Last week, my high school teacher daughter commented about her students copying manga drawings from the Internet and signing their own names. She tried to explain that there was an artist who did the original and it was not them. They said "It's free on the Internet. And besides, I have some good ideas, but I can't draw them." She told them they were stealing the other artist's work. They disagreed. She explained that is was like taking someone else's writing for a paper. They said, "It's not stealing. Our English teacher said it's plagiarism."
So this week, the New York Times discussed the photographs in the Richard Prince exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. They explored the feelings of the original photographers whose work was rephotographed and enlarged to ginormous sizes. They quoted Prince who said " . . . he was trying to get at something he could not get at by creating his own images." (My comment, "Well, duh!") And in an email he said, “I never associated advertisements with having an author.” My friend David R. Becker might disagree as did Jim Kranz whose original Marlboro photos are now being copied, shown and sold by Prince. Kranz said “I just want some recognition, and I want some understanding.” The Times talked of fair use and called it "appropriation." The full NYTimes article is here.
This question of copying someone else's work has often come up in my painting classes; I always discourage it. Suppose it's mine they want to copy and hang on their walls with their own signatures?!! And they would probably tell me I should be flattered. I always encourage study, practice and originality, but I may an old fossil in this. Copying-to-learn comes down as a time honored tradition; yet few would sign the copy as if it were their own. Copying someone's work from their website or copying their website; each comes with it's own set of ethical questions. Copying another artist's work, then being honored with a museum show for your copies? Oh, my!
So stealing is stealing . . . is not stealing.
It's plagiarism . . . or . . . appropriation.
I gotta think about this.