Reading through parts of the AIGA Design Business and Ethics, I’m beginning to have a better understanding of how to carry myself and my future (and current) work. I didn’t realize how important licensing was on specific steps behind the design process but I’m glad that AIGA managed to put it together in one concise place.
Back when I began designing pieces, I would use other artist’s work to get messages across. I was lucky enough to learn about the importance of copyright and trademarks in high school. I’m happy that these restrictions exist mainly on the commercial end where profit can be made and not through the personal end (at least not completely). It saves a lot of time to select and use assets on the internet; especially as a student who is learning how to get into this type of field. Most of the time when using other’s work in the past, I would credit their ideas and pieces on a document, the side of the piece, or within presentation. I hate the idea of someone’s hard work going unnoticed so any chance I get, I try to promote who the person is and where I managed to find the work.
In relation to the piece “Hope” by Shepard Fairey, I believe that this was the wrong way to go about showing inspiration and appreciation of art. The issues that copyright brings to artists are some that can make or break a name. Due to how much digitalization we have available to us, it’s very easy to look at a piece of art and try to mix it on your own. What tends to happen, though, is that the artists don’t go out of their way to check if the reference they used is available for commercialization. This happens a lot more than we even think. Sites that allow people to upload their own artworks and put them on clothing/furniture/paintings don’t have any way of protecting the original artist unless the artist themselves were to find out. Otherwise, the person who found the piece would make profit without any credit to the original producer.
This is the same case that ended up happening with Fairey. In one light, it’s seen as a complete transformation and should not have been struck with any copyright issues. But, unfortunately for Fairey, they had been asked about the source image which had not only been referenced from the owners of the original image but also was fought by Fairey who said that this was one image and not another (when in fact the image referenced is the exact image Fairey said they used). This mistake took everything to a whole new level and had taken the issue from a transformative piece to a piece that has been declared by the artist and original owners as a copyright situation. Luckily the outcome doesn’t seem as stifling on the artist or the producer but it does bring to light the (honestly already placed) limitations artists have when using other artist’s work.