Response on “On the rights of the Molotov’s Man” – Billy

The case of the Molotov Man reflects the difficulty of establishing the rights of artists to express their artwork without copyright infringement. On one side, artists want to freely express their own ideas with their work on certain events, things, or other’s work; while, on the other side, artists want to preserve the idea behind their work and avoid others changing this notion. The case of Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas captures this dilemma.

Conservative ideals hide behind the curtains of freedom of expression. When artists can freely express their artwork about a certain subject, other artists can easily change the original artist’s ideas through the reproduction of the original work. Joy wanted to capture the extreme human emotions by re-painting an original photograph (The Molotov Man) with a different context; however, she was liable for copyright infringement, because she did not credited nor asked permission to the artist of the photograph, Susan. Susan’s lawyer requested a sum of money from Joy for licensing the work afterwards, giving incentive for Joy to delete his work from the internet. Given this scene, we can observe that freedom of expression (when used inappropriately) can ultimately change the original expression of others; thus, conservative ideals kick in to protect this original expression.

The preservation of an original work is a difficult process for modern artists of this era. After Joy’s case, many other artists started to use Susan’s work for their own ends. For example, Pepsi Co. used a different version of the photograph to advertise its products as a “revolution”. However, the original idea of the photo conveyed the Sandinistas movement in Nicaragua against Somoza’s power — not just any revolution. Even though Susan did not sue Joy nor collected Joy’s fees, Susan needed to bear her outrage stemming from other people that uses her work for other purposes.

I personally think that both sides – Joy and Susan – did the right thing for such matter, for finding a solution for such problem proves somewhat complex and difficult. If we fully support on Joy’s viewpoint, then Susan’s original idea is unjustly thrown in the sea of interpretations. If we support on Susan’s viewpoint, then other’s freedom of expression is partially breached. Joy did give credit to Susan but did not ask for her permission simply because no one can control art and his viewpoint of the picture differs from Susan’s. I think Susan would agree with this reasoning but would disagree with the ideas behind other’s reproduction of her work.


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