To be quite honest, I think my personal reaction would come down to the context and how the use aligned with my own viewpoint. And as I write that, I am aware that an appropriation of my work may not align with my own view, yet provide a valuable meaning for others, which should ultimately be considered.
In my professional practice, I have had images taken and used without permission, which is a different issue. I have also had image used in publication, which were edited in ways that I did not intend them to be – for example, turned black and white, and in one case flipped to suit the layout of the magazine. These were both limited examples, which raised an eyebrow but I did not have too many concerns. I also have a number of images that are available on image libraries, that I have limited control on the usage in most cases, however I differentiate the images that are listed on these sites versus images for my art practice.
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Please note that this top by @georgeatasda is in no way associated with Scamp & Dude. It does sadly feature our slogan 'a Superhero has my back' (even though we own the Trademark) but it is in no way associated with our brand. It’s so upsetting when this happens. ?? For anyone who doesn't know the meaning behind 'a Superhero has my back', I came up with this slogan when recovering from brain surgery in hospital. I was so scared that I wouldn't make it through the surgery and would end up leaving my boys without a mummy. A horribly hard thing to go through, but it was this that inspired me to create a brand that helps children feel more secure when apart from their loved ones. A Superhero certainly had my back and I made it though the surgery and Scamp & Dude launched into @libertylondon 10 months later. ‘A Superhero has my back' is at the heart of our brand and we work so, so hard to give as many kids as possible a Superhero to watch over them. We donate one of our special Superhero Sleep Buddies to a child who has lost a parent or is desperately ill for every one sold. We work with various charities and hospitals including @griefencounter @dontforgetthekidsuk and @greatormondst helping children who need a Superhero to have their back. ⚡️ It’s so hard when this happens, but I’m so grateful to all of our loyal customers who have brought this to our attention, we appreciate your support so much. Jo xx ⚡️❤️⚡️ @scampanddudejo
Figure 1: Jo Tutchner-Sharp (2018) Instagram post to highlight the appropriation of the slogan.
This does remind me of a couple of times this has occurred and dealt with differently with relation to the art practice. Jo Tutchener-Sharp created a t-shirt design ‘a superhero has my back,’ which was created to raise money in response to a period that she spent in hospital away from her children (Petter, 2018). Asda took the slogan and applied it to a range of products that had nothing to do with raising money for charity. Tutchener-Sharp chose not to pursue legal action against Asda (which would most likely come to nothing against such a large organisation), instead she mobilised her own social media audience (Fig: 1) to highlight what had happened. This quickly went viral and ultimately prompted a response from Asda to resolve it.
The ‘Hope’ poster created during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is another example of appropriated image being remixed and has been referred to the modern Che Guevara poster, another famous example of image appropriation (Barton, 2008). Manny Garcia took the original image and was represented by Associated press who pursued legal action against the poster’s creator Shepard Fairey. However, Fairey countered the copyright claims with his own legal action, citing ‘Fair Use.’ The case was ultimately settled out of court after Fairey was found to have destroyed evidence that linked the poster to the use of the image. Garcia is said to have been proud of the use of his image in this way but objected to the way that it was used without permission (Kennedy, 2009). The hope poster has gone on to have a life of its own, which is far beyond the intention of Garcia when he took the image as a press photographer.
In the case of Tutchner-Sharp, I do not have anywhere near the audience available to me to create a strong response in the way that she was able to. However, it seemed like a good way to resolve the situation that might have been mired in legal action, which might distract from the original intention of what she was aiming to do.
In the case of the ‘Hope’ poster, I feel that it would have been useful to see the dispute between Fairey and AP achieve a more amicable resolution – an earlier acknowledgement of the appropriation, for example. I think that I would ultimately feel similar to how Garcia did about the use as now the image has entered into our collective conscious in a way that I would never be able to do with my own photography, on my own merit. I would hope that there was a fringe benefit for my own practice that my photography was associated with such a remix.
Barton, L., 2008. Hope – the image that is already an American classic. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/nov/10/barackobama-usa#maincontent [Accessed 8 June 2020].
Kennedy, R., 2009. Artist Sues The A.P. Over Obama Image. [Online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/arts/design/10fair.html [Accessed 8 June 2020].
Petter, O., 2018. CHILDRENSWEAR BRAND ACCUSES ASDA OF ‘RIPPING OFF’ TRADEMARK SLOGAN. [Online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/asda-scamp-and-dude-slogan-rip-off-accusation-trademark-childrenswear-a8223471.html [Accessed 8 June 2020].