Just a quick summary of this case since the details and “facts” have been shifting so much: Designer Jon Engle cried foul and the entire internet rushed to his aid. Engle accused a stock art site of stealing his designs and then billing him $18,000 for them. But as it turns out, he may be the real culprit. Read on and come to your own conclusions. This is an epic tale!
DOUBLE EDIT!: It just keeps looking worse for old Jonny-boy’s case. Jo just linked to a nice summary of this whole disaster which can be found here. Frank also sent in this link to some side-by-side comparisons of Jon’s work and the StockArt stuff. If this turns out to be all wrong, why did this guy do it? Perhaps he didn’t think it would blow up so big? If in fact this is all some elaborate hoax, $18,000 is probably the least of Jon Engle’s worries now. What a mess!
Edit: Wow! This is a saga for the history books. After posting this article, a few astute readers pointed out this thread on Reddit. Pretty interesting information there. I guess it’s up to you to decide who’s at fault here.
The alleged story — in Jon’s words — can be found here. But in light of recent information, you may want to take it all with a grain of salt. Either way, quite an interesting train wreck of a story this will be if it all turns out to be as upside-down as it’s starting to look.
Hot on the heels of our recent, and thoroughly rousing, discussion on the subject, I came across B.Caruther’s gallery of “inspired” designs and their original counterparts. I thought it was an interesting illustration of the the whole concept of “borrowing” artwork. If you’re going to make the argument that someone like Shepard Fairey is stealing (and therefore their work has no merit), you would have to make the exact same argument for each and every one of these and the countless others out there.
Sure, that argument would be pretty easy for a lot of them. Many are sort of tongue-in-cheek riffs on design classics while others are what I would characterize and blatant rip-offs. But some do stand up as something new and engaging for reasons other than the imagery they borrow. The “Clockers” poster is a perfect example. Yes, it borrows heavily from Bass’ original, but it takes the imagery and re contextualizes it in a way that creates something fresh and provocative. Nevertheless, Bass regarded the poster as a “rip-off” while it’s creator, Art Sims, called it an homage [source]. I guess with an issue as subjective as this, people will never reach consensus, but it’s fun to try!
It was only a matter of time I guess. It seems like we just learned the source of Shepard Fairey’s iconic image for the Obama campaign and now Fairey himself is being sued by Associated Press for his appropriation of the image. This is when sorting out exactly what qualifies as “fair use” starts to get a little tricky. Fairey says he didn’t make any money from the image (frankly, I don’t see how that’s possible, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt), but AP alleges he made a boatload of it. Whatever the case may be, credit is due to the original photographer, but I don’t believe Fairey should be held liable for his use of the image. I think it could be — and hopefully will be — successfully argued that Fairey modified the image sufficiently. What do you think, does vecotrizing and coloring an image go far enough to differentiate the artistic product from the source? Sound off in the comments.
Update: Supertouch has posted a sort of official response to the general criticism Fairey has endured of late. Definitely worth a read if you took the time to read all the detractor’s sites.
Image via stevesimula