Tag Archives: markham smith

Inspiration V Plagiarism

I saw this mesmerizing portrait by Norman Parkinson on a postcard when I was on a recent jaunt to old Londinium.

Stunning shapes, texture, composition and colour.

I didn’t realise that when he took this shot he was actually paying homage to Dutch painter, Kees Van Dongen, 1877-1968.

Whether we use art directly to influence our work or only in part doesn’t matter.

What is important is that we continue to absorb inspiration wherever it lurks. Whether that be an old master who can teach us about perfect composition or a graffiti artist’s integration of the environment as a canvas.

Courtesy of Street Art Utopia. (And my mate, Markham.)

The ad industry is rife with plagiarism – “Wassup”, by Budweiser was a short film by a new director. Honda Cogs was an art installation.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being inspired by art. Where it falls down is if you try to pass off the originality as your own.

If you can’t physically credit the people whose idea you’ve been inspired by – i.e. you can’t put a credit on the end of a TV ad – then help out in other ways. Either pay them to be involved in making the project, or at the very least donate some hard cash to help further their art. (In the cases of Budweiser and Honda the ad agencies or client may have done this, I don’t know.)

With the infamous Guinness “Dancing Man” commercial, the agency saw the short film – again, a promo piece by a young director – and approached him with a view to remaking it for Guinness.

He said no because he’d already made that film and didn’t want to make it again.

So the agency made it anyway with a different director.

The director sued. And lost.

Not sure why. Perhaps you can’t copyright a man dancing. Or maybe the judge felt the new film was sufficiently different. (If you see them both together, you’ll see that it isn’t.)


Filed under Advertising, Art, Ideas, Illustration, Inspiration, Photography