Hypercinema - The Molotov Man

Ethics in art and ownership

On the Rights of the Molotov Man - Susan Joy

Reading this article, I realized that I too have seen this man spraypainted on walls and plastered on billboards. His pose and emotion evoke a more recent snapshot; a man throwing back a tear gas grenade during a riot a few years ago.

We are already in such a weird place with copyright; All music is riddled with samples plucked from the strands of another song, snippets of code can be proven patentable. This is not a black-or-white issue, and there is no simple answer. How can we claim ownership over an idea so ethereal and fluid; patent law is terribly complex, and even that has roots in physical products and modes of production.

Neither artist here is completely in the wrong, but neither are they completely in the right as far as I’m concerned. On one hand is the deeply inherent need to create, and be inspired by others. There is no creation in a vacuum, and every creation takes bits and pieces from others. There is also no creation without context; Everything we see and do informs our process, and I agree with the idea that we need to acknowledge the sources of our inspiration.

It’s on the line of ownership and money that things get hazy for me. To have to license something, to defer the right to create (or recreate) your own wonk at the whim of the inspiration’s creator, feels wrong to me. It makes me imagine the chokehold of a corporation, patenting creation after creation, leaving the public bereft of creative expression. The questions remain. How much “copying” is too much? Is acknowledgement enough without direct benefit and support? How much does an artist own of their own work?


September 20, 2021