Lazy Artists Rip-Off

In last week’s blog, I started with an quote attributed to Picasso, who is supposed to have said: “Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal.” I explored the importance of inspiration and how most artwork is built on work that precedes it. The stealing that Picasso referred to, in my opinion, was stealing the core idea behind a great piece of art but making new and uniquely authored work building on that “stolen” core. That essence is the only thing that should be “stolen” from other artists. A recent on-line controversy left me thinking that a new line needs to be added to Picasso’s quote, which would be something like “Lazy Artists Rip-Off.”

To read a brilliant piece about the entire controversy, with some great detective work to find out who was behind the web based lynch mob start at:

The lazy artist who did the ripping off is one Andy Baio who previously created and sold (to Yahoo for a few million dollars) a web business called Upcoming. Anyone who sells a web business to Yahoo knows a thing or two about intellectual property/copyright simply because a web business is nothing but intellectual property.

What Baio did back in 2009 was to produce a mash-up album called “Kind of Bloop,” a version of the Miles Davis classic album “Kind of Blue.” He also used (without permission) the Jay Maisel image that was the cover art on the original album. “Kind Of Blue” is one of the biggest selling jazz albums of all time. That cover is also one of Maisel’s more widely known images. (Disclosure here! I know Jay Maisel. I respect Jay Maisel. I think jay Maisel is a serious photographer who has a right to earn a living from his creative efforts.)

In 2010 Maisel found the misuse of his image, and initiated legal procedures, leading to Baio settling out of court for $32,500 plus legal fees. News of the settlement unleashed verbal attacks on Jay Maisel that were both sickening and juvenile. You can read about them in great detail in the above noted piece. Actual threats were made against him for defending his property (intellectual not physical.) Leading the charge were a couple of wealthy stockbrokers who are wannabe-photographers. I have nothing against stockbrokers or wealthy people. My issue is with people pummeling a great photographer, Jay Maisel, when he does the right thing, defending his property, which is some kind of act of evil in their eyes.

The irony is that Baio was careful to get the permission needed to use the music in the album he made. What he was too lazy or stupid to do was get permission to use the photograph. He knew that he had to get permission to use the music. He couldn’t have cared less about showing the photographer the same respect as the musician. This is shown by the fact that Baio has an established track record of simply ripping off other creative artists (and then getting pummeled in the legal system.)

In some ways the whole scenario is incomprehensible. Baio made his money on intellectual property. Among his other jobs, he was once the Chief Technology Officer at the web-site, Kickstarter.

I am guessing that he hopes that someday his mash-ups will make him money or fame (or both.) By then people like him will have so undermined copyright that the protection he wants may sadly be a thing of the past.

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