NOTE: A work-in-progress… beta is yucky I know, but better than nothing for now…
There’s a good discussion going on at flickr (a place I should frequent more often), regarding “obey” and other’s use of images in the public domain (in this case, art that is really old). It’s a pretty good overview of the arguement, and I found myself nodding my head at many different points from bothsides. I believe Shanrosen says it best though:
If you are arguing that copying is unethical, have a deeper look at art history. Historically, artists always learned by copying the masters. Lots of copies of the works of the Old Masters exist, and many works only survive as copies. This is widespread in all the arts. Shakespeare, for example, used many earlier works when developing his plays. Think of the folk process, where works are changed and developed over generations, sometimes retaining much of their original character, and sometimes being substantially reworked but still clearly identifiable. Check out Bob Dylan’s works and his creative process. It is much the same as what we are talking about here (though Dylan is IMHO by far the superior artist).
We need to be clear-headed about copying and copyright. If we’re not, then we could acquiesce to a copyright regime which would be stifling for everyone except the media conglomerates. It is already affecting people here in Flickr who use old found images in their montages. Their pages have been removed from public view in case of (highly unlikely) copyright violation. The risk is seen as too high for Flickr to take.
But what effect is that going to have on the art of montage? We have perfect tools for it now (Photoshop, GIMP) but will we be unable to exhibit montage on the web for fear of copyright violation? (Fairey’s work is a digital montage of public domain works, a bit more subtle than the usual, but you people have identified the source images accurately.)
The Grooveblog discusses Roy Lichtenstein’s fine walk between appropriation and theivery.