Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Interview Magazine Copyright Infringement Controversy on Twitter and Facebook

Early this morning (May 12th, 2009) I decided to look at who some of my Twitter followers follow. While exploring Twitter I came upon the profile for Interview Magazine ( InterviewMag ). The icon image on the profile caught my eye-- it was an image of Andy Warhol that I recognized. In fact, I knew the moment I observed the icon that it was an issue of copyright infringement. I recognized the icon image and had a gut feeling that Interview Magazine-- and more importantly, Brant Publications, Inc.-- did not have rights to the image. The artist behind the image did not receive credit from Interview Magazine.

Interview Magazine used Judy Rey Wasserman's Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol) without permission.

I knew the moment I observed the Interview Magazine Twitter icon that the image was from an ink on paper portrait of Andy Warhol by Judy Rey Wasserman. I quickly contacted Wasserman ( judyrey )on Twitter in order to find out if she was aware of how the image was being used. Wasserman replied to me two hours later and confirmed that Interview Magazine had not asked permission to use her work, titled Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol), as an icon for their ‘official’ Twitter account. I stressed to Wasserman that Interview Magazine’s action was a perfect example of copyright infringement.
Interview Magazine Copyright Infringement Controversy on Twitter and Facebook Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol) Essence series 2007, Ink on paper, 12 x 9 inches by Judy Rey Wasserman -- which can be found at www.ungravenimage.com/essence.php and www.ungravenimage.com/blog. Check it out, Interview Magazine obviously did-- and have used the image in online branding / promotional efforts without giving Wasserman credit.

Oddly enough, Judy Rey Wasserman was thrilled that Interview Magazine had used her image of Andy Warhol as the icon for their Twitter profile-- even though they had done so without permission and without giving her credit as the artist behind the image. I understood why Wasserman was excited. After all, Interview Magazine was co-founded by Andy Warhol and Wasserman happens to be an admirer of Warhol’s work.
Wasserman was excited regardless of the fact that Interview Magazine had failed to ask permission or credit her. However, I still viewed it as an issue that trampled on the rights of a fellow artist. Wasserman did not agree with my opinion on the matter-- she stated that she felt like she had been “discovered”. My point-- if it happened to her it could happen to any artist. Thus, I decided to press on.
It was soon discovered that Interview Magazine had also used Judy Rey Wasserman’s Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol) as the icon for their InterviewNews Twitter account. Further still-- the same image by Wasserman was used on Interview Magazine’s official Facebook fan page-- without permission or credit-- as a way to promote the two Twitter accounts. Obviously the person(s) behind the accounts felt that Wasserman’s image was vital to their social networking branding efforts. I had to make sure that all three accounts were officially endorsed by Interview Magazine.
Detail from Interview Magazine's official Facebook fan page.

As it turns out, all three accounts-- the two Twitter accounts and Facebook account-- are considered ‘official’ by Interview Magazine. In other words, they are not profiles ran by fans of the publication. Someone hired by Interview Magazine was behind the choice of using Judy Rey Wasserman’s artwork 3 times without permission or credit. In fact, Interview Magazine promotes the Facebook page on the art publications official website-- and the two Twitter accounts on the Interview Magazine Facebook page.

I contacted Interview Magazine by email in order to find out if representatives were aware that an artists work was being used in their online branding efforts without permission or credit. I stressed that I felt the action of Interview Magazine in this situation was very unethical. As I pointed out to Wasserman, would Interview Magazine allow an artist to brand his or her business with one of their magazine covers without permission-- no. Needless to say, I have yet to receive a reply from the representatives of Interview Magazine.
I wanted to give Interview Magazine and Brant Publications, Inc. the benefit of the doubt by giving them time to take action. Several hours after I contacted Interview Magazine by email action was taken-- the Twitter icons involving Judy Rey Wasserman’s artwork had been replaced by a photograph of Andy Warhol.
Obviously someone from Interview Magazine was aware of my criticism and had switched the images-- what can only be perceived as an admission of guilt. The images were removed-- however, as of this time Wasserman has yet to receive a public apology from Interview Magazine. Was Wasserman discovered by Interview Magazine? No-- her rights have been swept under the rug.

Several hours after I contacted Interview Magazine the Twitter icons featuring Judy Rey Wasserman's Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol) were replaced by a photograph of Andy Warhol. Representatives of Interview Magazine have yet to respond to the infringement.
For those who don’t know, Brant Publications, Inc. is owned by billionaire art collector Peter Brant. Brant publishes Interview Magazine and Art in America-- one of the highest selling art magazines in the world. In my opinion, the rights of artists have really went to pot when established art magazines use images of artwork for their online promotional and branding efforts without giving credit where credit is due.
The actions of Interview Magazine (or at least the employee who maintains the Twitter and Facebook accounts) begs the question-- is this business as usual for the magazine that was co-founded by an artist who stated “good business is the best art”. In my opinion Interview Magazine has displayed very unethical behavior in handling this issue-- bad business involving an artists work and a violation of her rights.
I realize that many will say 'It is just an icon'. It was more than that-- it was a clear choice in support of the magazines online branding and promotional efforts. It was a business choice that placed the rights of an artist on the backburner. That said, I suppose it is possible that the copyright infringement controversy surrounding Interview Magazine may only last 15 minutes.

Links of Interest:

Judy Rey Wasserman’s website
Interview Magazine

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter


Anonymous said...

I wonder how the infringed artist feels about you contacting the magazine in righteous defense of copyright laws now that her image has been replaced by a photograph?

Balhatain said...

Hi Anon, some points:

1. Judy would not have known about the use of her image had I not informed her. Sure, she may have found out on her own eventually. I spotted it though-- just as I spotted the fact that they did not give her credit. They had no intention of giving her credit.

2. As I pointed out in the entry, if it can happen to Judy it can happen to any artist. Judy may not agree with me 100%, but that does not mean this is not an issue.

3.She does have copyright notices on her website. She makes it clear that she desires to reserve her rights. Those copyright notices should be acknowledged-- especially when the infringer is a magazine ran by a man who is fully aware of current copyright law.

4. How hard would it have been for Interview Magazine to give credit where credit is due? What motive did they have for not mentioning the artist behind the work in the first place?

5. I cover various issues on this blog. That is what I do. If I can stress a point with an example I will.

6. The idea that artists should be grateful when their work is used without permission, credit, or compensation is an attitude that chips away at our creative and professional rights.

7. If copyright was abolished or weakened by legislation we would see more of this sort of thing happen. We would not be able to do anything about it.

8. Tell me-- why is it OK for Interview Magazine to nab images online without giving credit to the artist behind the work, but it is wrong when print houses in China do the same? Should Judy be grateful if a company decides to mass produce her work without permission, credit, or compensation?

Anonymous said...

To even use the word "ethics" while talking about the contemporary art world is simply naive.Recently I found an image of my painting on a website about some ( apparently famous) Portuguese poet.I do not speak Portuguese and I have no idea why my work is there...nobody bothered to ask me for my permission.

Balhatain said...

Anon, I think it is naïve to suggest that the contemporary art world does not have ethical standards as far as business is concerned. Every aspect of business within the art world involves ethics in one form or the other-- be it the relationship between artist and art collector, art dealer and critic, or gallery and art fair. That is not to suggest that everyone within the art market is ethical.

Without standards of ethics within the business aspect of the art world we would soon find ourselves surrounded by individuals with the mentality of Coles and Salander.

durango1967 said...

If Judy is old enough to know the living Andy and had him sit for the portrait or she had snapped a photo from her own camera of him, then created the image you both might have a leg to stand on. However, she has a few problems at this point: 1)Did she publish the image ANY WERE without copyright info symbol and date? Because publishing the image without the at least the C in the Circle puts the image into the public domain, period end of story. Artist have to understand copyright to benefit from it. 2) Did she create that image while working for someone else? If so her employer would own the rights not her. 3)If she created the image FROM another artist's photograph without giving credit to that artist she is in the same boat and Interview, if you trace back the way she created it to an image owned by Andy's Estate SHE might be sued for civil copyright infringement... so the moral here is careful where you build a bond fire you might get someone burned. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

Kathy said...

I think what strengthens your point is that after Interview becomes aware of your criticism they opt to change the icon instead of attributing the artist and offering to pay her for the use of her work. It is hard to imagine any discussion at Interview about this beyond, "oh, just change it(the icon)."

Though I do still hope that Interview plans to contact the artist and make arrangements to pay for and use and attribute the image.

While artists may try to take comfort in a notion of being "discovered," it's a false one.

Carl said...

"Oddly enough, Judy Rey Wasserman was thrilled that Interview Magazine had used her image of Andy Warhol as the icon for their Twitter profile-- even though they had done so without permission and without giving her credit as the artist behind the image. I understood why Wasserman was excited."

That is truly odd. Yes I would want my image used but with proper credit(also money for image use would be nice). If no credit how does anyone know that the image belongs to an artist seperate from the Andy Warhol Estate?

Next question that was not addressed, where did the image of Judy's artwork come from?? From her website?

debbydoll said...

This is a basic problem with artists. They have no desire to stand up for their own rights. They are so downtrodden by the art establishment, that if some one steals their work they feel happy that some one noticed them. I wonder who took the photo that they are now using?
Bob Goida
The Artists Group

Anonymous said...

"I'm doing this for your own good!"

Well aren't you just a saint. I'm glad you're taking care of everyone elses business whether they want you to or not. Nothing like a bit of self righteousness to help you in your crusade to fix everything in the online art world in a changing society.

Did they credit the photographer who took that particular picture of Warhol that they changed their icon too? Why aren't you insisting that they credit the artist that created that picture too?

Anonymous said...

I was referring to "ethics" in the Australian art world ( which is nepotistic,totally corrupt and controlled by a handful of crooks).
Artists in Australia do not have any rights despite the claims to the contrary by the authorities and an army of art apparatchiks.Australia is a primitive and backward country despite all the chutzpah,internet and international travels. In reality all the art dealers are a versions of Ronald Coles.He was especially greedy and dishonest and because of that eventually has become "wanted".The vast majority are far more cautious but they in the same category as that crook.How do I know all this? From nasty and quite unbelievable personal experiences.I've met most of them ( and I exhibited with some "prominent" art galleries). I know the subject very well.They are cynical crooks and thieves accountable to nobody.They would laugh at you if you would mention ethics...They wouldn't know how to spell it.It is an absolute disgrace and a scandal what is happening here but there is absolutely nobody who can do anything about it.
Nobody cares.In Australia you cannot write or even talk about someone publicly ( accusing him/her) because they will sue you for "defamation".The facts and the truth is completely irrelevant.An artist will never win because an artist has no money for the lawyers.It is that simple.
In Australia no serious art criticism also exist because in essence you cannot write negatively about anyone.Its bad for business.So they only write polite nonsensical crap.Can you believe that some time ago one of Melbourne food critics was sued by a restaurant and guess what ! The restaurant has won the case because if you go and eat you must bloody like it and shut up...Talking about XXI C backwater.

samthor said...

its a nice catch and it certainly damages the magazines credibility.
I cannot understand why the copyright holder is NOT screaming mad and dialing a lawyer over this. (unless maybe she's not the originator of the artwork ether???)
It does serve as a nice example for other artists. I hope it helps others.

Pretty Lady said...

That's pretty cut and dried--designers charge THOUSANDS of dollars for designing a logo to be used by a high-profile magazine like Interview, in several contexts and several different media. This isn't just copyright infringement, it's out-and-out theft. It's a pity that artists are so desperate for 'exposure,' even without recognition, that this sort of thing regularly goes unchallenged.

It also points up the illusory difference between 'fine art' and 'design.' 'Fine Art' is supposed to be a labor of love, which we do for free until we get 'discovered', and our work magically becomes worth millions. 'Design' is paid labor, no different from carpentry or plumbing. As magazines have a harder and harder time financially, I bet we'll see a lot more co-opting of 'art' by publishers trying to cut their production costs.

Balhatain said...

Durango1967, I trust the opinion of art law attorneys I know over what a Wikipedia article says. It does not matter if her work has been posted elsewhere without the copyright symbol-- it is still protected regardless. That might be different depending on the country you live in. In the US the image is NOT thrown into public domain if the copyright symbol is missing. I do understand copyright-- that is why I defend it.

I’m not sure if she used a reference photograph or not. However, if she did one could say that it falls under the defense of ‘Fair Use’ due to the fact that most of the photographs of Andy Warhol are widely known-- they are considered iconic. If Interview Magazine or the Andy Warhol Foundation wants to go that route I’ll check into. That said, two wrongs don’t make a right and the point is that Interview Magazine should have known better. If they can do it to that specific image by Judy they can do it to any image. That is the point. That is why I called them out.

I don’t want to set the world on fire. ;p

Balhatain said...

Good points Pretty Lady.

Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady is dead on ...

Undoubtedly, they did not credit the artist because they did not want to pay for it, and they did not want it to be more easily found via a google search of her name. They hoped not to get found out.

Waker said...

My history might be wrong but didn't Warhol help found this magazine to bypass the big art mags of the time? He wanted more artists to have a chance of gaining exposure. Shows how much the magazine has stuck to its roots NOT.

Anonymous said...

why hasn't interview said anything in response? how come when i tried to ask them on facebook my question was immediately deleted like magic? am i not supposed to want to know what their response is?

Jason said...

Did you discover whether or not Judy had been given a license to use the likeness of Warhol?

Jason said...

durango1967 is inaccurate about copyright and public domain issues. Works do not have to the (c) to be copyrighted and protect the creator's right.

Mary Anne Davis said...

Good points and nice dust up.

Judy Rey Wasserman said...


Thanks for being my friend, discovering that Interview Magazine was using my work as their avatar on both their Twitter accounts and to promote their Twitter accounts on Facebook.

Early this AM I posted Interview Magazine Uses Warhol Portrait by Judy Rey Wasserman as Twitter Avatar at the Art & Inspiration blog at the Post Conceptual UnGraven Image site. Partly my blog article is my response to your blog as you and the comments to your post raise questions that do need to be addressed by me.

Many of the questions and concerns, including the origins of the portrait are and will continue to be addressed by me as this news story unfolds.

Unfortunately, the recent case involving Shepard Fairey, the Associated Press and Manny Garcia seems too have confused many artists about legal rights. The court found that a major portion of the originality of Fairey’s Hope portrait of Barack Obama could be attributed to Garcia, and that Fairey had added little work other than some digital manipulation himself.

Two separate previous cases involving Richard Prince and Jeff Koons’s incorporation of others’ images sided with Prince and Koons as they had created, largely by hand and personal photography what were concluded to me mainly original works. My portrait Psalm 19 portrait of Andy Warhol is not a reworking of anything digitally.

It is a drawing based on several images that was sold in Artist’s Space Night of 1000 Drawings benefit in December of 2007. Every stroke is and original letter of Psalm 19 created with ink on paper. This is in keeping with my theory of Post Conceptual Art that I am founding where strokes are always symbols.

Much more about the origins and artistic decisions made to create this portrait are in my article.

Today I discovered an interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose about Interview Magazine, featuring Peter Brant, Marc Jacobs, Glenn O’Btian and Stephanie Seymour. Speaking about Interview magazine Peter Brant says, “I’d like it to be a magazine that introduces new people, new ideas, and new cultural movements” See: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9125My blog will be continued on Monday as it grew too long to handle with one post. Besides, the story is not completed yet. Clearly, I am going to have more that my 15 minutes of Warhol fame.

I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to comment so far on your blog here and also on mine. And as I did on my own blog I remind Twitter members to also include their @ID at the bottom of their comments!

Judy Rey Wasserman
Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art
On Twitter: @judyrey

Anonymous said...

I don't usually go around quoting Bono or defending Coldplay even but I guess I anything's possible. That said, I think it's fitting now to chime in and say that I agree when Bono said that every artist is a cannibal and every poet is a thief. It seems like such a sad and surreal thing that Cat Stevens would come out of hiding to drone on about Coldplay stealing some bit of his song. [Joe Satriani too.] It's just ponderous, really.

I feel like copyright laws are one of the worst offshoots we've seen since the development of corporations being legally designated as citizens and entitled to the same rights.

Art for the sake of art should be the ideal. Art for the sake of a royalty check is something else altogether.

I'm only supposing on this one but I'd think that Judy didn't make the piece with the goal of having it licensed and charging fees for its use. She did it because she is an artist and cared about the subject and wanted, maybe, other people to see it and care too. The Twitter icon was a massive gallery in a way and if I were her I would think it was cool they used my work. I never would have thought of being mad and trying to extract a check would have been the last thing on my mind.

All copyright laws do is infringe on our freedoms. For good and for bad. Creation is the important part. To me at least.

[Maybe I'm completely wrong.]

AnnoyingMouse said...

I have to say, man, you got way too much time on your hands to be looking around for miniscule twitter icon art in your witchhunt-like zeal against copyright infringement. Stick to the big stuff, ha? Social media avatars? Really? Get a life, dude. This whole article really just made you look like a douchebag.

Judy Rey Wasserman said...

I have not requested any financial compensation from Interview Magazine for the use of my image, Psalm 19 Andy Warhol.

What I have asked for is simply that they credit me as the artist and respect me and my copyright. To date this has not occurred.
In fact, I told Kelly Brant that Interview Magazine could continue to use the image as long as I received credit. I will protect my copyright and will not allow Interview Magazine to usurp it.

As of today it has been a week since they were notified and they have not given me any public credit or fully remedied the situation.

I have easily agreed to have my images and videos used and my writings quoted at length on the Internet as lomng as I am credited and a link to http://ungravenimage.com is provided. This is readily show by my granting Brian Sherwin the use of the Warhol portrait for this blog.

Brian Sherwin is not using the image as a way of representing himself or myartspace>blog. Interview Magazine continues to use the image to represent their business, which is a magazine that they charge people to buy or subscribe to and also sell advertising in. I am being very generous, even as an emerging artist to allow and continue to offer the use of the image to Interview Magazine as their Twitter avatar simply for credit.

From a legal view point I must continue to point out my ownership and rights.

I continue to see the problem as one that is far larger than my own and look for ways to help other artists preserve their rights. There are issues here involving new media and social media. While both Twitter and Facebook have strict TOS about appropriating the work of others, including images, just like laws, TOS only works when it is enforced.

While I am happy to allow others to use my images as avatars -- by prior written agreement and only if I am satisfied that I am receiving obvious credit I do not wish to open doors and set precedents for my work or that of other artists to be snapped up and used for avatars, web site illustrations, e book covers, etc. without permission.

Again, I emphasize that I am happy that Interview Magazine chose my work to represent them. It is a fitting choice. I have credited Andy Warhol as one of the artists who has most influenced my work and the theory of Post Conceptual Art that I am founding.

The PR that Interview Magazine can derive from this choice could well help me and position the Interview Magazine in the twenty-first century of cutting edge art. Warhol discovered Basquiat, Haring and many other artists. Taking credit for discovering me, a founder of Post Conceptual Art (using symbols for strokes) seems a natural and smart move for Interview Magazine.

Due to recent occurrences in the news regarding Interview Magazine's leadership changes, Peter Brant's personal life and this weekend's opening of the Brant Art Collection in CT, I have given the situation time.

I remain hopeful that the situation will resolve well for everyone involved, including Interview Magazine.

However, I still have to write Part 2 of my blog (and who knows how much else before we are anywhere near a resolution.

Again, thanks to Brian,

Judy Rey Wasserman

Semiotic Warrior said...

Thank you for bringing the whole thing up
I also want to thank you for your clarification on copyright. I don't know why DURANGO even quotes wikipedia anybody can edit the content and therefor makes it most unreliable.

The moment an Artist creates a peace of art he or she establishes Copyright. With or without the C in the corner. The moment a third party uses an image or any other piece of art without permission they know automaticly they are doing something wrong. Its like with stealing only because nobody has seen me taking something, I am still stealing.

Only if her employer had hired her to exactly do this job they have no rights what so ever.

So thanks again for clearing that up.

Please do what you do and keep bringing these things up.

I don't know why Designer are coming out of this negative. You can believe any designer would love to keep and protect the copyright of his or her work. On this matter we are all in the same boat, designers visual artist musicians ...

Semiotic Warrior said...

Thank you for bringing the whole thing up
I also want to thank you for your clarification on copyright. I don't know why DURANGO even quotes wikipedia anybody can edit the content and therefor makes it most unreliable.

The moment an Artist creates a peace of art he or she establishes Copyright. With or without the C in the corner. The moment a third party uses an image or any other piece of art without permission they know automaticly they are doing something wrong. Its like with stealing only because nobody has seen me taking something, I am still stealing.

Only if her employer had hired her to exactly do this job they have no rights what so ever.

So thanks again for clearing that up.

Please do what you do and keep bringing these things up.

I don't know why Designer are coming out of this negative. You can believe any designer would love to keep and protect the copyright of his or her work. On this matter we are all in the same boat, designers visual artist musicians ...

Anonymous said...

Wow... this is so far from copyright infringement.

Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

Things like this fall so clearly under fair use that I feel sorry for the people you are misinforming about these types of issues.

And BTW @Semiotic Warrior... Wikipedia is pretty damned reliable on things like this. Biographies? Maybe not so much. Feel free to look up fair use in other places on the web, however.

Anonymous said...

There are several additional important points:

Artists may apply "fair use" for an artistic image -- i.e., when an artist copies a photograph for a painting, so long as it is a work of art.

Any commercial business, such as a magazine promoting itself is not entitled to use any copyright material, such as the artwork without first obtaining explicit permission. Using an artist's work as an icon -- essentially as a kind of of logo or identifier, is a blatant violation of copyright law.

I also would suspect the new, replacement photograph is another type of copyright violation. The image of Andy Warhol including photographs of him are protected from commercial use even by the photographer himself. Even when an artist owns copyright for their own work, if the work depicts the face of a celebrity (Warhol,) it cannot be reproduced for commercial use without licensing that commercial use by the proper party -- in this case the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Art. It is essentially using a celebrities face to sell a product without permission.