Not so Flattered (Theft in Artmaking Open Thread)
I've had a few requests for an open thread on theft in artmaking. The following account is typical of why folks want to discuss this:
[T]heft [is] often done by someone with more power and resources than than the one they're stealing from, making it difficult to call them on it. It's happened to me, and yes, now I would handle it differently, but at the time I was inexperienced (which the thief knew and counted on) and I couldn't quite believe that it was happening and didn't know what to do about it.Now, in a vacuum, I like to think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in reading the comments surrounding this issue, I realize that's too flippant a response to leave it at that (folks are quite sincere about this). In trying to relate, I remembered that I've had a few lines/ideas I've written lifted and uncredited (one by a NYTimes political columnist, no less, or so all my friends insisted...I'm still not sure it wasn't just a coincidence, but...), and it never really bothered me, but I'm not a professional writer. Still, despite my vague (perhaps clueless) ambivalence about this question, I do get the sense that what's driving the passion around it are two artworld realities:
- The first artist to get significant attention for some innovation of new vocabulary gets the credit, and everyone else is treated like a copycat, regardless of the true chronology invoved.
- Artists with pre-existing power in the art world will most likely be given considerable leeway should the issue of theft be brought to the attention of the authorities or public at large.