Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rant on Copyright

I have found a new toy, Polyvore. It's a place where you can create collages or inspiration boards of images found on-line.
Now, most of the members of Polyvore (if any) don't OWN the images they have "imported" to the collection, so 90% if not more of the site is copyright violation.

Some people are VERY upset about this... and I think they are HUGELY overreacting.

No, I don't support myself with my art.
Neither do the people creating these collages. They are creating a little beauty to this world. They don't consider themselves being artists, even when they label their collages "art". They don't think they own the artistic copyright, even though in fact they do... You see, when someone takes pictures and combines them into new pictures, it is that someone's art. Whether one created the images to start with or not has nothing to do with anything.

Andy Warhole didn't own the copyright to Munch's Scream

Edward Munch's painting and litograph of Scream

Andy Warhol's copies of the work

The Edward Munch Museum is PROUD of their artist being copied and has BOUGHT Andy Warhol's "art"!
Obviously he didn't do much creative work... he took a photocopy of Munch's graphic, printed it on plastic, painted the "wrong side" - with some hideous color combinations, I have to add - and that's it. If that is not "misrepresenting" an artist's work, I don't know what is. The art world is nevertheless EXTATIC by Warhol's "creativity" and "imagination" and "ability to renew art" and what not. Some of the people at Polyvore are more imaginative, creative and show much more ability to create new things with "old" things than Andy Warhol ever did. But, sure, they don't CALL themselves artists, they haven't f-d the whole art community with their blatant and rude arrogance and self confidence and had art exhibitions with their creations... They are many... and, yes, most of them are girls.

So - if it is ok for "artists" to rip the copyright, it is frankly unfair to demand that girls having fun putting pictures together to create new pictures would know that what they are doing is "dubious", theft, violating someone else's personal space and "blatantly wrong".

That it would be blatantly wrong to use a painting of a "young child" in a collage when painting the "young child" was not, especially when the artist's style makes it impossible to even recognize the child, or even if a live model was used, sounds to me extremely hypocritical and oversensitive - sounds more like the artist is trying to use children as leverage by insinuating that the people at Polyvore were bordering to pedophiles...
Well... to be fair, some of the artist's portraits are actually photographs that are manipulated in some fashion, but it's in no way differentto use those images than to use any photos of children, for example children's fashion models in fashion magazines and catalogues.
Also, children in antique photos that are being used by many collage artists, were real children when the photo was taken, and it was VERY personal and the photos were ABSOLUTELY NOT meant to be used in artwork. If it is "blatantly wrong" to use images of "young children" in collage art, why isn't this artist attacking all the "legitimate" collage artists? (like, for example Heather Murray, who is actually SELLING this "blatantly wrong" art...)

"...another one had covered up the watermark on the Morgan Le Fay and people, jessica galbreth's watermarks are BIG. it can't have been done with anything other than intent and malice."
Intent, yes, malice, no. If you are a teenaged dabbler - which 99% of the members of Polyvore are, of their minds if not by the numbers on their birth certificate - you don't KNOW anything about what it means to an artist to have her painting altered. To you the image is just "pretty" and you use it for such reasons as "the colors fit my intentions". A copyright watermark does not fit anyone's intentions. To be able to use the image, one MUST hide the watermark with other images, that are usually chosen because the colors, forms and message fit the creator's intention. There is no malice there, just practical solutions to a practical problem.

Now, Jessica Galbreth and Amy Brown are REALLY popular, and their art... well...
Norman Rockwell thought he wasn't an artist. He thought he was just an illustrator, while his wife was the real artist of the family.
M.C.Escher thought he was just a skilled copier, not an artist.
Rudolf Koivu hated his work as an illustrator and dreamed of being a "real" artist.
I love all these persons' work, but... frankly, I cannot say their work should be sacred and using it in collages would be "butchering" it. (Frankly, no art is. They have done "worse" things with Mona Lisa and Botticelli's Venus, and none of that can diminish the original art work one bit. On the contrary. So that's just another hysterical overreaction to what is happening at Polyvore.

Come on, now, most of the collages are nothing more than inspiration boards, like those in ANY fashion magazine, using the artworks to enhance the desired impression.

For example, here's Art&Ghosts' "bedhead" (I don't know what it was originally named, but people like Yasmina at ffffound isn't very imaginative in inventing new names, so I assume it's the correct name) and four Polyvore members' treatment of it.

The fashion boards are made by Alex and Laura, and the art is made by "Gardenfairy" and "Googles". In my mind none of them mars the original artwork in any way. In fact, I like Gardenfairy's and Googles' version better than Art&Ghosts' original.
Of course, most of the collages where this painting was used weren't this good, but the original artwork is so strong it infuses the whole collage with its essence and overpowers all the possible scratches, spots, dots and ripples one might add to it. In only one the essence was covered, and it was done to such extend the original couldn't even be seen - the creator of that had used this image for its colors. Not even Art&Ghosts could have recognized her work in it.
BTW, that splash of color wasn't bad, and it was very impressive use of the tool (Polyvore).

The Copyright Fanatics tell us that we are not to admire these people's capacity of using the tool, which isn't that simple - I am worthless in making collages :-D - and we are not to admire these people's artistic expression or artworks, because they are using "someone else's" colors and forms... We are not to give them credit for their eye of composition, proportions and color, but we are to send a LAWYER after them, because they are abusive, malicious thieves...

My husband makes collages of images. He can't draw people, and it is people he uses in his artwork, them being very personal and expressionist. He is basically illustrating his life experience with the art he does. I think he is a really good artist, but as we are poor, we cannot afford a good camera nor models, and as we both have different socially incapacitating problems, we don't have many friends we could use. So, he uses images he finds on-line. Most of them are stock images made for the purpose, the Deviant Art community is very generous in that way, and those that are not stock images, he asks if he may use. He also tries to give credit to best of his ability. There are times though when he does violate the copyright. He doesn't use anything but photos, but photos are photographed by someone, and photographers have copyright to their photos.
Because I know him, and I know he doesn't have malicious intentions and that he isn't stealing photos to violate the artist nor their artwork, but because he has the urge to create and he needs those colors and those forms... Of course, my husband has a way out of the copyright trap - I am a very good copiator, and if I copy your photo by painting it, I am in no way violating your copyright, even though I use "your" colors, forms and composition - but what about all the others like him who do not have that privilege?
I cannot and will not condemn the creative people at Polyvore, because they are violating the copyright.
I think the copyright is a good thing, but it can also be used to limit people's creativity.

Now, Jessica Galbraith, Amy Brown, Kelly Vivanco and Art&Ghosts all are rather popular and sell their original pieces. I cannot see in what way the usage of these images as part of collages at Polyvore violate their rights or artwork, or damage their economy in any way. I just cannot see it. They all have a very specific and recognizable style, which means that if a person sees part of their artwork in a collage at Polyvore, and like it, they will seek the original up, but they wouldn't go looking for it without having seen it in a collage at Polyvore... which only means more publicity to the artist, more fans and more income.

To me this Copyright Fanatism is incomprehensible and what I would define as greedy meanness. At Flickr there's another fun little thing called Mosaic Maker. You choose photos from the ones at Flickr and put them in the program which makes a mosaic out of them. Most people use someone else's photos, but there too are some who "would be very upset if people were using their photos in their mosaics without asking". I don't get it.

Copyright was "invented" at the 18th century, because the publishers were printing authors' works without giving them any part of the income, which lead to "their very great detriment, and too often to the Ruing of them and their Families".

Frankly, I don't take from you anything. I am being called a thief even when I haven't taken anything from you...
My using your photo in my mosaic or collage doesn't harm your original photo, what ever I do with "my" copy.
It doesn't diminish your income or fame, even if I wouldn't give you the credit.
Frankly, in most cases, you don't even know when anything you have uploaded online is being used, as "print screen" exists, and there are thousands of ways to go by the protective measures. Everyone uploading their art online knows this and still uploads their art. I don't know if my art is being used somewhere. I suppose I'm not good enough. I'm no Jessica Galbraith, that's for sure. But not even she knows where her artwork is being used and what is being done to it. In spite of that, she lives on her art and the products that are being made decorated by her artwork. So - what is being stolen from her?

The people who print a copy of her artwork to glue it on a notebook wouldn't buy her notebooks anyway, because they can't afford it, but perhaps someone sees that notebook with "stolen" art, and wants one herself, and perhaps this someone CAN afford to buy a REAL one, and believe me, I would much rather support the artist than "fake" it. For one, the mass produced things Jessica sells herself are a bit better quality than my homemade copy, and when the authenthic merchandise still looks good after a couple of years, my decoupage notebook will start to wear and - as I cannot afford a good quality printer either -the ink will fade and smudge and spread and what not.

The same way, making collages or photo mosaics with your images, doesn't take anything from you. It might not GIVE you anything, but it doesn't TAKE anything either.

I am a craftswoman, so I knit and crochet by patterns, most of which are shared freely online. I can understand if a copyrighted pattern is ripped and used, because that does takes something from the creator of the pattern, so I have some understanding for people doing the Queen's Work. But I also understand the consequences of poverty. If you can go to a public library and borrow the magazine, why not copy it and put it online so it's handier to use, and others get an access to it too.
What bothers me most is that the Copyright Fanatics assign all kinds of motifs to these people - to us. I use Picasa and "steal" copyright too, and if you sued me, I'm sure there would be enough evidence in my home and my computer to punish me. You wouldn't get anything for that either though. I don't "steal" because of disrespect, malice or because my morals stink. I "steal" because I'm poor.

Also, some people try to copyright STITCHES. I'm not talking about some fancy lacework or aran animals and such, but "1.row K3 P1. 2. row P1 *K1 P3* K1 P1" stitch patterns... AS IF ALL OF IT HADN'T ALREADY BEEN INVENTED LONG AGO! It's like trying to copyright words or using strawberries in cooking or watercolors - or genes... :-> "You may not have babies, because that might violate my exclusive right to copy your genes". Such BULL!

I really, truly think that some people take the copyright way too far.

To see more of Mona Lisas, among others Andy Warhol's version, go to Mega Mona Lisa