Appropriation Artist Jeff Koons Threatens Company & Retailers For Selling Classic Balloon Dog Bookends

from the appropriate-this dept

Famed appropriation artist Jeff Koons has been sued multiple times for copyright infringement, having to defend his use of works he found elsewhere to build on and create new works. You would think, then, that he might be sympathetic to others who build on his work. Apparently, he’s internalized the opposite message, and decided that if others can sue him for copyright infringement, he might as well start going after those who use his work as inspiration. The EFF points us to the news that Koons has been sending cease-and-desist letters to the makers and retailers of a balloon dog bookend. Apparently, one of Koons’ recent sculptures is of a balloon dog. Of course, this is a classic and incredibly common form of balloon animal, and it’s difficult to see how Koons’ statue contains very much protectable expression. Yet, it didn’t stop him from ordering a San Francisco store to stop selling the bookends, send them to Koons, and to reveal how many had been sold. The Bay Citizen, which reported on this in the link above, put together the following comparison of Koons statue and the bookend in question:

On the left is the bookend. On the right is Koons statue. Both look like tons of balloon dogs that have been created by party clowns for ages. To now claim that Koons has some sort of ownership over the balloon dog he copied from elsewhere seems like a particularly ridiculous form of hubris. Of course, copyright is only supposed to cover the specific parts of expression that are unique and creative. It’s hard to see how much, if anything, associated with Koons’ sculpture is “unique,” and thus almost nothing (or, perhaps nothing at all) seems like it should be protectable. Hopefully, some of those threatened with a cease-and-desist letter will stand up to Koons and give him another copyright education.

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Comments on “Appropriation Artist Jeff Koons Threatens Company & Retailers For Selling Classic Balloon Dog Bookends”

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Ron (profile) says:

Makes Sense

Appropriation: a deliberate act of acquisition of something, often without the permission of the owner; “the necessary funds were obtained by the government’s appropriation of the company’s operating unit”; “a person’s appropriation of property belonging to another is dishonest”

So, by one definition, Koons is a thief seeking to increase the value of his theft.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Potential to be hoist by his own pitard?

I didn’t RTFA Mike linked to, but Mike says that it’s a recent sculpture, so it would be interesting to find out if maybe the bookends were designed before Koons’ statue. Then the bookend creator could sue Koons’ for copyright infringement.

Either way, I figure with the added publicity, both parties stand to make more money.

Anonymous Coward says:

See what I mean about Artists handling their own business. Get this guy a manger or an Agent who has some business savvy. This guy is a total idiot. He wastes money being sued over infringement and then wastes more money on suing with an impossible claim.
Check him or his spouses friends or relatives and I can guarantee one of them is a lawyer. Lawyers don’t care about law. They only care about setting precedents.

Coward (Anon) says:

Potential to be hoist by his own pitard?

It’s not recent. I saw the sculpture in question 5 or 6 years ago and I don’t think it was new even then. It’s a really cool piece of art, the sculpture is 15 or 20 feet high and really shiny.

But like most, I don’t see any particular similarity between Koon’s work and the bookends. Maybe if they were both the same shiny bronze color. Otherwise the bookends look like a balloon dog.

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