Copyright Case: Art Rogers vs Jeff Koons

(Left) Art Rogers, “Puppies” 1985 (Right) Jeff Koons, “String of Puppies” 1988

Art Rogers was a photographer who took the photograph Puppies in 1985 and used it for greeting cards. The image shows a man and a woman each happily holding four puppies in their arms and it delivers a sense of joy to the viewer. About three years later in 1988, artist Jeff Koons used Rogers photograph to create a statue of the image. He brought the image to life with color and human sized figures and made a decent profit off of the statue. Rogers wasn’t too pleased and sued Koons for copyright issues. The court found that the pieces of artwork were too similar and thus, Koons lost and had to pay Rogers for copyrighting his photograph.

I chose these pieces of artwork because it is an important case in terms of appropriation and copyright issues. The artwork took a political turn when Koons was profiting a lot off of Rogers work because it was so similar that it needed to be settled in court. It brings up a lot of questions in terms of appropriation and it made me mainly think, by what means can you really build up upon on someone else’s work? Rogers photography is also significant because it displays more than just a documentation of life, but it reveals photography being used for creative expression. Creative expression that was so powerful that it drove Koons to bring it to life size. In terms of how to settle copyright and appropriation, I found myself leaning with the textbook approach. The textbook mentioned the idea of paying a fee to the artist if you are going to use their art for inspiration and this inspiration of the original piece is clearly shown in the new artists work.



One comment

  1. I really like both of these works simply because they are uplifting. They depict civil interaction between humans and animals and when you see their expressions you can’t help but smile. As far as the topic of appropriation goes, I’m pulled toward both sides of the argument. Individually they are both great pieces. Although Koons got the idea from Rogers’ image, he still had to create the piece himself, and it was his own idea to make it into a life size sculpture. On the other hand I can see why Rogers would be upset by this, seeing someone make money off of his concept. This is where the copyright comes into play. I think this would have gone over much better for Koons had he first contacted Rogers to speak with him about the project. So even though I admire Koons’ work, I have to say this argument would be won by Rogers.

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