Friday, October 5, 2012

It isn't art

Problematic questions raised by A New American Picture, by Doug Rickard

In a previous posting I objected to a claim of authorship of a book of photographs when the person making the claim was not responsible for the placement or ownership of the camera, selection of the subject, decisions about exposure and framing, time of day of capture, or location. In other words, the claim of ownership was based upon appropriation of someone else's work compiled into a single printed volume.

I'm referring to the redaction of stills from Google Street View, screen shots, by Doug Rickard. I brought my concerns to Anthony Lieb, professor of communications at Georgian College in Ontario, Canada.  This is what he said:
In general, I have to agree with you. Is it art? To me, nope. Is it plagiarism? Nope, again, though. He's at best a curator (or editor, as you call him). The charge of plagiarism, while understandable, is a bit severe (for he does document his sources). I think he may have material for a magazine/journal article (at most)--but certainly not a book. The boundaries--even the definition--of art have never been satisfactorily explicated. To me, using others' images is fine (ie: a collage) long as credit is given where due. But to create a collage of one image, as it were, and to take credit is plain unethical.
I'm confident that Rickard and his publisher obtained legal opinion before proceeding with the publication of the book.  The Google images must be in the public domain, I guess, for Rickard to get away with this enterprise so blatantly.

But the ethics of the claim of authorship are troubling.  And any pretense to artistic creativity is laughable.

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