Jeff Koons has once again been accused of plagiarism. A 1985 advertisement for French Clothing brand Naf Naf created by french adman Franck Davidovici, claims that Koons’s sculpture Fait d’Hiver(1988) is a blatant copy of his “work”. An example of the sculpture is just happens to be on view in France at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as part of the artist’s retrospective that just traveled from the Whitney in New York.
Koons’s artwork, part of his “Banality” series, features his ex-wife, Ilona Staller looking very much like the ad with a somewhat altered bovine companion. One edition of Fait d’Hiver (1988) was sold at Christie’s New York in November 2007 for $4.3 million. This case marks the fourth time that Koons has been taken to court over a work from his “Banality” series. In the past, his lawyers have argued that the works did not infringe on copyright due to a “fair use by parody” provision in US copyright law. Koons lost two of the three copyright infringement cases that have thus far been brought against him, anyway. Despite the changes Koons made to the original ad, he may not be protected. As copyright lawyers Owen, Wickersham, and Erickson explain in analyzing the previous cases brought against the artist;
“Even a quantitatively small amount of copying can be infringement if it copies a qualitatively important part of the original work.” They counter a common misconception “that you can avoid infringement by making at least 20 percent changes from the original. This is not true. Infringement is not a mathematical formula.”
I’m sorry, this lawsuit seems absurd to me. I just did a post last month about the proliferation of copies of copies at the Pulse Art Fair... it's standard issue today. Andy Warhol DIRECTLY copied Paramount and Disney logos and advertising for Volkswagon and others and silkscreened photos directly from original sources. Appropriation artists like Sherrie Levine& Elaine Sturtevant, among others have again, directly copied artists work and to my knowledge, no lawsuit brought. Might have to do with A. Koons is mega-rich (so was Warhol) and B. people hate him. (they did Andy too) C. we live that you THINK might be more open to the idea of "fair use". If this were as enforceable in musical terms, would we see Lady Gaga dragged into court by Madonna every other album?