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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  1.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    He has to be joking.

    No really, that's the only explanation. The bookend looks more like a balloon animal than his sculpture does. Preemptive Streisandesque suing to illustrate the absurdity of what he's used to?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

    New Plan

    1. Make art based on blank sheet of notebook paper.
    2. Sue makers of notebook paper and any novelty items that resemble notbook paper.
    3. Profit!

     

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  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Re: He has to be joking.

    The bookends are the orange one on the left. The bronze one on the right looks more like a balloon animal with it's feet and ears pointed together at the ends, just like it would be if made out of one balloon.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Well, he is an appropriation artist. Maybe he's just appropriating a business model for some performance art?

     

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  5.  
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    Ron (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    Maybe he should appropriate his head out of his ass then....

     

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  7.  
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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Jeff Koons = Douche Nozzle

    CBMHB

     

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  8.  
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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

    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.

     

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  9.  
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    JTO (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    The thing is, even if the company blatantly ripped-off his statue and sold it as a bookend, they would *still* be protected. A bookend is not a piece of art.

    By the way, all of you now owe me money because I'm going to go ahead and say that the use of a period (.) to mock someone else is my copyright. I'll need your IP, home, and work addresses. Thanks!

     

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  10.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re: He has to be joking.

    Oh. That makes more sense.

    Dang, and I had so many buzzwords built into that comment ...

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Re: New Plan

    I've seen a painting at the Phila. Museum of Art that is basically a giant sheet of either ledger or graph paper.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 1:57pm

    Koons' doesn't have the black privacy policy bar over its eyes.

    Clearly transformative.

     

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  13.  
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    Park97, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Why does the dog on left have a black bar across its eyes? Does it not want to be identified?

     

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  14.  
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    Jason, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

    Re: He has to be joking.

    I've got the sneaking suspicion that he's attempting a reverse-streisandization for his own benefit.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    In my opinion, a copyright suit filed over this would be sanctionably frivolous.

    Even if he can claim some minimal, paper-thin copyright over his own balloon-dog sculpture (which is questionable), that could only cover an exact or very, very nearly exact copy, which the book-end is not.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re:

    "The thing is, even if the company blatantly ripped-off his statue and sold it as a bookend, they would *still* be protected."

    Maybe, but that's a lot closer question.

    "A bookend is not a piece of art."

    If true, so what? That's not relevant to copyright infringement.

     

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  17.  
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    Eugene (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 3:14pm

    Re:

    That's an interesting theory. Maybe this is all preparation for his next installation, which will be a sculpture of the cease and desist letters he's sending out.

     

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    abc gum, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 6:23pm

    Some time ago, I remember a story about someone claiming copyright upon silence. This might be a good thing if it encouraged more people to be quiet.

     

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    DS, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 8:07pm

    Breaking News, Koons just recieved a C&D!

    Massengill Douche has just announced that they are sending a C&D letter to Jeff Koons. Massengill is claiming that they have an exclusive right to "make douches, and be douches."

     

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  20.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 10:48pm

    Re:

    It's a full stop so therefore I am now suing you for defaming my copyright on your mocking of my full stop by calling it a period. Period! ;)

     

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  21.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:20am

    Re: Re: He has to be joking.

    I agree. The statue is more balloon-animal-like.

    Which just goes to show how different they are.

     

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  22.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:22am

    Re:

    A bookend is not a piece of art.

    I believe that this case is silly, but I disagree with the above statement. A bookend can most certainly be art.

    Also, my periods are a derivative work. You can just sue me and my ISP will probably give you my IP address. :P

     

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  23.  
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    Michael, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 4:16am

    Re: Re: Re: He has to be joking.

    Neither looks much like a dog.

    And is it me, or does this look like a horrible shape for a book end? It's more of a paper weight...oh wait...I just came up with a product idea.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 6:36am

    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.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Re:

    "Lawyers don't care about law. They only care about setting precedents."

    Was that intended to be ironic?

     

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  26.  
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    Coward (Anon), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re: 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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  27.  
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    Brian (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:48pm

    Bookends are sold out

    I found the Park Life shop and tried to add the balloon dog bookends to my cart, just to see the pricetag on such a novelty and got this message... "Sorry, we are currently sold out of 'BALLOON DOG BOOK END - Please call Jeff Koons and his Lawyers.'. Please check back later." Nice little jab there.

     

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  28.  
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    Ben, Jan 9th, 2011 @ 8:47pm

    If I got this cease and desist letter I would just laugh.

    And then send him a letter of just haha repeated for a full page.

     

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