Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rip-Off Artists: Hack-Job Fail VII

One of my pet peeves is seeing the work of cartoonists hacked and shared with such painfully obvious and crappy cut + pasting. It’s disrespectful to the artist and indicative of a lazy mentality, not to mention theft of intellectual property and violation of copyright. This was a particularly egregious example of how adulterated agenda can cripple & corrupt a cartoon. Shame.

On a related note, never trust or submit work to any publication that strips off the original creator's credit line (in this instance, Gemma Correll's), pastes on their own (that's theft) and substitutes their own lame-ass caption. Shame.

Much has been written about Shia LaBeouf's exposed hack-job and ensuing melt-down and subsequent retirement, but Abraham Riesman succinctly puts it into perspective (plus Daniel Clowes magnaminous opinion on the matter):
Say what you will about Shia LaBeouf: When it comes to artistic theft, at least he has good taste in his stolen goods. In 2013, he was revealed to have lifted a story by the venerable cartoonist Dan Clowes and used it, uncredited, in a short film. A bizarre battle ensued, involving cease-and-desist letters, insincere Twitter apologies, and cryptic skywriting. It’s all died down now, and it’s safe to say that Clowes won in the court of public opinion. Plus, while LaBeouf’s directing career has never taken off, Clowes’s comics work is as vital as it’s ever been. - Vulture
Left: copy by Lost Droid Arts - Right: source (Images: Bleeding Cool)

Via Bleeding Cool came this report of a pretty flamboyant case of copying on the part of a comic convention "artist" who hacks other people's imagery and passed them off as originals. They actually run a feature called "Swipe File" which exposes many other cases like this, and as a result of all the attention, like with the above posted incident, the guilty party shuts down all their online venues.
In Swipe File we present two or more images that resemble each other to some degree. They may be homages, parodies, ironic appropriations, coincidences or works of the lightbox. We trust you, the reader, to make that judgment yourself? If you are unable to do so, please return your eyes to their maker before any further damage is done. The Swipe File doesn’t judge, it’s interested more in the process of creation, how work influences other work, how new work comes from old, and sometimes how the same ideas emerge simultaneously, as if their time has just come. The Swipe File was named after the advertising industry habit where writers and artist collect images and lines they admire to inspire them in their work. It was swiped from the Comic Journal who originally ran this column, as well as the now defunct Swipe Of The Week website.
Irony: unattributed image found somewhere on the internet

I'm done flogging the issue, but it's enough of an ongoing concern to creators (regardless of medium) and frequent occurrence to merit a brief lecture now in all my art classes expounding on the contemporary context. For a few other websites that regularly publicize similar infractions, there's the Image Copyright Hall of Shame (mostly devoted to the work of Larry Vienneau), also You Thought We Wouldn't Notice and Part Noveau.

Chris Foss (left) and Glenn Brown (right)

Both Boing Boing and i09 recently covered how sci-fi cover artist Chris Foss' work was being auctioned off for millions of dollars after another person copied his paintings.  Glenn Brown is evidently a serial plagiarist of the highest order, as evidenced by numerous other examples. And speaking of classrooms and teachable moments, if this degree of copying was discovered in any college discipline it would merit the charge of plagiarism and equate academic dishonesty, resulting in outright failure if not immediate expulsion.

Lastly, notorious cowboy photographer charlatan Richard Prince is still at it, this time selling other people's images off of Instagram for six figures. He's trying to be in the same league as Koons and Cano when it comes to trolling the waters in the legal morass of intellectual rights, and the inevitable clusterfuck of infringement issues such fair use, transformative works, appropriation and parody.

I wonder why anyone hasn't yet thought of photographing Prince's pieces on display and selling them in turn on the street right outside of the gallery where they are exhibited. Bet he'd have a problem with that, or at the least the irony of the gallery folks objecting if you sold them for five bucks a pop.
Update: Game. Set. Match. Well played, Suicide Girls... well played.

Update II: One final addendum before I mothball this particular feature, brought about as a result of the rash of "shares" that cropped up on my feed from well-intentioned friends who mistakenly reposted material from another sleazy Photoshopper. There is some irony in that he's so bad, he lost his own point- common with incoherent WHARRGARBL - and in doing so it backfired to the point some misguided and/or ignorant folks fell for it (as in tens of thousands of reposts from a common but naive source). Sure, as a friend commented, a good point is a good point regardless of who says it, but I always counter that with consider the source and question the intent. For example, just because Trump says one thing I agree with doesn't mean I'll be putting a bumpersticker of the asshole on my car. So I'm not including all of the original image, as it's really a waste of time to attempt any reading or even looking at it in its entirety, but you get the idea from the sample.

Usually he steals from Aaron McGruder's "Boondocks," but as you can see, he also vandalizes (aesthetically and intellectually) the work of other actual cartoonists. And no, I'm not going to link to any of this cretin's pages directly, or even bother naming him - save for the fact that if Free Republic is gleefully championing it, that's probably enough of an indication of its merit. Like attempting to stamp out brushfires on the internet, alerting people that they may be inadvertently promoting someone that they presumably wouldn't normally associate with is probably an exercise in futility, but it we all gotta do what we can, when we can, in whatever way possible.

So it bears repeating: What pisses me off personally (especially what with my own bias as both a creator + teacher) is these talentless hacks ripping off the honest work of cartoonists, and adding insult to injury by passing it off as their own (in this case the particularly laughable attempt at a veneer of legitimacy by the “copyright” and pathetic acknowledgement which is by no means a legally valid disclaimer), regardless of their political leanings - though this individual is particularly loathsome + offensive. These images are the hallmark of people who possess no talent or skill of their own, and their laziness is also indicative of their intellectual capacity and sense of humor as well.

A final installment on an intermittent series (some backposts here, here and here).


  1. Replies
    1. Indeed, but flipping over rocks and shining a light on these things merits the discomfort.

    2. If it works.The problem is that the thieves of other people's art, especially ones who seem to take a particular pride in subverting the beliefs and intent of the original creators, flourish in the corridors of cyberspace, like prolific vermin in subway tunnels and alleys filled with garbage. Their consumers either don't care where the artwork came from, or share the added appeal of the insult to the original creator.

    3. Probably won't work, aside from maybe discouraging the process (though the worst transgressors won't get it). And it works both ways in theory - trawling through those alleys will eventually turn up pages like this attached to their imagery, even if I don't publicize by name/with direct links. One can only hope...