I came across the work of Alexander Kosolapov this morning, while idly looking around the web for Mickey Mouse pictures to photoshop. I expect everyone in the world apart from me has heard of him. I expect in fact that I have too but have just not remembered the name.
The mix of American advertising and Soviet propaganda is a staple of subvertising (I note that the Wikipedia entry has some as an illustration of the term) but it is good to have a name as an example of it.
What particularly interested me was the story of him being challenged by the Coca-Cola Corporation over use of their trademark in his Lenin Coca-Cola design, which was publicly displayed in NYC in the 80s, and more importantly how the dispute was resolved.
On December 3rd, a man by the name of Jaques Lang who posed as an art enthusiast, invited himself to my studio. After viewing my paintings he abruptly introduced himself as a representative of the Coca-Cola company. He told me that an unauthorized use of Coca-Cola logo can result in a lawsuit against me. I saw that I violated the law. On the other hand these kind of laws were totally alien for me as a person brought up in a different world. But the tone of intimidation employed by my visitor was clearly familiar, reminding me the methods used in my old country. Overcoming the first fright I decided to defend myself. I tried to find a lawyer but soon realized I could not afford one. I was fortunate to have a friendly proposal of Ronald Feldman, who offered me a legal assistance by an attorney, Mr. Gerald Rosen, who defended Chris Berdan arrested by the FBI. Mr. Rosen argued that the Coca Cola is in fact a familiar street sign, which falls in the category of public domain, therefore any artist has the right to utilize it for his/her creative purposes.This is precisely what I have always said about such corporate iconography, and here’s an occasion where it’s been successfully used as a defence. I’d always thought it was just a moral argument, not a legal one.
So, say, to pick an example entirely at random, couldn’t you consider the “trade dress” of the For Dummies books to be part of the public domain, particularly with respect to creative purposes on the web, as they are extremely familiar to book buyers and computer users?