Artist Paints Worldly Paintings Via Google Street View; Google Cheers Him On

from the hear-that,-AP? dept

By now you've all heard about the lawsuit between Shepard Fairey for taking a photo, which the AP claims it owns (though, that's in dispute), and turning it into the iconic election poster for Barack Obama. However, it seems that other companies don't react in such a way when people turn their photographs into art. Ed Kohler points us to a story of a painter, Bill Guffey, who has been using Google Street View to find scenes around the globe to paint. He's able to paint far away towns without leaving his house. And he's doing it for commercial purposes. The article notes that he's painted nearly 100 such images, and sold 30 to 40 of them, some for as much as $1,500.

Now, if Google were acting like the AP, it might freak out and demand compensation. Of course, it would probably lose in court (as the AP is likely to lose) because the works are transformative and almost certainly fair use. But, being Google (and having copyright lawyers who understand these things), it doesn't seem likely to do that. Instead, it actually appears to be quite thrilled to find out about this project:
"When we were creating Street View, we were excited about all the everyday uses, like looking for parking or planning trips," Stephen Chau, product manager for Google Street View, said. "Bill's use of Street View, to inspire his paintings and to create a virtual community of artists, is a remarkable example that we hadn't imagined but are really excited to see. It's been amazing to see the possibilities that have opened up as Street View has been brought to more places around the world."
The AP really ought to take note.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Occasionally Paints, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:31pm

    That is hella cool. Idea, execution, and Googlethink-wise.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Mike, nice try, but FAIL!

    The difference is pretty simple - Bill Guffey is looking at a picture, and making an entirely new work of art from scratch.


    Shepard Fairey took a digital image, manipulated it in photoshop, and claimed it as original.

    The difference is night and day. Nice try, but FAIL.

     

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      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

      Re: FAIL

      Whenever Mike submits a post, a comment like this automatically appears. This leads me to believe that either Mike is masochistically increasing his comment count or that there is some serious flaw in the programming.

       

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      Esahc (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:32pm

      Re:

      "Shepard Fairey took a digital image, manipulated it in photoshop, and claimed it as original."

      Fail . . . He used many of the same techniques Andy Warhol used i.e. stencil and acrylic on paper.

       

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      identicon
      OP, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 7:05pm

      Re:

      "The difference is pretty simple - Bill Guffey is looking at a picture, and making an entirely new work of art from scratch."

      How do you know this? I don't know his method, but he conceivably could've captured and printed the digital image, transferred it to whatever he paints on, and painted on top of it. Or created a film slide he could project onto the surface to be painted over.

      Much like Fairey had done, only digitally.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:11pm

        Re: Re:

        If you took a couple of seconds to check the images in the article, you will see that the paintings, while having many of the features of the street view images, are not exactly of the same perspective and such, which is a good indication of a true work of art (artist looks at something, and paints it) as opposed to a copy or digital manipulation.

        This ain't paint by numbers, that is for sure. It certainly isn't a digital manipulation.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:22pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The same thing could be said about the re innovation of the AP's Obama picture.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:13pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Not in the slightest - you can take the obama picture and show a point to point correlation, exact same angle, etc - because at the root, he used the digital image and manipulated it from there.

            The painter? He does what plenty of painters do, look at a picture and paint their interpretation of it.

            If the Obama Hope poster dude had done that, there would be no issue.

            AP show pay attention to this story, only because it's a great example of what is right and what is wrong!

             

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              CleverName, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 5:42am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "you can take the obama picture and show a point to point correlation, exact same angle,"

              Have you done this? If so, you may be the first.

              There have been claims that the tilt of the head is different. Did you check this?

              The answer to both is probably no.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 7:01am

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

                Get the two images, put them in photoshop - it isn't hard to see a point to point correlation (within the boundries of the fat outline too used in the copy).

                 

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          Jason, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yeah, but you know someone is just going to come along and create some kind of perspective tool that will just let you change the perspective digitally to make it look like original work. Sheesh, how lame would that be?

          Oh, wait...

           

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      E-Rocker, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:14pm

      Re:

      Your claim seems to be that because a computer was used to modify existing art, and not a brush, it can not be original.

      If Guffey had printed the Street View images and painted over them, transforming the canvas to the images he has now, would it make any difference that the original is hiding beneath?

      I also recommend you look up Kutiman's "Thru You" album. It was mentioned on TechDirt a while back. Essentially this artist took existing YouTube video clips and re-mixed them info full-length songs. Does this not count as art because he didn't go into a studio and record each instrument from scratch? In the end, all he did was use a computer, like Fairey, and I have a hard time believing it isn't art, or original.

       

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      Leviathant (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 7:31am

      Re:

      Could you cite a source - any source - where Fairey claimed his image was original?

       

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    DJ (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:10pm

    But...

    Don't they know that innovation stifles short-term income? Not to mention the long-term profits from garnishing Mr. Guffey's income. What are they thinking?

     

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    Iris (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:51pm

    Not quite a valid comparison

    While I generally agree with the get-over-yourself-AP sentiment, in this case you're comparing the reaction to what's essentially a nonmonetized side business for Google with the core of the AP's operation (selling content). Google's in the ad biz, not the content biz, so it views the world (pardon the pun) differently and is far less likely to perceive use of its content, regardless of its transformative nature, as "theft".

     

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      The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 5:39am

      Re: Not quite a valid comparison

      Actually, I think it's a pretty good comparison.

      Google did a lot of leg work to make a product that it didn't expect to get paid for directly. Someone else thought of a creative way to make money off of it.

      This is where many companies today would sue. Google didn't.

      Kudos, Google and Mr. Guffey.

       

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    Bill Guffey, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 3:54am

    paintings

    Interesting conversation. And just to clarify, these are totally my creations with paint and canvas. No printing and pasting. Not even a use of a projector. There are a few paintings that I posted the steps of the painting, from intial sketch to the final painting. They're on my blog if anyone wants to see them.

    And just as a side note, I spoke to Google reps before I ever sold the first piece. Wanted to make sure there was no copyright infringement.

     

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      Mike C. (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 6:11am

      Re: paintings

      Nice to see the artist involved in the online discussion!

      Thanks for the clarification of how your work was done. I think the point the earlier posters were trying to make, though, was to offset the AC's contention that Fairey's use of a computer meant his work was still infringing. The theory is that it didn't matter what tool was used (computer or hand), in the end the work is still transformative.

      On a side note, I find it a rather sad testament to the state of copyright today that an artist now thinks of clearing whether or not his original art is infringing.

       

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        identicon
        OP, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 8:16am

        Re: Re: paintings

        Mike C. interpreted my comment correctly (thanks!) - it's why I disclaimed that I didn't know your method, merely speculated a potentially realistic scenario for the AC comment.

        As an occasional painter who is drawn to architectural subject matter, I love what you're doing, Mr. Guffey!

        Artists (of all kinds, really) constantly use reference materials, in process or before beginning, in plain sight or even from memory. If one wants to depict cherry blossoms in a painting but it's the dead of winter, do I have to obtain consent from someone who snapped a pic and shot it onto the internet before I can use it as a reference?

        Is that where things are headed? Is that what copyright was meant to do? Are we all supposed to hire lawyers to ride herd on our works - for infringement upon our or others' copyright - instead of just...yanno...doing the work?

        Because that, to me, seems an unnatural anathema to any and ALL creative achievement since humans started making marks on cave walls.

        'Og dip hand in blood, slap hand on wall - Og make art!'
        'Ug put hand in poop, slap hand on wall - Ug make art too!'
        'Og call lawyer! Ug make unauthorized derivative work! Og claim harm!'
        'Ug claim fair use!'

        Then Og stifles Ug and any other poop handed artists to death with a bison femur.

        Who loses? History. Culture. Humans. It's depressing.

         

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    identicon
    briex, Nov 21st, 2009 @ 11:47pm

    Streetview art

    Nice what and how Bill is painting! I do the lazy thing: transforming Streeview screendrops into digital art. Btw the Streetview art I make is not for sale. Have a look of my Streeview art between some own pictures: http://www.briex.eu/streeviewart/page5.html

     

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    identicon
    easels, May 21st, 2010 @ 12:28am

    easels

    magnificant

     

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