Monday, April 28, 2008

More on Large Corporations Stealing Ideas from Poor Artists...

Today discovered a new website,, and added it to the top of my blogroll. It is a website devoted to artists whose designs and ideas are stolen by (mostly) big companies. Some of the claims seem to be legit, some not, (one of the blog features allows viewers to vote on whether a claim is valid) but one of the most infuriating posts was recent, concerning artist Jen Stark, whose work I have admired for a long time... her sculptural paper work was reproduced identically (save a change in color) in a Banana Republic window in London.

There was an Ed Winkleman post about a similar situation where Barney's department store had windows decorated with Jack Pierson-like signs. To my surprise, though most of the people who read Ed's blog are art world people and artists, most did not seem to think it was a very big deal. (Do a lot of the readers make their living doing graphic design, maybe?)

I posted on a related subject back in January. I referenced a high level international company that specializes in "trend spotting".... this means that they employ people whose job is to go to art exhibitions, photograph the work in detail, and then post extensive documentation of these pieces "to inspire" their extremely high-profile and high-paying customers. The museum I was exhibiting in got a pdf copy of their newsletter, and viewing it as just another PR article about the exhibition, forwarded a copy to us.

Only a few weeks ago, I noticed about twenty people had followed a link to my website and looked at an average of 25 pages each. When I followed the link, it was from this same company, on a newly published "trends watch" page. As it is a members-only site, I have no access to the context that my work was put in: I will never know what images were referenced or reproduced referring people to my website. I still don't quite understand how this can be legal. As most of the company's customers are fashion places, I decided to spend $45 a pop to register copyrights for some of my more marketable clothing pieces. I then printed out and saved the web hits report with the link information, as well as the server info for those days, just in case.

It seems many people take this so casually, saying, "nothing is really new, everything has already been done anyway", and proclaiming that it is no big deal when this happens. But there is something so perverse about it. Many artists (myself included) left commercial art or chose not to participate in the first place because we did not want to be a part of it, even though it meant we might be paid decent money for our creative ideas. (And myself, well, I could never get excited about fonts...). We chose the higher and tougher road, the one that doesn't pay so well, for the freedom to own and execute our ideas without restrictions, making work for the greater good, or at least for our own good. Then our ideas get co-opted anyway, to sell some product we don't believe in, only we don't get the credit for the idea OR the money. And because most people have long ago given up on trying to hold corporations accountable, I am made to feel like an indignant, fussy paranoid school girl with her panties in a twist.


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