Visual Art Commentaries

Ethics of Intellectual Property
VIRGINIA HOFFMAN, SRQDaily November 11, 2011

I am finding out that what I have known to be the truthiness of copyright infringement does not necessarily meld with current “Urban Myths” most commonly heard, as “I don’t think anyone has claim to that idea.” To quote a past anonymous Facebook friend.
Back in the day when I attended the Ringling School of Art during the pre-air conditioning era, intellectual property was a serious subject. We were taught that to copy or even execute an unauthorized derivative of another’s’ artwork was a not only illegal but made you less of an artist. In fact, if an instructor caught a student doing so, they would receive a failing grade and be called out in front of the class. It was hard-core treatment laced with ridicule that followed from fellow students.
In today’s world of derivative everything, “sampling,” a euphemism for ripping off, happens in all creative industries as fast as one can download files from the Internet. An unfortunate weakening to the integrity of intellectual property creates an environment where it’s gotten harder for artists to protect their works.
It is so commonplace to snipe artwork that people become blacklisted for calling out offenders, just because everyone’s doing it. The simple solution is to just ask permission and do it ethically. Explain the how, the purpose and where you will be publishing the borrowed image. Most artists are generous souls and will be happy to share their creativity for attribution. If the author is no longer around, then let it be known the new incarnation of that idea is a tribute to the originator.
Call me old fashioned, but to copy or use without permission is just plain wrong and only speaks of the culprit’s inability produce original thinking. Poet Audre Lorde’s quote “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt,” sets a perplexing dilemma that mankind has been around so long that we’ve exhausted all of our creative thinking.
Of course not, the human condition, evolving technology, our complex society and so forth will continue to inspire the mind of the artist.