This also speaks to an issue with the direction Facebook is going, which I saw a couple blogs highlight the other day: Facebook's vision of "frictionless" sharing (apps that indescriminately auto-share everything you do) takes away what makes sharing valuable: Selectivity. When I share something online, it's because it's something I found interesting and think that my friends or followers would also find interesting. That gives it value, because I'm actively selecting what I think is worth sharing and what isn't. I look at hundreds of things on the internet every day, but only find a handful that I think are worth passing around. If Facebook is telling my friends every single thing I watch on YouTube and Netflix, and every song I listen to on Spotify, etc, those aren't valuable shares for anybody. It's just spam. Taking the selectivity out of sharing feels like a step way backwards in an internet that is becoming very much about social curation and noise reduction. If one of my friends has heard a new song - or even a hundred songs - that they like so much they want to share with me - that's great. But every single song they happen to listen to? Who wants that? I know there are millions of narcisistic over-sharers out there who will lap these abilities up, but it just makes me want to stay the hell away from Facebook.
Yes, another problem with this case has been the knee-jerk reactions of people who don't understand how difficult good pixel art actually is. I've done a bit of it and it is a laborious, hand-crafted art. This image was not simply pixelated in Photoshop, as some people have tried to say, but made by hand very carefully. If this were a painting of the photograph I have a feeling there wouldn't be so many people defending Maisel - but a lot of it stems from a naivety about pixel art as a medium.
I'm a photographer, and I whole-heartedly agree with you here Mike. I commented about this back on the post about Mr. Brainwash and the Run DMC photo. It's interesting to me that most of these cases (see also the Obama/Fairey issue) seem to involve portraits of famous people where the creative contribution by the photographer has been pretty minimal. The interest and value of the photograph relies extremely heavily on its subject matter and the subject matter's cultural achievements - something the photographer had nothing to do with it. I find it incredibly egotistical that portrait photographers think they deserve such heavy control over what sometimes just amounts to a choice of how to frame a scene. That's not to say that Maisel's photograph isn't excellent - it is - but if it were the exact same photograph of a completely unknown jazz musician, would anyone care about it? Would it have any value? Would anyone want to recreate it in the first place? Of course not. Just as the pixel art recreation owes everything to the original photograph, the original photograph owes everything to Miles Davis. This is why I think celebrity portraiture (and most photography) is a transformative art in its own way, making it very hypocritical to cry lawsuit when someone transforms your transformation. And I am saying this as someone who's done a TON of this type of photography, as well as other types of photography that owe everything to the subject matter (scenery, monuments, events, etc). There is a lot of talent and skill and art involved in capturing a person or a scene - but at the end of the day you're transforming something that already exists, and you'd be wise to keep that in mind when someone transforms your transformation.
When the reaction to stuff like this becomes lawsuits and more lawsuits, you just start to put artistic expression into a smaller and smaller box of what's allowed and what isn't. I'm not arguing this from a legal perspective (although I think the fair use argument here is pretty strong), just from the perspective of someone who would rather keep art as open as possible, even if it means some people get away with some questionable appropriations here and there.
Regarding remix stems, that's not really a great example in this case because a song using a stems of someone else's music is using *actual* pieces of that person's work. That's a whole separate discussion. In this case it's an *interpretation* of the work, done in a different medium that changes the experience and the context. If Brainwash made a collage that included the actual photo (or part of it), that would be more akin to using a part of someone else's song in a new song, and this would be a different conversation.
Although, with regards to sampling music, the ability to sue someone for doing that is a relatively recent development - a lot of iconic music from the 80's wouldn't have been legally possible now because it was built using samples of other peoples' work.
All of this is a fine line, of course, and every artist will surely have a different emotional reaction to it. My personal feeling with regards to this case is that even if the photographer feels like Brainwash's art is too close to the source material, he should recognize that there are parallels to this type of thing everywhere in art, ESPECIALLY photography. Maybe he should be thrilled that he's built a successful career off of his photography, has made money off of photographs like this one that he took decades ago, and that his photo is iconic enough that another artist would be able to make a successful work based on it. He should also recognize that the money being made by Brainwash off of this piece of art is money that the photographer NEVER WOULD HAVE MADE. I don't think there's any argument that the photographer is losing money here, or that this is harming his business in any way. I guess his argument then, is, "I made this piece of art, why should someone else be able to take what I did, adapt it, and make money?" But in some way or another, that's what all art is.
One other question for those who think Brainwash should get sued for this: Should Andy Warhol get sued for appropriating the iconic design of Campbell's soup labels? Yes, what Warhol did was FAR more unique than what Brainwash is doing (and Brainwash appropriates the hell out of Warhol), but if you remove the quality or significance of the art from the equation, aren't they doing more or less the exact same thing?
"Why sell photographs?" You're missing the point entirely. The point here is that the photograph is one piece of art, and an artist's interpretation of that photograph is a separate piece of art which has built upon and transformed the original piece. The photographer's ability to sell his photograph has not been harmed by this artistic interpretation. If someone was selling photocopies of the original photo, THAT would be an issue.
I happen to AGREE with you that Brainwash's "art" is uninspired and unoriginal. But that's beside the point. What he's doing here is "covering" or "remixing" the original photo, in a way. You don't have to like it, but arguing that it's against the law sets a dangerous precedent for artists. What's next? If I paint a picture of a building, am I infringing upon the rights of the architect?
The funny thing is that celebrity photography is in its own way a form of appropriation art. The exact same photograph taken of three unknown people would likely have never been deemed artistically, culturally, or financially valuable. But this photograph is actually building off of the artistic achievements of its subject matter - it simply wouldn't be an interesting photo if the people in it weren't artists who had already made a name for themselves in popular culture through their own art. And much of their art relied on the art of others. And so on. Everything is a remix. In that sense, I find it really sad that the photographer would go after someone who had essentially done the same thing, just one step further down the line. And as a disclaimer: I don't even like Mr. Brainwash's art. I think it sucks. But that's not for me to decide. The market (in this case, the art world) has decided that it has value (even though they were hilariously tricked into it by Banksy). And Brainwash's piece, much like Friedman's photo, would have significantly less value if it weren't for Run DMC.