Rogers vs Koons: The Trailer
by Tyler Wolf
For my project I would like to explore the case of Rogers V. Koons, as well as the larger topic that this case epitomizes. This case, which occurred in 1992, was centered around a conflict between photographer Art Rogers and renowned artist Jeff Koons. Koons used one of Rogers’ photographs as inspiration for one of his sculptures, and actually reproduced it identically in order to comment on the banal nature of everyday objects. Rogers discovered this and sued Koons for copyright infridgment, while Koons claimed fair use because it was a parody. In addition to being related to our discussions on copyright infringement, this case also explores the extent to which fair use protects an individual. My project will explore this case, but more importantly it will explore what constitutes derivative work, the controversy of whether or not derivative art detracts from the initial work, and what the limits of fair use are.
For my project, I plan on studying Digital Rights Management, or DRM. The controversy in this lies in how much freedom is given to consumers of a digital product. DRM was created to keep digital products secure from being shared illegally between consumers and non-consumers. For example, it kept music and books from being copied and lent from one digital device to another to those unwilling to buy said products. The problem with this is that it put restrictions on the actual customer. In some cases, products were only available for a limited time, meaning that the consumer was gipped out of his or her product because he or she enjoyed it too many times. There is also the fact that physical lending can be done with products, but once you purchase the same product digitally, you can no longer participate in a sharing economy. My main problem is that people pay money to own a product, and it can be snatched away from them without their permission. The media that I will use will come from online interviews about DRM, explanatory videos and articles on the implementation and how it’s changed through the years (Lessig would be a good author to use here), and works that are for and against DRM, once again like videos or songs that I can find that focus on the subject. Right now, I think my trailer is going to be some sort of song or video that gets cut off due to the fact that it has been “played” too many times. I’m not sure of all the details yet, but I am going to start planning it out soon. This subject matters because it discusses the overbearing nature of our entertainment which degrades those who are attempting to support it. We all have to think about DRM and how it affects us. Only once we are informed can we decide which practices are right and which are wrong, opening our minds to a more in depth view of the just and unjust IP laws in our country.
My project will explore the intriguing case of mashup musician Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk. Gillis’ act consists of stringing together the physical elements of hundreds of other artists’ songs into new compositions via computer. His frenetic, often surprising juxtapositions of seemingly incongruous bits of popular culture (i.e., 2 Live Crew and Paul McCartney samples in the same song) and his intense, high-energy live performances have made him a superstar on the indie/underground circuit, and albums like Night Ripper (2006) and Feed the Animals (2008) have received end-of-year best-of nods from TIME magazine, NPR, and Pitchfork. Considering the murky legal waters Gillis crosses with his copyright law-defying work (the New York Times Magazine has called it “a lawsuit waiting to happen”), it may be surprising to some that Girl Talk has not come across any legal repercussions. In his defense, Gillis cites doctrines of fair use and claims his sampling methods are perfectly legal. My project seeks to decide whether he is correct or if Girl Talk is an act of theft.
For my final project, I plan to look at different cases of appropriation art with claims of copyright infringement, and how these cases were received and settled. I will be focusing on three main cases: Rogers v. Koons, Hoepker v. Kruger, and Fairey v. The Associated Press. In Rogers v. Koons, artist Jeff Koons modeled one of his sculptures portraying the banality of daily life after a greeting card photograph that Art Rogers had taken. When Rogers sued Koons for copyright infringement, Koons claimed that his use was protected under fair use by way of parody. In the case of Hoepker v. Kruger, photographer Hoepker sued artist Kruger for using a photo of one of his models with a magnifying glass over her eye, over which Kruger superimposed the words “it’s a small world but not if you have to clean it”. Hoepker and his model claimed that Kruger had infringed on the model’s privacy rights as well as copyright infringement of the photograph itself. The third case of Fairey v. The Associated Press is perhaps the most famous of the ones I’ve chosen. Shepherd Fairey sued the AP after they claimed he was using a photograph taken by one of their photographers in his artwork of Barack Obama with the word “hope” under his face. Fairey initially claimed that his rights were protected under fair use, however later revealed that he was mistaken about which photo he had used and that the AP was actually right. I also want to look at the work of Tracey Emin with her “My Bed” piece—a bed that she lived in for days, with objects such as cigarettes, vodka, stained sheets, etc.—and how the meaning of it changed when two Chinese performance artists named Yuan Cai and Jian Jun Xi jumped on it and had a pillow fight with the pillows that were part of her piece.
I hope to explore the issue of inspiration versus stealing in the art world, and ownership of art in general. I will look at questions such as “is all art fair game to build upon in any way the artist chooses?” and “is anything ever original?” My project will give a greater understanding of the use of appropriation art because it will use multiple cases to show the various sides and counter-cases of each lawsuit.
For my final project I will be looking at Leonardo DaVinci’s famous Mona Lisa and the various parodies which she has ensued. I will begin with a comparison to Marcel DuChamp’s LHOOQ, where he essentially draws a mustache on the Mona Lisa and claims it as a new work. Through this painting and its various parodies I am hoping to explore the concept of authorship and copyright through time. I do not believe there were any copyright laws during DaVinci’s time, and so the Mona Lisa would be ‘fair game’. However, the Mona Lisa is also an icon known by everyone, and any parodies after it are only identified as such and never thought to be original works. I will also look into more modern parodies of the Mona Lisa and attempt to find any artist statements. I am curious to find out if any artist claims a Mona Lisa parody to be an original, despite its iconic status. I believe my project will show what is at stake throughout time. Since the original work was created a long time ago, I will explore how comfortable artists feel appropriating a work of another who does not have any living relatives who remember the artist’s identity and/or intentions. I hope to discover if the passage of time will make the concept of copyright obsolete. Since the basis of my project is historical, I will be looking into art historian’s interpretation of the tension between the Mona Lisa and LHOOQ. I will also be looking for contemporary artist’s parodies and their intentions by reading their blogs and/or websites.
My remix presentation is going to be focusing on limits of fair use by parody. I will be focusing on to different cases of copyright conflict where the defense party pleaded not guilty due to the rules of fair use. First is Weird Al’s parody remix “Amish Paradise” of Coolio’s song “Gangsters Paradise” and second is the copyright lawsuit between Art Rogers and Jeff Koons in Koons taking a photo from Rogers’s collection and changing it into a sculpture. Each of these defenses claimed fair use by parody, but only Weird Al got off the hook in his case. This got me to the question of wondering what is the limit that one can use the defense of fair use by parody and get away with it or be found not guilty in the court of law. There are countless similarities between these two incidences, but also only the Rogers case was taken to the court of law. The fact that Coolio did not attempt to sue Weird Al it makes one wonder what would of happen if he choose to and by using the Rogers vs Koons case as a stepping stone this is exactly what my case will be working to prove. There are a lot of people that prove their art work is different and something new because it is a parody, but is it really or should this be seen as the biggest crime in copyright?