Sculptors plagiarize image found on internet - what should the photographer do?


One of our very own Met members, Alex Brown, is in a pickle. One of his very cool photos, of a kid in a Darth Vader mask, has been recreated (without Alex's permission) as a sculpture.

PDN Pulse:
New York City-based photographer Alex Brown recently discovered that a pair of Glaswegian artists, Craig Little and Blake Whitehead, known as Littlewhitehead, had “appropriated” an image he made of a young boy in a Darth Vader mask sitting in a diner booth.

The artists created a sculpture that copied Brown’s image without making any successful effort to contact the photographer.

After Brown confronted Littlewhitehead, they claimed in an e-mail to Brown that “it is never our aim to copy the work of other artists,” but then added, “we wanted to appropriate an image with a large internet presence as our starting point.”

“On all the blogs we found it on,” the artists continued, “none of them mentioned the maker of the image. We never knew the image had been taken by a professional photographer.”

Brown also takes issue with the artists’ claim that by creating a sculpture based on his image, they have created something new.

“My main objection to all of this is that I exhibit this image in galleries and sell limited edition prints,” Brown says. “By appropriating it, they directly undermine my ability to do so.”

Brown says he isn’t sure what he’s going to do yet besides draw attention to what he considers plagiarism by contacting galleries where Littlewhitehead will be showing the work. He says an intellectual property lawyer friend in London told him that, because of a precedent setting case, he would likely have no legal recourse under UK law."

My questions to you: What's Brown to do? Should he go after the sculptors or just let it go?

Tags: artist, photographer

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Wow, this is very interesting. The question is whether or not by changing the medium the artists have created something new? In my opinion by turning a photo into a sculpture they have created something new. However, they should have contacted the photographer for permission, given credit to where they got the idea and split any revenue generated. This relates to Shepard Fairey's case involving the "Hope" poster. Not to mention just about every rap album ever.
I'd be pissed! I have no idea what to tell him to do, but they obviously stole your intellectual property.
I think this is a case where something bad could be turned into something good. If both parties respect the other they could work together. They could jointly market the photo and the sculpture and split the revenues in some arrangement. If done correctly it could benefit both of them. They could even use this experience and their successful resolution to increase awareness of the problem which would draw further attention to their work (as it has done here).
Good call as always Mark!
Usually I'm all for collaborative art, but the point of collaboration is the artists involved have a mutual understanding AND agreement.

Also, uhm... Where exactly lies the originality in the sculpture??? So a real kid is now replaced by a fake one...dot dot dot
I can do the same thing and replace the sculpture with a real kid again and have that kid sit, for like a an hour or something, in the same setting recreated in a gallery or museum. Tadaa! performance art.

Also, if this is an okay thing to do, that means that every single photograph and original 2D idea ever made can simply be turned into 3D and labelled as original.

Also, that excuse of not being able to find the name of the photographer that is soooo lame. That''s laziness! And that's what they are. Too lazy to create an own idea and too lazy to research properly.
When you're inspired by something on the internet and use it as a strong influence in your work, you are ethically and morally obligated to find the people who created that work and then to acknowledge their contributions. If you plan to profit through fame or money from this work, there is no doubt in my mind that you need to have the permission from the original artist. From the description given above it sounds as though this wasn't the case. While recreating famous photos in sculpture seems like it may have some artistic merit, this guy is just a douche not an artist. It reminds me very strongly of the way Shepard Fairey sounds to me; they recognize and can create artistic things but have no clue as to why it is art or artistic.

It saddens me that there is legal precedent that stands in the way of Alex Brown getting the credit he is due and preventing him from protecting his monetary rights to his work. However, the only way precedents are established and overturned is through standing up for your rights in court. In fact if there were to be a fund established to help pay for him to fight this I'd strongly consider contributing.

However, a more amicable solution seems to be for "Littlewhitehead" to cease selling prints of a photo of the sculpture and to sell original prints from Brown. Brown of course could then contribute a small percentage of the earnings to "Littlewhitehead" and everyone would win.
"can create artistic things but have no clue as to why it is art or artistic"

Meh the way I see it is art is art. Some people just create. You don't always have to know why, but it is good to look back and see what you've gained from something.
I'm wondering if the photographer should give credit to George Lucas? The Darth Vader mask is what makes this picture funny and that was created by Lucas not the photographer. HIstory has shown that putting a baby, hot girl, dog, etc. in a Star Wars related mask will make the picture a 100 times better! It's kind of a photography no brainer.
Let it go... if anything this is free publicity and draws more attention to his work, not less.
If the sculptors are willing to be nice and cite Alex Brown as a credit, it's probably just good publicity. It's a shame that there are jerks out there that would claim they didn't have to just give credit where it's due.
Art should inspire art. Unless and artist either takes a commission to create the piece of art or specifically markets a piece to a purchaser it tends to take on a certain public domain quality. As an artist myself I understand that I will not always be paid for my art. But I WILL always be paid when hired. And I will be paid when I create something that is packaged and sold specifically. There's very little I can do about reproduction, nor would I. When art becomes about the money something is inherently lost.

Find a way to be flattered. Clearly watermark your photos with a valid web address and let the universe do what it will. And leave it at that.

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