The Case Of The Clumsy Art Th-- ...uh... Appropriator

So artist Scott Teplin spent the better part of a decade developing a distinctive font. scott-teplin-jamian-juliano-villani-gavin-brown-3

And love it or hate it or like it or dislike it or just say "meh" to it, you can't deny it's a unique expression of an idea and as such is entitled to copyright protection.

jamian-juliano-villani-scott-teplin-gavin-brown-3

Some font developers just love doing that stuff and make their fonts available for free online.  Other sell their fonts for a charge, or develop them for exclusive use by a single client.

Fonts are cool, and I love playing with them, but when I've used them professionally I've either made sure they were free for commercial use or paid for them.

Enter one Jamian Julian-Villani, another NYC based artist.  Ms Villani saw Teplin's font, liked it, Instagrammed it without attribution, then in the sincerest form of flattery stole appropriated it for use in her painting, Animal Proverb.

jamian-juliano-villani-scott-teplin-gavin-brown

When Teplin pointed out the theft appropriation, Villani[1] doubled-down:

“Everything is a reference," Juliano-Villani told artnet News in a phone interview. “Everything is sourced." Artist copyright seems like a thing of the past.

“It's a fucking John Lennon lyric," she said several times. When we pointed out that Teplin, for his part, is claiming ownership of his lettering, not the lyric, Juliano-Villani repeated, “But it's a fucking John Lennon lyric."[2]

Basically, Ms Villani is ripping off a live New Yorker in order to rip off a dead New Yorker for her personal profit, and without paying royalties to either.

Ignoring the question of whether she was involved in Christian publishing, I was puzzled by something else in her painting.  To paraphrase Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction:

"You know what's on my mind right now? It AIN'T the coffee in my kitchen, it's the [pink elephant] [blue sphinx] in my garage."

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Yes, the nimble fingered Ms Villani has =ahem= appropriated yet another artist's work, in this case an illustration by the late great pulp sci-fi artist Virgil Finlay[3] for H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.[4]

Now, fair is fair, and folks would be right to ask:

"Just what's the #@%&in' difference between what she did and what you do with your Fictoids or Words Of The Prophets posts?"

For one thing, I'm not making money off the use of another creator's art or words.  What I post may be freely accessed by anyone.[5]

My Fictoids are typically commentaries on the underlying art, and as such fall under the fair usage provision of copyright law.

I try really hard to use only those images which have entered into the public domain, and / or like Banksy am appropriating advertising art to make a cultural comment.

I strive whenever possible to identify and properly credit the artist, and have gone back and added artist information when I've learned it.

Likewise the Words Of The Prophets series of posts are quotes from public persons and as such fall under fair usage, or are otherwise in the public domain.  Any meme I use that I don't generate, I leave any identifying URL on the image.

Ms Villani is probably in the clear re Virgil Finlay's art; I haven't been able to track down a specific date but I'm guessing it's probably some time in the 1950s or 60s, perhaps even as early as the late 1940s.  Unless the copyright was specifically renewed in the 1970s or early 80s, I'm guessing the image is public domain by now.

The Lennon quote is kinda iffy, but let's attribute that one to ignorance, not ill will.

I'll even go so far as to say appropriating Teplin's font, specifically in the format he used and with the message he painted, might also be a case of plain ol' vanilla misunderstanding.

But refusing to acknowledge, much less compensate or thank Teplin when it was pointed out to her?

Not cool, Ms Villani. Not cool at all.

Added later:   Ms Villani and Mr Teplin have apparently come to an understanding and made peace on the issue

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[1]  With a name like that, it's almost as if she couldn't help but be an antagonist in a story.

[2]  We're going to skip the whole issue of what and how much of a work is considered fair use.  Song lyrics are notoriously tricky items under copyright law, and while one can reference the title of a song with impunity in a literary work, including any quotation of verses, no matter how trivial, invites a letter from a lawyer with ample precedence in her briefcase, so unless you secure permission first, don't quote a song lyric, even tho people post whole lyrics all the time and make online memes from them.

[3]  Google Image Search the bejeebers outta him; you'll be glad you did.

[4]  And, yes, Finlay was also an NYC based artist for much of his career, so Ms Villani wins the trifecta!

[5]  You want to use my words for profit, please contact me at the e-mail address below; I lay no claim on any artwork I do not specifically own the rights to.

 

Fictoid: one day at the pawn shop

Indians