I don’t think I buy it. I don’t think that because you label yourself a “collage artist” that you should be able to appropriate 1. someone else’s art or 2. gain from that other person’s art without paying some kind of license. We’re talking about parity here — if you make at least some of your living as an artist, then, one would think you’d understand that part of being an artist is collecting fees for whenever your work is exhibited, distributed, or otherwise displayed. Just because one calls him/herself a “collage artist” working in a world where everyone’s output is his/her “palette” doesn’t mean that he/she gets to freely use someone else’s output in their own and not expect to pay appropriate licensing fees to the original creator, in this case Susan Meiselas’. I agree fully with Meiselas’ stance on this issue, except for the fact that she never did sue or collect fees from Joy Garnett. Why not? it was completely within her rights as the one who not only took the picture, but risked her life to document that moment. Photography, especially the kind that Magnum is known for, is special because the moment captured lives as a documentation of what has actually transpired. But, as in this case, a single picture can be taken out of a reportage story and decontextualized somewhat, it is up to the reader/viewer/”collage artist” to inform themselves of the context before they appropriate it in their minds or in physical form. I don’t think it should be so “easy” for someone to decide that they would like to use someone else’s work — just because it’s art doesn’t mean it’s not someone’s job — without at least giving it the respect of 1. paying for the use (because it’s also the law) and 2. realizing that specificity and context is still important even if (especially a photographic image of a person) it seems that the world has moved beyond that.
It seems that Jonathan Lethem has given us many examples of plagiary that have gone unpunished. It seems pretty clear to me that book titles that have been taken from lines in others’ work should be and often are attributed to the original author, and that if it is not expressly attributed, it is assumed that you should already know that as a reader. It is common practice to quote sources in your own work, so think maybe his point in his collage piece was a bit lost because he just switched protocol and named the sources later in ” ” to ” ” form. The problem comes when these practices are not adhered to. I really don’t think there is anything wrong with having a patent or copyright on something you have created. Yes, people are influenced by things that have come before them, but that is how the universe evolves and just because there is a patent on something your create doesn’t mean that it is stifling further creation. Why is that even an argument? I, unlike, Lethem, have no problem equating using or taking something without someone’s permission, like stealing. It is.
I’m sorry that the recording artists in the NYT piece have had to wait so long to get to this point of retaining rights to their own work. In no way do the labels have the right to say their artists were essentially “employees” and under the same restrictions and provisions. I’m really happy to be alive in a time where this kind of celebration of the artist/songwriter/musician might be attained. I am also wondering what will happen to the can of worms they mentioned — of what everyone else who worked on a recording might deserve under this law.
All in all, I am a big proponent of copyright and don’t think that people should hold up the “art” flag in defense of their actions that I see black and white as stealing someone else’s work. I think this accusation can be avoided by just following the law and paying licensing fees. Just because you are making a second incarnation of an existing piece of work doesn’t at all put you above the law. Plus, it’s disrespectful of your fellow artists.