Discussion in Facebook about stolen ideas in poster design
November 28, 2009, received from Lance Rutter
There is currently a discussion going on in Facebook about posters by two well known designers, Jan Lenica and Luba Lukova, and
a "re-interpretation" of them by two lesser known persons. I would like to summarize the issues below for those not yet on Facebook, and also
to keep the information from disappearing quickly down the fast flowing Facebook drain.
The discussion started when Lance Rutter placed Jan Lenica's famous theater poster "Wozzeck" (1964) side by side with a poster for an AIGA Lecture done by a student at Cornish College, Sara Thompson, who was trying to represent the "style of Shogo Ota," a designer at the design studio Modern Dog in Seattle WA (US). Sara felt that Shogo Ota was influenced by polish posters.
The Wozzek poster is considered by some the best modern poster ever made, certainly one of the top examples, "the most iconic master piece of the Polish School".
The comments that started comming in were quite surprising to me, ranging from "relax, it's just from a student being carried away", "she probably had not even seen the original", "everybody copies from somebody", "a reference stored in the mind to create a new work", "a sign of respect", "everything looks like something is a postmodern truth", culminating with David Carson calling the copy BETTER than the original.
Lance had a difficult stand.
Then Luba Lukova stepped in with the simple statement "Dear friends, It really hurts to see your work stolen."
showing her 2001 peace poster and a recent book cover by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich. The tone of the comments changed instantly. I don't want to take any sides, but I admire it when somebody can single-handedly change a tide, it reminds me of Rick's Cafe in Casablanca.
The issue is complex, ranging from downright stealing an idea to making an hommage, from profiting from somebody else's work to extending and developing his ideas. There are many moral, legal and financial gray areas, and copyright absurdities. If copying becomes widespread it is called a new style, and is widely accepted. Shepard Fairey has great legal problems for using somebody elses photo in his Obama poster, yet the very same poster has now been copied in more than 10'000 variations.
I have collected examples of posters from 1896 until today in this area, and plan to show it in a web exhibition. If you have more examples I would love to see them.