by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 6th 2011 12:57pm
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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