've been annoyed with the works of UK 'artist' Peatree Bojangles. http://www.peatreebojangles.co.uk She seems solely interested in taking existing photographs,often by well established photographers, adjusting the levels a bit and drawing over them slightly and then passing them off as her own and selling them on her site - every single one has no mention of the original photographer of the works or any mention of copyright.
Personally, I don't think this is on. Here's just a few examples:
I'm tired of seeing stuff like this with no information of the original photographer, and when you see that money is being made off the back of this, it gets my back up. What do you say YTWWN?
Nick Simmons, son of Kiss guitarist Gene Simmons, is a "manga artist." Not only that, he's been published too! His comic Incarnate was published by Radical Publishing in July of 2007, with a follow-up second issue out in August of 2009.
What is interesting here is that most of the comic has been lifted from other manga artists, and we aren't talking amateurs here. His victims are some of the most notable books in this comic genre, including but not limited to: Bleach, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Hellsing, One Piece and Vampire Hunter D. He's even "borrowed" from some rather talented folks on Deviantart. Digging through that would take a while for those of us not familiar with manga comics enough to spot the rips, so here's some helpful comparison from some outraged fans of the originals:
Panel from Bleach on the left, Panel from Incarnate on the right...
And in case that wasn't clear enough, an overlay for you!
Incarnate on the left, Bleach on the right
One more, for fun... Bleach is on the top, Incarnate is on the bottom.
Plus, some lifted dialogue...
This was first brought to light on fan forums and LiveJournal, and a small Facebook following is sprouting calling for legal action against Mr. Simmons. The fellow who created/illustrated Bleach, Tite Kubo, tweeted this (translated from Japanese): "Actually, from last night til this morning, a huge number of foreign fans were saying "This American manga is ripping off Bleach!" or something like that. Well, I looked at the site, but I can't really read English, but it's a manga made by Gene Simmon's son." And a company representative of Viz Media, which publishes Bleach in North America, was asked what was being done about the alleged plagiarism. They said, "We've got our team on it."
Not one word from Mr. Simmons in all of this, but his publisher released a statement saying they are no longer producing the Incarnate comics pending further investigation.
"We at Radical Publishing Inc. and Radical Comics Inc. are quite concerned to hear the news surrounding Nick Simmons’s Incarnate comic book. We are taking this matter seriously and making efforts now to contact the publishers of the works in question in an effort to resolve this matter. We have halted further production and distribution of the Incarnate comic book and trade paperback until the matter is resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Rest assured that Radical is taking swift action regarding this matter and will continue in its efforts to maintain the integrity and protect the intellectual property of artists throughout the world whose creative works are the bedrock of our company and the comic book industry."
My favorite part? This little gem from Mr. Simmon's DeviantArt Journal dated November 2008:
If you steal my artwork, you will pay. In cash.
Spank you very much and good night.
Spank you very much, indeed, sir.