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Publicis Piranha Olympic ads copy execution straight from "Forms", starts debate on rights

The visual art blog AntiVJ has a post called "inspiration vs theft" detailing the case of copy-cat style between the Piranha bar Olympic idents from Publicis Dublin, and the series of studies on human motion done by visuals artists Memo Akten and Quayola. TooLong;Didn'tWatch cliff-notes for the lazy-eyed, these clips look pretty much exactly the same. And we have to be careful when things do because what we call "demo love" lawyers call "copyright infringement", and pretty much everyone will call you a hack for it. I welcome more creators debating this topic, as it has far reaching consequences for all of our livelihoods, and indeed the quality of work that we all produce.

Antivj elaborate:

It would be very naive indeed to expect the big companies to care about ownership or to express any scruple. They’ve deliberately chosen that way of approaching projects, and they’re probably working on their next “big idea” already.
It would be pointless to try changing it, as much it would be to expect living in a fair world.
That said, what really shocks me the most, is the “copy / paste / brand / sell” process, without trying to enhance the original idea, or bothering to contact the creator.
As a visual artist, and a creative content producer, I feel like this could happen to me, or to anyone in a similar field working as an independent artist. Even if I think copyrighting is no longer the way forward, in this case I would feel completely dispossessed of my idea, something personal in which I may have put a lot of time, effort, and expectations.

Advertising inspired by art is as old as the free wine at gallery openings, and will not go away. The moment someone noticed the bass ale logo in Manet's "A Bar at the Folies Bergere" was the same moment ad-men realized they could borrow high-brow interest and seem a little more arty while doing so, rather than the crass salesmen we are. In some cases one could see the blatant visual copy as a reference or homage, and in-joke for the educated, even when the difference is as subtle as a wool jacket being attacked by the wolves as Harvey Nicols did when they mimicked the Head on Wolves.

In other cases, one wonders what they were thinking, like when Toshiba did ads that mimicked Simon Faithfull's 'Escape vehicles', without crediting him after contacting him. Simon Faithfull stated "I was not 'absolutely part of the team'", but he clearly was the inspiration right down to the soundtrack. So why not hire him? Where's the moral compass when we are not compensating the idea generator for the idea that we are using. We'll copy melting ice men art for the whiff of an award, copy artistic photos of orgasms shilling anything from condoms to playstations, and indeed we'll have a little helping "hand from above" when we sell fashion. We will copy the sound of indie bands songs like Beach House for VW and as we've pointed out here in Adland collateral damage, they are not the first nor the last band to meet this faith. We can't all be Tom Waits.

Advertising, video creators and artists themselves don't only do this to fine art, we'll do this to any art. Hell, ad people even do it to other ads, though this isn't always intentional nor due to having seen other ads before it - the same ideas happen when all the lofty goals and targets are the same. "We want to own parties" say seventy-billion potato chip brands, whilst targeting that elusive group of everyone between age 2 and 202 who are still breathing. I discuss this a bit in Inevitable Creative Outcomes, vs Lazy, vs creative theft - where is the line?.

Antivj wraps up their long post with this thought:

While writing this post, I found it really interesting to see artists, creators and companies intensely debating around these ever changing concepts of ownership. My only point here would be that we’re being given new tools: blogs, social networks and new mediums, and this gives us a great opportunity to discuss these topics, express an opinion or show our support, and maybe somehow try to contribute to the definition of future models.

Yes, lets discuss! I've thought about this topic for years, indeed I've been writing about "dupliclaims" for more than 16 now, and where ideas copying other ideas was never illegal... Lets take a simplistic look at the rather complicated world-wide IP laws: copyrights apply to executions, trademarks apply to names and expressions, and patents applies to 'inventions'. With me so far? Okay. Once you write down an idea in the form of say, executable code, you have something copyrighted. If your idea was "software that you can do your companies accounting books with" and someone else does the same exact idea, but with other code, you're shit out of luck. If he copies your code however, now he's in trouble.

Somewhere along the line, straight up copying of data, bit by exact bit, became the norm and stuff that was once so obviously "someone else photograph" or song, or film clip, became "I bet it's creative commons" and soon everything eroded to "if it's on the web it's free for the taking!" We call it "remix culture" and it is everyones pop cultural heritage only making the networks rich, but never the creators. Today it seems like plagarism is taught in art school.

Somehow a whole mass of people are translating the ease of copying files, and the lack of moral integrity to a need for new copyright laws that usually involve no copyright at all, which I find very interesting indeed. We'll often nod back to the hackers of yore and how they shared all their strips of code (back when that stuff was holes punched in paper) in a drawer at MIT for everyone, because it benefitted the community as a whole. The small elite and select few in that community is not comparable to the world wide web. The removal of copyrights is simply fixing something that isn't broken. If you as an artist want to share your work without compensation for it (other than say, a link to your webpage), you have always been free to do so. You have also been free to sell your soul to the nearest devil at a crossroads in exchange for 80 million dollars so that you may whine in your latte later when those who bought your rights make money off them. It is not for me to say how you chose to do your business. I don't think we should all waste our times on fixing a supposed "broken" law when what is really broken is how people are currently using the system. My beef is simple, you can decide what you want to do with your rights, but I ask you kindly not to make that call for me. If I don't want you to use my artwork without paying, it really should be my call. Pretty simple, no?
Antivj may "think copyrighting is no longer the way forward", but from my view in the bleacher seats copyrights always started with individuals, as data-bits were never actively tagged and protected. The hackers who used to share code of yesteryear have been replaced by people who build mansions today, only on the ability of moving other peoples bits of data, not by sharing bits of code that created the next Frogger. That same "hacker" will ask the tent-people who protest the 1% on wall street to protest for him, but he is not the King I voted for.

Regarding this particular hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar, Publicis Dublin had this to say:

Memo Akten 'Forms' is some really beautiful work and was a huge inspiration to the team. Unfortunately we didn't get the opportunity to work him on this project. We would love too at some stage, a very talented individual.

One wonders what the "unfortunate" reasons were that they could not work with their muses on the project so clearly inspired by them.

Cadbury Piranha bar

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Mark S's picture

Right or wrong the most common way for agencies to brief production companies these days is by sending over a Youtube link. Those executions are very similar though, but at the same time absolutely stunning.

Dabitch's picture

In the days of VHS we used to send SHOTS reels & various snippets taped off TV, "demo love" isn't a new phenomena it just seems more rampant now.

Mark S's picture

I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe you're old enough to remember VHS tapes ;)

Dabitch's picture

Ha! Flattery. More please! My early ad-start I had my commercials on a VHS reel in my leather bound portfolio. #OLDSCHOOL