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Seasoned Warrior

Fyi Re: Purloined Intellectual Porperty

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Unfortunately there is another side to the story....

 

http://faso.com/theartedge/66723/lisa-congdon-vs-cody-foster-what-about-the-photographers

 

It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out...

 

There's a big difference between basing an original work of art off a photo and stealing someone's original design.

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The photos were someones original art and according to that article were quite identifiable as the author of the article did a google search for images and easily found the images the animals were first stolen from on the first pages of google seach for those animal. All the artist seem to have done was trace and decorate like a easter egg. Seem a clear case of infringment to me. The photographers got to be infringed on twice, once by the 2d artist and once by her infringers.

 

You can't infringe on photography, its just as original as if i took a brush and painted an image. It would be different if she had looked at a variety of say polar bear photos for reference and came up with own pose and shape of polar bear but the polar bears she made line up line for line with the photos so do the shadows and fur ruffs.

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I took another look at the second article... and it's a lot more ambiguous than I though.

 

The as you mention, line for line transfer between photo and painting is pretty close... although she brings some unique vision (coloration, texture, 'pseudo-native textile accents') to each composition.

 

I'd have instinctively thought that this was enough to make the work original, and not a theft from the photographer... but I'm no expert on copyright law.

 

I'd still say that the transfer from her paintings to the products sold by the vendor is much more egregious, for a variety of reasons.

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Even if they totally ripped off every detail line for line, she still needs the money to fight them ... sad but true. Large corporations have to regularly challenge their imitators in order to keep their copyrights in place. Thus the horrible line between needing to have images available so people can see your work and knowing someone could be using them against you.

However the line can be fuzzy. I remember one artist complaining loudly of being copied ... she was making work from her Sunday comic pages ... Hmmmm, aren't those comics someone else's work?

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I don't know how many folks that went to Weebles link on faso.com read the comments but they are certainly extensive.

 

I certainly came away feeling that the very best thing to do if wanting to base some work off another's effort (in any medium) is to get permission. That said though I have come across situations where folks want to try and project ownership of methods or designs that are not theirs to begin with.

 

I also feel people need to consider that even if you did come up with a design or method without any input from any other source that does not mean that you alone came up with that design or method and with functional pottery I would think that many designs get 'dreamed up' independently by numerous folks around the world regularly. I thought the faso.com article did one thing very well and that is to demonstrate that many things are much more complicated than they may seem on the surface and it is best that the situation be completely sorted out before judgments can be made and just comparing the work in no way means its an infringement. 

 

In the pottery world there is a case in point from a few years ago where a popular potter who sells on etsy publicly attacked another potter on her blog when she 'caught' the potter selling one of her signature forms on etsy as well, for less. She sent her a C&D email and crowed how the potter cowered to her and apologized and immediately removed the item. She said she thought the potter was genuinely sorry but ignorance was no excuse and decided to take to the blogs to publicly thrash this new potter. The problem I had was that the form in question was a form that goes back centuries in Japan and she made a few minor tweaks and then went after someone else using it.  

 

All in all I thought the post and resulting comments were alarming since they appeared to come from many established potters around the country and, at least to me, they seemed to really be off base on what is and isn't infringement and/or ethical.

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When I was presenting along with him at the Alabama Clay Conference a goodly number of years ago, Mel Jacobsen told this story about his apprentiship with Uchida-san in Japan........

 

As the "upstart creative American" in the Japanese workshop, his sensei challenged him to come up with something really "new" for a form.  Mel would spend his off time in the evenings making a piece... and then place this work on his sensei's shelves in the evening.  The next morning........ there would be a book or magazine open to a picuture of a Japanese piece that was a close duplicate.  This went on for a year.

 

best,

 

.......................john

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Most pottery forms don't fall under copyright anyway, as a functional item they need to be patented and patents are hard to get in a media that is as old as clay as the form must be significantly different or have a significant improvement to those form that have come before.

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The points made by Mr. Bill Harrison, within the comments at the link that Weeble posted, are a good read.

 

Thanks for referencing this. I've definitely used a couple photos as direct inspiration for designs in the past (easy to do when you work with wildlife themes). I'll need to be more careful in the future.

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Even if they totally ripped off every detail line for line, she still needs the money to fight them ... sad but true. Large corporations have to regularly challenge their imitators in order to keep their copyrights in place. Thus the horrible line between needing to have images available so people can see your work and knowing someone could be using them against you.

However the line can be fuzzy. I remember one artist complaining loudly of being copied ... she was making work from her Sunday comic pages ... Hmmmm, aren't those comics someone else's work?

This is so true... I had someone steel a great deal from me not too long ago. It was about $50K worth of work product (unrelated to ceramics), with collection costs and add ons the number ran up to $65K in no time. We turned it over to collectors and they threatened to sue us! Really!?! As it turns out they could have sued, and counter sued any suit we brought to collect the funds. Not only that, if we won in court, we still had to collect. Since they were an LLC, they could declare bankruptcy and shut down. When we talked to our attorney he said there has been a rash of these situations, companies steeling from other companies, especially from small businesses. He said you not only need the cash to prevail in your suit, but defend against the counter suit. And, even then we may never see a dime of the money.

 

It turns out these types would run up AR's, walk, and if you went after them they shut down, formed a new LLC, and operated under the new LLC and you have no recourse against the new LLC or the principals... 

 

Our attorney told us that unless we looked to gain at least $100K it probably wasn't worth the heartache of trying to go after the money. I had to let 4 people go over that... So not only did I loose a ton of money, but four people lost their jobs... And four of my sub contractors took a hit too...

 

We did stop them from using our work product with cease and desist letters, but even that took 90 days, and we had IP protections on that property in our contracts. Never saw a dime of that money.

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You can certainly infringe on a photographer's copyright. As artists we are not entitled to paint from a photographer's work with the intent of duplicating that work. See the article I posted. We can however, use multiple photographs of a model, from multiple sources, and provide credit to those sources. In this sense the works function more like research materials. The key point is to not duplicate, but to do something new with the subject. If you're placing it in a new setting, adding design elements, or reinterpreting the work then you're on good ground. I almost typed "safe ground", but in today's litigious culture, the original artist could scream foul and sue you. Then you have to defend the suit. So, for me if I'm using someone else's work as an inspiration I ask permission. Now days I try to not even look at the work of others for inspiration. Most of my inspiration comes from journaling at 4:00 AM every morning.

 

But, to John's point above... I find elements of my ideas in the sights and sounds I see daily. And, sometimes I wonder if I hadn't seen a design or motif and it was stored somewhere in my brain and popped out when I sat down at my journal. Developing something completely new is very hard work. It takes time and talent...

 

Mike

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You can certainly infringe on a photographer's copyright. As artists we are not entitled to paint from a photographer's work with the intent of duplicating that work. See the article I posted. We can however, use multiple photographs of a model, from multiple sources, and provide credit to those sources. In this sense the works function more like research materials. The key point is to not duplicate, but to do something new with the subject. If you're placing it in a new setting, adding design elements, or reinterpreting the work then you're on good ground. I almost typed "safe ground", but in today's litigious culture, the original artist could scream foul and sue you. Then you have to defend the suit. So, for me if I'm using someone else's work as an inspiration I ask permission. Now days I try to not even look at the work of others for inspiration. Most of my inspiration comes from journaling at 4:00 AM every morning.

 

But, to John's point above... I find elements of my ideas in the sights and sounds I see daily. And, sometimes I wonder if I hadn't seen a design or motif and it was stored somewhere in my brain and popped out when I sat down at my journal. Developing something completely new is very hard work. It takes time and talent...

 

Mike

Mike,

 

That's why I always have my students draw/ paint, etc. from multiple source images, and add subtract things to make it their own.  They don't like doing this, they'd rather just copy the first thing they see.  I'm just a "fun hater".

 

Also Mike, your above story is just terrible.  It's sad that things are set up in a way, that people/ buisnesses like yourself are being treated in such a way, and the other side, is hiding behind the system that should be prosecuting them.

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Mike,

 

Good to have someone with concrete real world experiences giving a highly accurate picture of the reality of the business and legal world here. Thanks for posting you story above.

 

There is an important saying to learn from this (and other aspects of ceramics)....... "Chose you battles."

 

best,

 

.......................john

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For many years, (painters) artists have set up in museums to copy the works of the masters--with the understanding that the work is attributed to the master and can only be sold as a copy.  Most artists wouldn't even think of selling them, but would gift them to family or friends.  The attribute is plainly shown on the FRONT of the copy/  It is an integral part of the painting. This was a good way to learn different techniques, and the original painter wasn't around to ask permission.  It was accepted with restrictions.

 

Back in the day when I headed up juried art shows, we would usually have at least three paintings entered that were direct copies of photos from National Geographic.  Those were returned to the submitting artist with a short bit of  literature on copyright infringement.  Some learned from this, others--never.

 

Copy if you want to learn techniques, but for heaven's sake, learn and burn!

 

Shirley

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