PetaPixel

At What Point Does Inspiration Turn Into Copyright Infringement?

At what point does inspiration turn into plagiarism? That’s the question that popped up last year when Rhianna was sued by David LaChapelle over scenes found in one of her music videos, and it’s the same issue with a lawsuit recently filed by photographer Janine Gordon against photographer Ryan McGinley. Gordon claims that 150 of McGinley’s images — including some used for a Levi’s ad campaign — are “substantially based” on her photos. In the three pairs of disputed images shown above, the ones on the left are by Gordon and the ones on the right by McGinley.

Here are some of the exhibits provided as evidence by Gordon:

Gordon claims the issue started 10 years ago after both artists had exhibitions at the Whitney Biennial and a number of other galleries.

Although McGinley has offered a “very modest settlement” in an effort to have the lawsuit dropped, [See update below] Gordon is pushing forward and seeing $30,000 per infringement, or about $4.5 million total.

Rob Haggart over at A Photo Editor writes,

[...] this is where copyright hurts photographers. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done before so if you’re not allowed to draw inspiration from and take little parts of other photographers and artists work there’s nothing to take pictures of. I think the case will be impossible to prove in court, but I would guess the point is not to win but to raise awareness, get him to stop and go somewhere else for inspiration.

What are your thoughts on this case and the answer to the question?

(via artnet via A Photo Editor)


Update: McGinley’s gallery has informed us that a “very modest settlement” was never offered by McGinley. Also, they write that the photo used in the final comparison that’s attributed to McGinley was actually shot by Cass Bird for a New York Magazine cover.


Image credits: Photographs by Janine Gordon and Ryan McGinley


 
 
  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Andy

    I have thousands of photographs with couples kissing!  I’m going to be ruined! LOL

  • Bo Song

    i see absolutely no professionalism. selfish and greedy.

  • Jackfetch

    I’m not quite sure it’s the specific photos, but the fact that over a period of time, it becomes obvious that McGinley has used her photos for “inspiration” over and over again.

  • Zippylives

    Yep, so let the palm tree’s drop coconuts on weary artists heads forever for depicting the palm tree in art work, or maybe the islands that own the palm trees from which the artist was inspired.

  • outraged by bullshit

    so stupid! get over yourself! These photos are actually quite different. 
     I suppose she owns copyrights to the statue of lberty and Mt Rushmore as well? Stop wasting everyones time and money with rediculose lawsuits such as these and take some actual original photos …..moronic

  • outraged by bullshit

    so stupid! get over yourself! These photos are actually quite different. 
     I suppose she owns copyrights to the statue of lberty and Mt Rushmore as well? Stop wasting everyones time and money with rediculose lawsuits such as these and take some actual original photos …..moronic

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C72YRFBRLLIHJBBM3KWM5R4VAU Private

    This is obviously a grudge match. The artist knew each other it sounds like. In most of the photos the argument is total joke, like the couple kissing , or the first two images at the top of the page. A couple of the others are close. But the truth is Mcginley did better versions of Gordons boring lifeless, colorless, emotionless work.

    Who knows maybe they got into a fight and Mcginley said I could do all of these better than you did them and then did it. And now is being sued for it.

    But this is really lame and should be thrown out of court. Sure in some cases where everything is the same I can see it being infringement but not this time.

    If it is the laws need to be updated.

  • NoraB

    Has she ever seen the photograph by a french photographer (I think it’s Cartier-Bresson) of the man leaping from a window onto a street (it was shot twice to make it look like he was suspended in air)? Or the still of WC Fields suspended in clouds with a bottle floating nearby? Ooops. Sounds like spoiled bratism to me.

  • truth dropper

    pure lies- there are over 150 photos in the claim- These are the weakest ones- Also I read the suit- the figures are not right – this is probably paid advertising from McGinley or something- People love to hate victims– Scumbags

  • Karen

    If this one wins I think I will give up on Photography all together! How could anyone think this should Win? I could see if they used the actual shot, but not something sort of similar? WOW! The nerve of some people to even bring forth this suit.

  • Aristophanes

    Rjccourt wrote: “Pretty soon EVERYTHING will be copyright infringement. ”

    Sorry. I wrote that exact phrase 7 years ago on a Wired magazine forum and now you’ve crossed my copyright boundary. My lawyer’s letter will arrive shortly. Enjoy the forum.

  • RonT

    This seems perilously close to copyright/IP trolling. The identified similarities are disturbingly generic. I don’t think that this case would even get off the ground in any country which didn’t have a sue-first mentality in it’s legal system.

    IP protection was designed to prevent and provide recompense for gross violations of concepts and ideas, not the vaguest of similarities. It would be like suing another photographer because they also put the lawn in their shot after I had…