Artist Thrilled That His Work Was 'Stolen' By Fashion Designer

from the sincerest-form-of-flattery dept

Reader johnjac points us to a blog post from a guy who made some computer generated images of flocking birds, and was rather stunned when he discovered that a big time fashion designer had basically yanked one of his photos off of Flickr and put it on a sweatshirt. While we hear so many stories of people freaking out in such situations, this guy’s reaction is quite refreshing:

The more we looked, the more the neighboring details fell into place. Smith’s version was mirrored left to right so I loaded the image in Photoshop and flipped it. “Oh my god! He totally stole my work!” I was dancing around the room. “Paul Smith stole from me!” I will admit it was a strange reaction. I didn’t realize this until later in the day. I was actually thrilled that someone had ripped me off. Someone I liked.

Later on in the post, the guy, Robert Hodgin, admits that his own works are built off of the works of others, as well. And, that’s exactly how creativity works: you build on the works of others. It shouldn’t be seen as a crime or something to get angry about. It’s a way to provide more materials for more creativity going forward.

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Comments on “Artist Thrilled That His Work Was 'Stolen' By Fashion Designer”

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Gracey says:

Right. He’s thrilled, but then… he used other people’s work in HIS compilation without permission, so why wouldn’t he be thrilled.

from his blog:

[quote]In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit I am not completely innocent in all this. The birds I used in my coding study were culled from other people’s Flickr photos. I didn’t ask permission.[/quote]

At least he was honest enough to admit the work is compiled from the work of others.

eleete (user link) says:

Re: Re:

To one extent or another, we ALL build on others works. Inspiration is derivative in every circumstance. Legally in the U.S. it is absolutely unacceptable. To create new and interesting works for society it is absolutely critical. Therein lies the problem with the law. Lawrence Lessig is sheer genius on the subject, I refer to him.
My opinion, it is shameful to retard the public domain, blissful to flourish it.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve always had a critical view of plagiarism. It seems logical to me that since there are a limited number of words in the English language, never an infinitely long sentence, and never an infinitely long work of writing; there is a point at which everything written will be plagiarized. Hell even if you have read a few white papers on some topic and begin writing about even a related topic, there will be some phrases that will embed themselves into the document. Unless you have an eidetic memory or a sophisticated tool designed to identify plagiaristic content, there is no way to guarantee the document as solely your work.

Anonymous Coward says:

"plagiarism" ultimate form of flattery!!!

thats how i see open source although i think the term “ripped off” is harsh. (but i see why that term is being used here)

and thats why i think open source has a brighter future than “regular” software.

look at IEs progress vs FFs progress (i don’t even want to talk about which is better here) just thinking of the time it took ff to reach its v3 stage and how the add’ons complement it.
then look at how long it took IE to reach v8 and any limitation or advantages it may have.

Boost says:

Re: "plagiarism" ultimate form of flattery!!!

I think there’s a distinct difference between working off of someone else’s work to come up with a new independent work and just loading it into photoshop, mirroring it, and slapping it on a sweater. It’s just like that chinese company blatently ripping off the design of the BMW X5. Maybe it’s flattery to BMW that someone thought their design was nice enough to be ripped off, but it’s also not creative at all.

eleete (user link) says:

Re: Hit him !

I disagree, your statement is shy of the full experience of creativity. Creativity is injecting something new into the plethora of life experiences, thoughts and resources available to you. Nothing is ever created from thin air, with No intervention of the past. I dare you to name one. New ideas present themselves from circumstances of the past. Creation is that single moment that you add something emotionally rewarding to what already exists. Granted you may also create undesirable effects as well, but those are built of the past too. Perhaps you would like to define it differently ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Hit him !

word creation *means*
From google:
the act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new; “she looked forward to her initiation as an adult”; “the foundation of a new scientific society”
Innovation is a form of creation, but creation means starting from nothing to create something.

Shohat says:

Re: Re: Hit him !

Euclid of Alexandria is probably best example, but Newton and Darwin also come to mind.

Creation != normal progress.

Just because we have a 50 yearold scientific stagnation, doesn’t mean we should embrace a different, lowered standard for creativity.

Create = from 0.
Not evolve. Not innovate. Not improve. Not progress.

jonnyq says:

Re: Re: Re: Hit him !

We don’t have a 50 year old scientific stagnation. I don’t know where that bare assertion is coming from.

Don’t know about Euclid, but even Newton and Darwin built on others’ ideas. They just did more building than others.

Even when you take existing ideas and attempt to buck them entirely, you’re still innovating as they still inspired your ideas in the first place.

Shohat says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hit him !

We don’t have a 50 year old scientific stagnation. I don’t know where that bare assertion is coming from.

You from Earth ? Or are you some sort of sociology/economics/literature whatever major ?

About the other thing…
Having initial knowledge in the field you are about destroy doesn’t really mean “building”. John von Neumann is a good example of such a guy. After he touched fields (set theory, game theory, statistics, CS, and wtf not), It’d take decades to just understand the impact of the shitstorms he caused.
There’s a reason why many called him “the last great mathematician”.

Creating a new set of rules, a new standard which contradicts everything else in the field which you are building upon, is creativity. Yes, all scientists stand on the shoulders of giants, but it’s all about how much is left of the giant you stood on, when you are done.

nasch says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Hit him !

We don’t have a 50 year old scientific stagnation. I don’t know where that bare assertion is coming from.

You from Earth ? Or are you some sort of sociology/economics/literature whatever major ?

You’re really not aware of any major scientific progress since 1958? Wow. You must be from inside the earth, ie living in a cave. And BTW scientists have learned a lot about caves in the last 50 years too, so that still affects you.

Yes, all scientists stand on the shoulders of giants, but it’s all about how much is left of the giant you stood on, when you are done.

So creation is all about destruction? Now I’m confused!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hit him !

Oh boy, here we go. Philosophical debate time in the TechDirt comments.

The definition of creativity is not to fabricate something new from scratch.

Creativity is when you do something . . . creative. Something innovative, new, neat, or however you chose to describe it.

You can use old things to make new things. This happens most frequently.

Creativity is complicated.

This is a problem of legislating based off of your ideals while ignoring your fellow man’s ideals.

Ferin (profile) says:

True, but...

I’m still not always clear that this is something to be cheerful about. An artist on one of the sites I visit had some of her work used, without attribution, by a company making clothes for Wal Mart.

I kind of get your point about everybody building on other’s work, but it still bothers me a bit that she recieves no credit, not even a damn link on thier site or her name on the the shirt to get some more exposure.

The artist did cheerfully admits she apes Don Bluth’s artistic style closely, and she puts the images up as a hobby on an art site, but she still felt kinda bummed about the whole episode.

I guess on some level I’m still not sure that there shouldn’t be some kind of acknowledgement or something for somebody’s work, provided freely or not.

eleete (user link) says:

Re: True, but...

I agree with your comment entirely. I don’t propose to abolish copyright. I just tend to think that the terms are extensive, and the repercussions are damaging. I do believe your scenario would be solved by a shift in ‘limited terms’.

Do I think they should receive remuneration for their work? As a photographer and a programmer, I can well appreciate that. One entity with monopolistic and exclusive control over an image, a program or any expression of creativity for 120 years, or the life of a human +70 years is, to say the least excessive. As I often say, if we were all to be paid that way, it would be fair otherwise, it’s excessive. The fact that I can use my rights to bludgeon another into financial destruction, or worse, my predecessor doing such, clearly excessive.

I feel that if terms were to evolve with the technology that is allowing us to ‘create’ and follow it’s pace, we would come to something more reasonable. If you can’t make money with your ‘creation’ within 10 – 20 years, perhaps you should be doing something else to earn a living. Otherwise, we should all earn money for a years work for the rest of our lives, and be able to will it to our children for 70 more years. Is that preposterous ?

Jake says:

I don’t think either of them come out of this with very much credit. The public display of derivative works without crediting the original and/or seeking its creator’s permission is considered a grave breach of etiquette in the online creative works community, unless the content is explicitly released into the public domain, and even in those cases it’s rather bad form to pass your source material off as your own work. This goes double where any form of commercial exploitation is involved.
Build on the works of others by all means. Just don’t take the credit for their work as well as your own. That’s the sole raison d’etre of copyright and the only useful thing it still does.

KJ says:

fuzzy line

There was some controversy here in Toronto recently when a photographer mounted a show that consisted of photographs of graffiti artwork around the city. The graffiti artists actually succeeded in having the show taken down.

The photos really didn’t add anything (in fact I would argue that they took something away by removing the street art from the “frame” that the location they were painted provided)

Still…it’s a really fuzzy line isn’t it.

I think attribution is the acid test – if you attribute the sources properly it forces you to be honest about your contribution to your work, and doesn’t cheat the public from making a fair assessment of whether you added value or not.

Charlie says:

The creative process is a complicated undertaking. Are there degrees of creativity? I feel the early Impressionists were highly creative in breaking with entrenched values to create something new. However, some one who uses Impressionistic techniques today to make a new painting is creating something new, but are not being as ‘creative’ as the original pathbreakers.

Mikael says:

I don’t see how this guy can be thrilled that a designer took what he did (even though THAT was generated from others’ works) and commercialized it. Now the designer is making hundreds of dollars (for each sweatshirt) from this person’s work and he’s not getting anything from it. Not even credit for the imagery. PS needs to at least give this guy that trip to London.

Sos says:


A quick Google search turned this up…

“A suitocrat of the old school”
Independent, The (London), May 17, 1997

“His ideas come from all sides, settling softly on him like a flock of birds. ‘You can find inspiration in anything,’ is an old dictum, ‘and if you can’t, you’re not looking properly.’


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