First there was this piece in the NYTimes artbeat blog about Bob Dylan's paintings being based on nay, copied [GASP!] from famous photographs. Ho hum. Then there was something amusing in ARTINFO about a guy and his flickr stream of old images, [Dylan Shanghaied My Flickr!], which somehow manages to downplay the major fact that the guy collects public domain images, which means neither he nor anyone else owns the copyright to them; he just collects them and makes them freely available online.
Okay, so far, no one has much of an angle on this story.
Happily, Mike Masnick of Techdirt points to the obvious: Dylan's copyright hypocrisy. (Think Koons and balloon dogs).
Mike's belittling comment, "Painting from a source photograph is a good way for many to learn how to paint," is pure snark aimed at Dylan's Sunday painter cred. But it should be noted (again and again) that painters have used photographs as source material since the invention of photography (Manet, Degas, Sickert...); and if you really want to go there, you can think hard about Vermeer's use of pinhole cameras to mediate and project images of his interiors before painting them. Imho, the more productive narrative about painters and their age-old use of photographs as source material is not the one about copyright and ownership, but the one about technology and mediation. But that's another story for another post.
Here's Mike's post - don't forget to read the priceless comments.
from the sing-a-song-of-hypocrisy dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 29th 2011 11:40am
Bob Dylan has a pretty long history of appropriating works from others, but then going after anyone who has built on his works. He's also been held up by copyright maximalists as someone whose career just wouldn't be the same without strong copyright. So it's somewhat amusing to discover, once again, that he's been caught outright copying others. Emily Goodhand points us to the news that Dylan has a new painting exhibit, and people have started noticing that some of the paintings appear to be clearly copied from old photographs. Take these two comparisons from the NY Times:
The images on the left are from Dylan's exhibit (photographs taken by the NY Times' Marcus Yam). The top photo on the right is by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the lower photo is by Leon Busy. It would be difficult for anyone to argue that the paintings were not based on these photos. Dylan had claimed that the paintings were all based on scenes he had seen in his travels. I guess he may have seen those photographs during his travels, but that's certainly not the implied origin of the paintings.
Now, to be clear, I actually don't see anything wrong with Dylan making such paintings. Painting from a source photograph is a good way for many to learn how to paint. On top of that, the paintings don't take away anything from the photos, and may actually create more attention for the photos. It does feel sleazy, though, to not credit the source. But the bigger issue is the hypocrisy of it all -- of arguing that others can't appropriate his works, while regularly and directly appropriating the works of others... and then refusing to admit to it.