Imitation Is Still The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

from the artists-who-get-it dept

Full-time portrait artist Gwenn Seemel recently posted a brief video about how she feels when someone copies her work. To her, being copied means you have created something important and meaningful, and she notes that the most copied works of all time are also the most seminal cultural icons we have:

I do feel there are a couple of points that she could have made better. Firstly, she doesn't fully acknowledge the value of transformative works, although from her slideshow of examples it is apparent that she understands that value. Secondly, when she talks about her true scarce value—being the only genuine source of her artwork, which is an important thing for artists to recognize—I wish she had also noted that, just like every other artist in history, her work also draws on what came before it. Despite these small quibbles, it is a succinct and sincere statement from a real artist about why being copied is good, and why freaking out about it means taking an incredibly pessimistic view of things.



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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 5:15am

    "She notes that the most copied works of all time are also the most seminal cultural icons we have"

    What she doesn't note is that for a true cultural icon, that copying tends to happen much later. Quick copying, short term stuff, tends to be just that, short term. Longer term (centuries) is where the true copying tends to occur for things that have become cultural icons, and by then, they are in the public domain.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 6:05am

    Re:

    Has all the copying taken market share from the Mona Lisa or reduced its value?

    You see when something is good, no matter what happens the original stands the test of times(short or otherwise).

    On the other hand crap tends to get old quick.

     

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  3.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 6:07am

    "and by then, they are in the public domain"

    Not if the **AAs have their way.

     

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  4.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 6:29am

    Re:

    What she doesn't note is that for a true cultural icon, that copying tends to happen much later. Quick copying, short term stuff, tends to be just that, short term. Longer term (centuries) is where the true copying tends to occur for things that have become cultural icons, and by then, they are in the public domain.

    Once upon a time, sure. But now we live in an age where culture works differently, and at a much faster pace. The means of creating, sharing and reusing work have all become broader in scope and easier to access - it's only natural that things would speed up. You can hate it, but you can't stop it.

     

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  5.  
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    abc gum, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 7:23am

    Re:

    Are your conclusions based upon info obtained from prior studies or is that a personal opinion?

     

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  6.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Re:

    You are right in a way. The Odyssey and other works of Homer are true cultural icons as they have not only lastest years but millennia. They have been used for numerous other works of written literature, movies, games music etc.

    However, culture can also be short term. It have a strong effect on a relatively small number of people for a short time. That does not make it any less significant. Let's take for example the Harry Potter series of books. These books have inspired a large number of fans to create derivative works. The works are part of the larger Potter culture. Most of these works are going to die in obscurity. Some will remain relavent and hold out as long as Harry Potter does, possibly beyond.

    Copyright as it currently stands is a threat to such culture. Sure Rowling may be fine with it now, but what happens when she dies and her kids and/or estate takes over and decides that such cultural efforts should be killed off or be forced to pay an expensive license? Think about that.

    Personally, I had no idea who John Carter was or what it was about when Disney announced its movie. I only recently learned about it. I understand why it is not very well known based on the actions of The writer's estate. They are killing any effort to build upon that culture unless it meets their narrow view of what the world should be like, and also pay an expensive licensing fee.

    Heavy handed and expensive restrictions are not how you preserve culture. It never will be.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 8:06am

    There is a difference between drawing inspiration from a previous work and attemmpting to duplicate a piece of work. You fail to acknowledge that difference. An homage is not a copy, it is a interpretation of a previous piece. Inspiration can be gained from previous works without including even the slightest bit of copied material. You seem to be under the grand delusion that there are no original works that aren't inspired by something before it. There are entirely new mediums that have no prior art. You really need to get out more often, there really are creative people out there making uniquely original works that have no connection to previous works.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Re:

    Specific examples please ?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re:

    You can totally stop it. One just needs to stomp their feet hard enough and hold their breath long enough and it will happen.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:04am

    Re:

    You really need to get out more often, there really are creative people out there making uniquely unoriginal works that have a connection to previous works.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re:

    "Copyright as it currently stands is a threat to such culture. Sure Rowling may be fine with it now, but what happens when she dies and her kids and/or estate takes over and decides that such cultural efforts should be killed off or be forced to pay an expensive license? Think about that."

    That is the risk that copycat and derivative players take when they decide to make their work. Nobody says that they can't do it, it's only that the internet means they don't share with a couple of friends, but they share with the world. That is a real negative of the internet, because it puts the derivative works on the same stage as the original, which has never been the case.

    There is always a risk. The internet just happens to make that risk millions of times larger. It's why the current situation isn't like the past, and forces the current copyright situation. It's really not the copyright holders that have changed, it's those who copy and seek fame from copying that have moved to another level.

     

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  12.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "copycat and derivative players"

    Like J.K. Rowling?

    "That is a real negative of the internet, because it puts the derivative works on the same stage as the original, which has never been the case."

    Utter bullshit. Take the internet out of the equation, and the physical bookstores still sell a host of derivatives on the same shelves as their inspiration, as they always have. The Asylum's mockbusters are right there on the DVD shelves next to the films they're based on. 101 albums are on the CD shelf right next to the band whose success they're trying to copy.

    The derivatives may fade with time, as the "originals" are perhaps more famous and in demand earlier, and current copyright regimes stop them from being rediscovered under the public domain. But right now, they're right there, front and centre, as they have been for decades before the internet existed.

    "The internet just happens to make that risk millions of times larger."

    Only if you continue to try and pretend it doesn't exist, and try to force the clock back 20 years instead of competing in the real market. For others, it's an opportunity to get their work seen via channels the major labels/publishers/studios don't control.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    Show one please.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Quote:
    Nobody says that they can't do it


    Incorrect the law says you can't do it, and a handful of self centered people think they can force others to respect that.

     

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  15.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 1:05pm

    Sometimes I think people complain way too much about derivative and fan works. Sometimes they can be horrible sure. But other times, they can be pure awesome:

    http://io9.com/5899748/the-mighty-cute-avengers-the-most-adorable-avengers-fan-art

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 4:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Utter bullshit. Take the internet out of the equation, and the physical bookstores still sell a host of derivatives on the same shelves as their inspiration, as they always have."

    Paul we aren't talking about "books that feature magicians under 18" in them, I was referring more to things like "fan fiction" and "continuation works" that people often post up online. In the past, someone might do that, and perhaps run a few photocopies, and maybe a handful of people might see it. Now, they post it up on the web in a bunch of places, and boom, perhaps millions of people read it.

    You (and Marcus) need to learn the difference between "inspired by" and "copy of" or "based on the characters of...". They are different worlds.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 6:49pm

    There are entirely new mediums that have no prior art

    Bollocks.

    And btw...

    "Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And donít bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: "It's not where you take things from - itís where you take them to."
    - Jim Jarmusch

     

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  18.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 1:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I was referring more to things like "fan fiction" and "continuation works" that people often post up online"

    Oh, sorry, with all your whining about commercial risk I thought you were talking about works that were actually offer up for sale commercially. I didn't realise you were talking about works made by and for existing fans with no intention to profit.

    "Now, they post it up on the web in a bunch of places, and boom, perhaps millions of people read it."

    ...and this lowers sales of the original work.... how?

    "You (and Marcus) need to learn the difference between "inspired by" and "copy of" or "based on the characters of...". They are different worlds."

    Oooh, this should be fun. Quote where I ever said anything about them being the same thing. Go on. Unlike you, I allow people to see my posting history, although you still; seem to assume things about me that are the completely opposite of anything I ever said.

    ...and a pointless sideswipe at someone else while you're at it. Classy and intelligent as always.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2012 @ 5:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So wait, you admit that you don't read my comments, didn't pay attention, attacked me on something I didn't talk about, and then you get all uppity about it? Classy and intelligent indeed!

    "this should be fun. Quote where I ever said anything about them being the same thing. Go on. "

    Okay:

    "Take the internet out of the equation, and the physical bookstores still sell a host of derivatives on the same shelves as their inspiration, as they always have. The Asylum's mockbusters are right there on the DVD shelves next to the films they're based on."

    Marcus uses the word "copied". You speak of derivatives, and point to "mockbusters" (parody, which is a protected version of copying a end product). You seem to get all sorts of things mixed together in one bag, without seeming to understand the difference between inspirations (great blues song!) and copying (let's play that great blues song again!).

    You have them all tossed together like one thing, when they are very different. That is the same sort of intentional move that Marcus makes trying to muddy the waters, making his horrid sampler music somehow justified.

     

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  20.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 7th, 2012 @ 5:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Marcus uses the word "copied". You speak of derivatives, and point to "mockbusters" (parody, which is a protected version of copying a end product)."

    Erm, I didn't answer Marcus. I answered your point, which appeared to be about commercial derivative works. Which, when proven wrong, you then "clarified" as being non-commercial works such as fan fiction. Now, you try to pretend you were talking about cover versions ("inspirations (great blues song!) and copying (let's play that great blues song again!)"?

    These are all separate points that I have addressed when YOU brought them up, not me. I can't answer your "points" if you can't even get them straight yourself, can I? The only one muddying the water is you.

    The term "mockbuster" doesn't refer to parodies, by the way, so maybe you should do some more reading.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2012 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Paul, you really need to learn to read. You keep NOT understanding my posts.

    I wasn't shifting the goal posts. You seem to want a black and white, 1 or the other system. Real life doesn't work like that.

    Go back to my original post: "That is the risk that copycat and derivative players take when they decide to make their work. Nobody says that they can't do it, it's only that the internet means they don't share with a couple of friends, but they share with the world."

    That is specific about "fan fiction" or works that were written for fun by someone for their own amusement. The point is that in the past you would have shared it maybe with a couple of friends. Now people put that stuff online, where it is getting often equal play with the original piece.

    If you cannot understand that this is about fan fiction, then you truly need to slow down and actually READ posts, rather than just jumping to incorrect conclusions. I will accept your apology when you make it on this issue.

    Inspiration isn't a cover version. Inspiration means you have some great blues song, and write your own blues song. The chord progressions are likely very similar, and the playing style and sound may be similar, but it's your own song. You were inspired, you didn't copy.

    Just playing someone else's song is a completely different thing. Do you not grasp that basic concept?

    As for mockbuster, sorry, you used a non-dictionary term and I worked with it. I looked more closely, and I would say you need to go back and re-read my comment about "inspired by" as oppose to "copy of". The difference is as clear as Marcus's ignorance on most subjects (total). You seem not to be able to see the difference, which is sad.

     

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  22.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 8th, 2012 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Wow, you honestly can't see the real points and have to attack semantics rather than what people are actually saying... OK then...

    "You seem to want a black and white, 1 or the other system."

    Absolutely hilarious coming from Mr. "you're a pirate or you bow down to the RIAA's every need". You literally don't understand a word I say, do you?

    "That is the risk"

    "That is specific about "fan fiction""

    What frigging risk is there associated with fan fiction? Apart from the vague possibility that a copyright holder might notice it and shut it down, there is no risk. It's less risky to write a porno fan fic version of Twilight than it it is to host a website that happens to have the word twilight in the URL. Forgive me for thinking you might be blathering on about something with some risk involved, I only have your words to address, after all.

    "Inspiration isn't a cover version."

    No, they are 2 different things but can be interchangeable at times (e.g. hip hop groups basing a new song around a short 2-5 second sample of a song they love). Again, if I said differently, cite where I said it rather than making vague accusations.

    "Just playing someone else's song is a completely different thing."

    So that's OK, but fan fiction, where someone will write a completely new story based around pre-existing characters is risky and wrong? I literally don't understand.

    "As for mockbuster, sorry, you used a non-dictionary term and I worked with it."

    I used a term most commonly used by people who understand the film industry (of which you are obviously not one). It's most closely applied to The Asylum's rip-offs of movies like Transformers (Transmorphers) and Alien Vs Predator (Aliens Vs Hunter) and I used them as an example where "risky" rip-offs were on the same damn DVD shelf as their inspirations. If those are not acceptable, I can point to a century's worth of cinema where every big hit was followed by imitations. I don't see how I could be more clear than that, other than the fact you're so ignorant of the industry you defend that you're not aware of the terms to describe it.

    "The difference is as clear as Marcus's ignorance on most subjects (total)."

    I suggest you get your obsessive fascination with Marcus over with somehow, then maybe you can stop bringing him up in unrelated conversations.

     

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  23.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 8th, 2012 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, FFS, I almost missed this particular piece of insanity:

    "Now people put that stuff online, where it is getting often equal play with the original piece."

    Really? You think that FAN fiction is going to replace the original? That stories written for the express purpose of extending the current universe are going to be supported by people who are unfamiliar with the originals, let alone replace them? That fiction directed at people who are ALREADY fans of the original material will reduce sales of said original? That someone will read a Harry Potter fan fic story and go "well, now I don't need to read the original books, it's all covered here"?

    You're definitely living in a different universe. You're so far removed from reality, it's amazing that you can use a keyboard, seriously...

     

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