top of page

Use and re-use: use and re-use

Arman Duzel


Copyright in simple terms is the legal right which protects the creative work of a person from being copied, stolen, used or reused and profited from without the agreement or sale of license from the original creator. Eric Schrijver (2019), an ICT designer and artist from Amsterdam, shows that copyright has on not only the original creator, but the artist utilising the works properties to create a piece of art There are two chapters from Copy this book: an artist's guide to copyright. He shares legal advice for artists on how, on the one hand, to avoid breaking copyright and to protect their own work, on the other.

His objective is to make it known and clear that there are many exemptions and allowances in copyright but no matter what is practiced or what is considered, art is not an excuse or permission or free license. Copyright law can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but what may not be mentioned is how copyright may also affect curators and exhibitions. As a curator, there must be a knowledge of the work beforehand to assure there is no embarrassment but more importantly to avoid a legal dispute.

Figure 1: Phillip Lorca di Corcia “Heads” series (2000) Head #13

Figure 2: Brandon Stanton photographs a DKNY store front using his images as a background (2013) DKNY Promo

Schrijver (2019) begins by addresses the iconoclasm of plaster statues in the 1960s in art schools to avoid copyright claims, infringement and possibly to send a political message. An example of this is the infamous self destructive painting ‘Girl with balloon’ by Banksy which immediately after selling for over a million pounds, began to shred itself through the frame which Banksy is said to have installed purposefully, quoting Picasso with “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge’.

Regardless of the circumstances, unless a license or permission has been granted by the original creator it is a breach of copyright to use or steal someone's work, even if no profit has been made. Within a courtroom or legal dispute scenario, there is bound to be communities of interest, which will affect the outcome as each individual will more than likely share the common interest or practice. Copyright breaking can affect curatorial practices which in turn may affect the show. A major example of this is the Art Rogers versus Jeff Koons case in 1992. Rogers photographed a couple holding a litter of puppies in 1985 titled ‘puppies’ and sold these photographs for use as postcards and such.

Art Rogers Photographs a couple with a litter of puppies, titled Puppies (1985) & Right Jeff Koons makes a sculpture of Art Rogers photograph without permissions or licence, titled A string of puppies (1988)

Three years later Jeff Koons came across Rodgers’ photograph by chance and appropriated it for an artwork. The sculpture made a huge profit of over three hundred thousand dollars and in 1992 a court found in favour of copyright infringement, throwing out Koons plea on parody, defined in the art world as “a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work” (Schroeder, 2015). There was an obvious error with regards to knowledge and research on the curators' part which could have saved Koons the lawsuit had they acted on the decision to show the work before exhibiting. This could also affect the reputation of the gallery and curator by exposing the lack of curatorial practices.

Figure 3: Daniel Morel screenshots his own picture on a website that sold and distributed his image of a woman is helped to safety after being trapped in rubble, Haiti (2013)

The 19th Century novelist Victor Hugo anticipated an issue that is hotly debated today. It was his view that what we understand as copyright should not pass onto the heir or next of kin: 'we should not mistake the descent of blood for the descent of the spirit' (Schriver, 2019). In other words, those that did not make the work should not be able to decide what happens with it. So by delimiting the public domain through the Berne Convention, which introduced copyright after 70 years, the ownership of work was extended. There are only 28 countries that are not signed on this treaty. Fortunately. Ireland is not one of them. Some question the morals and ethical choices of this towards the families of those who created this work. This legislation is very useful for curators or anyone seeking to adopt a curation mindset to the use and re-use of images and extracts reproduced from original artworks. It allows work to continue to be shown as well as allowing profit and resale of the work to continue.

Perez Hilton screenshots and adds watermark over Robert Chaplin’s original photo with watermark (2013)


Duzel, A. (2020) 'Use and re-use' in Curating Photography: Poolside. TU Dublin: BA Photography [Online]. Available at


Deshpande, P., (2020) Content Curation: Copyright, Ethics & Fair Use - Content Curation Marketing. [online] Content Curation Marketing. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 March 2020].

Design Observer. (2020) Art Rogers Vs. Jeff Koons. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2020].

Meiselman, J., (2020) How Jeff Koons, 8 Puppies, And A Lawsuit Changed Artists’ Right To Copy. [online] Artsy. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 April 2020].

MICA, E., (2020) Curatorial Practice (MFA). [online] MICA. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 March 2020]. (2020) Communities Of Interest. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 March 2020].

Twiford, K., (2020) 5 Examples Of Image Copyright Battles Between Creators And Brands. [online] Libris Stories. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 March 2020].

Pixsy. (2020) The 10 Most Famous Copyright Cases In Photography | Pixsy. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 March 2020].

The Verge (2020) One Of Banksy’S Paintings Self-Destructed Just After It Was Auctioned. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 April 2020].

Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}. (2020) "Curation" Versus Fair Use: How To Keep Your Content Safe. [online] Available at:<> [Accessed 26 March 2020].

Schrijver, E., (2020) Eric Schrijver. [online] Available at: <\> [Accessed 20 April 2020].

Schrijver, E. (2019) ‘In love with the copy: visual arts’ in Copy this book: an artist's guide to copyright. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.

Schrijver, E. (2019) ‘No known restrictions: the public domain’ in Copy this book: an artist's guide to copyright. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.

Schroeder, (2020) Parody In Art. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2020].


bottom of page