A few weeks ago, we published a campaign from a Brazilian ad agency, Publiká7, for Cammila Auto Parts, encouraging auto owners to buy original parts from licensed dealers, other than knockoffs, otherwise those knockoff cheap parts are "worthless when needed."
Today we've received an email from Katerina Kamprani, or rather, a takedown notice, indicating that Publiká7 are in violation of copyright by copying the art work of her personal project called The Uncomfortable.
This reminds us of the time Nike copied Minor Threat's iconic poster. Or the time Coke "borrowed," Joel Veitch's Seven Seconds of Love. And then who couldn't forget the Mummy photo, originally for UPC which was then nicked for an Egyptian rental car. And all the other times we've seen "Demo Love". Yup, this happens a lot. Not just with images but with songs, like when VW approached Beach House to license a song, were declined, and then made a sound alike. We've discussed the phenomena of Inevitable Creative Outcomes, vs Lazy, vs creative theft here at length. See also When is a copy inspired, when is it illegal, and how to tell your clients to stop having demo-love.
And while we're all sympathies for Katerina Kamprani, there are several problems with her take down notice email. First and foremost, the only entity who can legally demand us to remove the ads are the agency or the client, depending on what kind of contract they have with the agency. Because these images were created by the agency.
Secondly, while the art itself is similar, the images are in fact, different. You can see the three dimensional renderings are different in the above comparisons. You can also compare the rest of Kamprani's work with the rest of the images in the campaign.
Now does it completely suck that some hack agency in Brazil had some demo love and decided to alter a concept just enough to possibly hold up in court? You bet it does. Has her idea been copied? Technically yes, but legally, ideas can't be copyrighted only executions. Much as we wish they could. More importantly, even if ideas could be copyrighted, Kamprani's idea is clearly spelled out on her website and it differers from Publikas.
The goal is to re- design useful objects making them uncomfortable but usable and maintain the semiotics of the original item.
Whereas Cammila's campaign says the exact opposite: Under the concept "Useless When Needed," a dealer of original spare parts uses a visual metaphor to warn of the danger that is giving up the use of original parts because they won't work.
Kids, we've been preaching about demo love for two decades now. We've also been preaching about the joke that is remix culture for just as long. It's anything but remixing. That's why all of us need to keep on the straight and narrow-- especially those of us in advertising.
As for Katerina Kamprani, she's clearly talented and here is the link to her portfolio should anyone want to hire her. Emphasis on the word hire. Again, we feel bad that someone was "inspired," by her work to the point of copying. I do hope she'll take the fight to the appropriate people: namely, Publiká7, and Cammila Auto Parts. There might even be an outside chance they'll settle out of court the way Nike did when they used Minor Threat's poster without permission.
Just don't be surprised if you hear the phrase "fair use," a lot.