The idea of appropriating artists’ work is definitely a valued act. It makes sense to give credit where credit is due to an artist, for all artists want proper recognition and ownership over their art.
However, as Stephen E. Weil writes in his article “Fair Use and the Visual Arts: Please Leave Some Room for Robin Hood” in the book Image Ethics in the Digital Age, our ever-growing media-saturated world has allowed artists’ work to be heavily distributed among many other artists, possibly inspiring their own work. I don’t find much of a problem in this act—for I believe all humans and artists must inspire and feed off of each other to make sense of each other’s livings—yet, true ownership over creations may become problematic to some.
When a music-artist comes out with a new song today, and we later hear a pop-star coming out a new song that resembles the guitar riff of that previous song, some fans and listeners may become skeptical, to the point of even calling the artists out for plagiarism. The same goes for the words sung in songs, when lyrics uncannily match the exact same succession of lyrics of another song. Whether coincidence or not, the topic of originality is tested.
Weil reveals the simple dilemma as he writes, “A contemporary artist who today seeks to portray aspects of everyday life must, in the course of doing so, almost inescapably bump up against somebody else’s copyrighted material” (173).
Wherever the initial inspiration came from in order to produce a piece of art is allows going to inescapably be a mystery. Having ownership over one’s art is important—I get it. But, it can become out-of-hand when someone decides to sue another, blaming them for plagiarism of their art or lyric or song riff, when it all could have been just obscurity or chance coincidence.
I believe the rights to all pieces of work is a very valued act, only when it doesn’t become something selfish. As everything is ruled by money and power these days, everyone wants power and control over different pieces. When it comes to the creative arts, inspiration can come from anywhere—and whether or not something was original or not, I think it is important to understand the idea of being inspired by another’s work. When someone may make a statement on one thing, it shouldn’t be our job to try and step in and take ownership for it. Let the artist be. Whether it is completely, wholly, and originally theirs may remain a question, but let conscience decide and karma follow, if need be.