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Good Old Fashioned Rant On Overbearing Copyright Holders

from the who-said-what-now? dept

A bunch of folks have been submitting stories about the ongoing fight between multimillionaire artist Damien Hirst and a teenager he had arrested. If you don’t recall, the kid had created some collages, where some of them included an image of a jewel-encrusted skull that Hirst supposedly made and sold for insane amounts of money (reports put it at £50 million). Hirst, apparently got so upset by a 16-year-old kid using the image in his own artwork, that he threatened to sue the kid, and forced the kid to hand over the artwork and to pay £200 to Hirst. A bunch of other artists started creating more artwork using Hirst’s skull in protest. But the whole thing got more bizarre lately, after the teen stopped by a Hirst exhibit and took a box of pencils that were in one of the “sculptures” and left a “ransom note” demanding his own artwork back. Except, the police have valued that box of pencils at £500,000 and arrested the kid. Yikes.

I wasn’t sure I was going to write about it, but then a lot more of you also pointed to this beautiful old-fashioned rant by Charlie Brooker where he does a lovely job tying the “Damien Hirst puts a kid in jail” story to the new effort to kick file sharers offline in the UK. Basically, they’re both stories about huge, ridiculous wealthy copyright holders totally overreacting to a rather minor inconsequential infringement. The whole thing is good, but here’s a taste:

The vast majority of people who illegally download music from the internet do so because they bloody love music. They’re resorting to theft because they’re either too skint to afford 79p per track (often because they’re students), or because what they’re looking for is too obscure to find by commercial means, or because it’s been leaked and isn’t officially available and they’re just too damn excited to wait. In the main, these are dedicated fans: precisely the same audience who in days of yore would’ve filled C90 cassettes with songs taped off the radio. In its heyday, the Radio 1 Sunday evening Top 40 countdown constituted the biggest file-sharing portal in British history, with millions of users hooked up simultaneously, mercilessly downloading content to their tape decks.

The government and the music industry should cheerfully view these people as eager young addicts. Let them have their illicit free samples because once they’re hooked, they’ll cough up later: when they’ve got more money, when the tracks are easier to find via legitimate means, or when they go to see an act they only discovered via free illegal downloads play live (and pay £30 for a ticket, £30 for drinks, and £30 for a poster and T-shirt).

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Comments on “Good Old Fashioned Rant On Overbearing Copyright Holders”

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Anonymous Coward says:

After about an year reading this, I can tell you: copyright infringement feels like a punch in the gut. I don’t know why, but everyone that has a magnificent idea that someone else also has (or copied, or did differently or whatever) feels a punch in the gut. The guys that thought is would be cool to have a young kid in some sort of foster house study withcraft used that expression, Joe Satriani used that expression and now we have a certain John LeKay who created some blinky skulls like Hirst’s several years ago that thinks that nobody else should be doing them (specially if they used to know each other) and who feels like he “was being punched in the gut”. That’s probably because he didn’t sell his for approx 50m pounds + ~200 pounds taken from a teen.

zellamayzao says:

uhh wait a minute

“If you don’t recall, the kid had created some collages, where some of them included an image of a jewel-encrusted skull that Hirst supposedly made and sold for insane amounts of money (reports put it at £50 million)”

If he sold the artwork then he doesnt own the rights to it anymore…I feel. Shouldnt the new owner of the piece be the one issuing the trivial lawsuit? Granted Hirst was the supposed original creator but he forgave that right of ownership when he sold it.

Richard says:

Re: uhh wait a minute

If he sold the artwork then he doesnt own the rights to it anymore…I feel.

Sadly your feeling is wrong. Artist’s retain copyright on their work when they sell it unless a specific contract exists to the contrary.

This is the stupidest bit of copyright law in the world – because it creates a deadly embrace. If the artist and the owner of the physical work can’t agree then no-one can create copies. The artist can’t – he doesn’t have the work. The owner can’t – he doesn’t have the rights.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:


A box of pencils usually worth a few euros because they were used by some “famous” artist in some artwork, suddenly increase in value a hundred-thousand fold?
And then they say that I’m crazy!
I’m starting to see how our economy has tanked, people are losing the ability to judge value of objects.

For the Love of God! Get a grip Hirst and rest of the artworld.
What’s next, some artist takes a dump on a piece of paper and sells it for a million bucks?

Anonymous Coward says:

Havn’t you figures out that Hirst is moving into perofrmance art, and as you should have expected from this genius he is revolutionising the genre – who else could have conjured such a strong reaction out of nothing.

This is a seminal piece of performance art and will be emulated for generations to come by everyone who wants to be the next nauseating irritant.

interrobang says:

why is it that when someone else creates something thats either based on or looks similar to someone elses work they get all up in arms and pitchforks at the ready?
personnaly im a firm believer that everything has been been said or done before and nothing is original anymore.
To me hirst sort of illustrates what “art” has become just another get rich quick scheme.
The young person who used hirsts skull was pretty much just being an art student, when you first start out in art they tell you to pretty copy what has been done since we first started fingering the dirt to make images.
copying is really important to the creation of art, when you see something that inspires you, you often want to copy parts of it and use it in your own work, often in a different context to the inspirational work.
you cant call yourself an artist and try to stop the creation of art‽

Pete Austin says:

"Wasting police time" is a crime in the UK

That collage

“Wasting police time” is a crime in the UK, so I hope Damien Hurst has some proof that his pencils are worth half-a-million pounds, rather than 50 pence as seems more likely to me.

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