Friday, September 30, 2016

Save Pepe!

Artists and designers get their work stolen.

Especially online.

I just listened to an interview with the cartoonist who created Pepe the Frog... an innocent, laid-back. peace-loving frog who's been co-opted by the alt.right in current politics as an ugly hate meme.  You can listen HERE on RiYL.

His creator, Matt Furie, seems like a really good guy - perplexed by this evil hijacking of his work.  

Copyrighted artwork, by the way.  But good luck suing neo-Nazis over copyright infringement, huh?  

See more at Art by Matt Furie.

Public domain frog image

Earlier posts on misuse of other designers' designs HERE and HERE.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Getting Political

This isn't a political blog.  So I won't belabor the choice America has in this presidential race.  I'll just send you to this interview/ad featuring Trump's one-time architect:  HERE.

Look, I'm a designer.  I've done work I haven't gotten paid for.  (I even got one small claims court judgement - but no cash.  I framed it as a reminder.)  

And I'm an architect.  I've watched an interior designer fight to be paid any fee at all for work completed.  I've known other architects and designers who have been stiffed by clients.  I've seen architectural firms close because they've been stiffed by clients.  It makes me mad.

Trump's architect, Andrew Tesoro: 

I feel for this architect.  This is what Trump really thinks of small business owners, whatever economic and job growth he may now promise at a podium.

Potential Trump Voters!  You could get stiffed too - so could the country.  

Please reconsider.  

This is a still from the Clinton ad HERE.  Not public domain, but I don't think Hillary will mind my using it, do you?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cornelius Parker, You Rascal You

Yesterday's post on set design reuse and attribution (HERE) has developed legs...

The story in Theater Jones (HERE) inspired another one at the Arts Integrity Initiative (HERE) with the perfect title:

"When a Tree Falls in Athens and Rises in Camelot, Whose Design is it Anyway?"

Most good designers understand the ethics of their branch of design instinctively (besides, where's the fun if you just steal another guy's design?), but it's worthwhile discussing these matters.  When is recycling and reuse fair and when is it theft?  What is plagiarism and what is inspiration?  How much "sampling" or borrowing is okay and how much is Too Much?

Fair questions.

And the answers are going to vary somewhat from one type of design to another.  For instance, using recycled or stock pieces is legit in theater design (and so eco-sustainable and budget-helpful that we should do it and have a tradition of doing it), but every ethical designer knows that means mix-n-matching bits from many shows then seriously rethinking and redesigning those pieces into a new, original - collaging - not just repainting and changing the designer's name.  Yeesh.  

But even other kinds of designers don't always understand theater design ethics.  Architect friends don't quite get the nuances... seeing as built buildings don't often pick up and move on (as sets or costumes often do).  In architecture it's more often a matter of "did your drawings get reused without agreement?" not "did that porch get trucked away?"  Even then it's looked at as a theft from the physical owner - like stealing a sofa - rather than as a theft from the designer... 

...unless the designer and building are very famous.  There are loud art/ethical questions about removing the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon or selling bits of Greene and Greene's Blacker House for profit and replacing them (in the house) with reproductions.  The DMA has the real front door.


The Dallas Museum of Art has such legalese copyright policy that, frankly, I'm frightened to use their photo here even with attribution on this fair-use-y post.  They don't seem worried about vulture-picking the carcass of that great artwork the Blacker House, but I bet they're pretty defensive of the copyright of the photo of their loot.  

Cornelius Parker?  He's the unethical (and imaginary) theater designer who reused a fellow designer's work without informed permission, appropriate payment, or full attribution.

Still a gorgeous tree. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Design, Reuse, Adaptation, and Proper Credit.

I was just finishing a meeting about the set design for my next show at Kitchen Dog Theater (Feathers and Teeth), chatting with the director, when the influence of earlier productions came up.  Was it ethical to reuse a brilliant piece of staging an earlier director invented?  No, we agreed.  The same rule holds, of course, for set designs: if an earlier designer has a clever idea, the next designer can't steal it without credit or permission.  (For that reason, I try hard not to look at earlier set designs for my shows until after I have an idea of my own.) 

Credit and permission are important.

I've written about copyright before.  An idea is not copyrightable, but it's specific manifestation is.  For instance, the idea of toasting bread is free for anyone to use... but you can't precisely copy that patented GE toaster.  Right?

Well, there's a complicated question right now in the DFW theater community.  At the end of a show's run part of a set - an absolutely gorgeous tree! - instead of being thrown in the dumpster was sold to another theater company for use in a different show.  The tree's designer was consulted and okayed this reuse.


In fact, more of that set - most of it actually - was saved and reused.  In almost exactly the same way as before, but for a totally different show.  The original designer was credited in the second show's program as "the tree designer" but credit for the set as a whole was given to another name.  A made-up name.


Distressing for the real designer.

Read the details HERE at Theater Jones.

What do you think?  Was this design hijacked?  Was credit fair or misleading?  

Personally, I think the credit was misleading, but the real problem was that, effectively, a set for Midsummer's Night's Dream was twisted into a set for Camelot without proper payment to the designer and without explicit permission from its designer for that zombie-afterlife. Permission which its designer would not have given, thinking that, artistically, it's just bogus to just slap a set onto a text it wasn't meant for.  The - shall we say "adapter"? - seems to think: What's the fuss?

Pretty tangled.

tangled tree limbs - courtesy of

Follow-up post HERE.