Non-plagiarists vs Warhol’s legacy

Artists are lining up on each side of an upcoming October Supreme Court ruling brought on by the Warhol Foundation’s appeal of a lower court ruling barring it from using images without substantially changing them. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA), and the US Copyright office are among groups opposing the Warhol Foundation. A ruling in favor of Warhol would diminish the work of any photographer who values their work and puts it in the public realm, making it fair game for lazy artists like Warhol, Barbara Kruger (who lent her name to the Warhol side), Jeff Koons and Richard Prince, among others, who constantly plagiarize images in their work and call it their own with minimal if any changes. If these artists (Warhol rest in peace) want to use a published image in their art without significantly changing it, why shouldn’t they pay the original artist/photographer for the privilege? Or conversely, why not go take your own damn photograph(s) to use? Warhol was never a good draftsman – but he was excellent at pissing on his pieces. His most recognized work such as Marilyn, Elvis, and Mao use photographs, apparently taken by others and used without permission. This is an issue originating in the 20th century with photography but modern society has made it even more easy, through means of the internet, to find and use any image put out for view in the world. It must be noted however that only the most shameless artists plagiarize these works without changing them or seeking permission for them. Many of them are in that modern wing of art that denies showing the ‘artist’s hand’ in works of art – movement famously promoted by Warhol and his ‘factory’. Successful contemporary artists especially should not be given a pass on adopting images without costs. A ruling in favor of the Warhol Foundation will only promote plagiarists as they exploit less successful artists with impunity. Artists prone to using ‘factories’ and ‘assistants’ will find that industrial production of art is not so easy when you have to personally develop all your images. It is not too much to ask for these capitalist artists to sacrifice ease of production for ethical support. BTW there are already laws in most countries that logically migrate published images into the public realm after due time – this case seems to only apply to contemporary images under authorship of current persons. The Copyright office and the photographer groups are correct to oppose this outrageous over-reach by greedy artist-plagiarists and their legacy foundations.

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