Imitation as Flattery or Plagiarism?

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I generally try to use this platform for sharing inspiration, but I felt it was important to share a recent event that was quite disheartening for me. A few months ago, I was approached by an Italian record company about licensing the image above (right) for an album cover for a collaboration of two of Italy’s top-selling artists, Mina and Adriano Celentano.They wanted to use the image (altered to show the artists’ heads superimposed on the original) in wide distribution for all media and promotional purposes. I am often asked to license images for brands and advertising purposes, but am very careful to consider and protect both the integrity of Advanced Style and the individuals involved. The amount of money the record company offered would not have allowed me to fairly compensate the women in addition to giving up the rights for alteration and reproduction of the image in perpetuity. I asked an agent friend of mine to help with negotiating the request, but the company declined our offer and so we decided not to proceed with licensing the image. A few days ago, I was dismayed when I finally saw the cover of Mina and Adriano Celentano’s new album “Le migliori”. The record company had chosen to recreate my original image using their own photographer, down to the specific hats and accessories.I started this project out of my love for my grandmother and couldn’t be more thrilled to see the effect that Advanced Style has had on creating a global movement that is redefining the image of aging. I often see various brands and campaigns taking inspiration from my project, but I have never before been so blatantly plagiarized. I chose to bring this issue to light because of how important I feel it is to respect the work and original ideas of freelance and independent artists, designers, and photographers. It is so frustrating when I see or hear of intellectual property being ripped off by large and powerful companies who have the resources to fight lawsuits.People always say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I am indeed flattered that I was asked to provide the artwork for what will become another best-selling album for Mina and Celentano, but I wish that the company had had the integrity to offer a fair amount for my image, rather than simply disregarding me and hiring another photographer to shoot an almost identical image.Hopefully this will contribute to a bigger conversation on artists’ rights and bring more attention to the creative expression of the men and women I photograph.

  • la Contessa

    I’m S L O W L Y releasing the BAD ITALIAN words I learn when I lived there in TOSCANA in the 90’s.SHAME ON THEM.THis CONTESSA will not be purchasing their album……..I don’t even know who they are if that makes you feel better!BUT I WILL FIND OUT from my SISTER IN LAW who lives in ITALY.
    You have brought up a VERY GOOD POINT!WHAT is wrong with PEOPLE…………….they asked you declined and they did it THEIR WAY!
    Questa non e bene……………

    • Massimo

      Oh, they are just the singers who sold in Italy the highest amount of albums in the last 50 years. Not so famous outside, but, trust me, very VERY known in Italy. Ask every single person in Italy who is Celentano and who is Mina…
      But this is not a good reason to steal an idea in a so bad way…

      • la Contessa

        YOU Misunderstood me VERY ITALIAN MAN!
        The “BAD” words are those words like STRONZA……….and there are a few MORE I can recall.CAPISCO?
        CIAO BELLO!
        ARI’s work is STUNNING.

  • Taste of France

    I agree. At least they contacted you and didn’t just use your image (which happens too much). They weren’t clever enough to do their own thing that would have captured the spirit without being such a ripoff. What is truly sad is that they didn’t just offer you a fair price.

  • Hela B

    Very sad, I doubt the artists that this was created for would appreciate the fact that other artists were ripped off.

  • Marsha @ Splenderosa

    This has been going on from the beginning of time. Hideous. I had a similar thing happen a few years ago, but it was by a FRIEND ( ?? ) who chose to copy an artist’s work even though we had permission to reproduce it; she thought the permission took too long, so just had someone copy it. Same idea. Shameful X10. My son is a commercial photographer, and knows all to well how this can happen. The musicians have had this problem with pirated music, of course. Maybe, send them an angry letter IF they sent you anything in writing? For you, this is especially awful because you are known far & wide by this amazing ladies and your photographs. Do what you can, even if it doesn’t result in anything. Don’t go down without a fight. xx’s Marsha

  • I am sorry to hear about this. What is also very sad is the lack of creativity on their behalf and disrespect from one artist to another.

  • Shameful. You do such gorgeous, distinctive work, and deserve to be compensated for your efforts and your creativity. My only consolation to offer is that if this is how they do business, and how they approach a creative project, maybe they’re not going to be terribly successful. People can sense the inauthentic, and respond appropriately.

  • Stephen O’Donnell

    Very. Bad. I’m sorry to hear about this, Ari. : (

  • moois van ‘ me ‘

    That’s awfull, the fact that they use it for commercialpurposes makes it stealing. I hope you find a way to make thempay for your idea and creativity.

  • sage

    Getting the word out about what they did is a good start. When I knit, sew or cook something that will go out on social media I always credit the person who had the original idea. I was so incensed that someone copied my idea that I copyright all my work before I put it out on social media. This world is in a horrible moral decline. I love your site so please keep posting the pics. I’m starting to hit the age of some of these lovely ladies. I need all the affirmation I can get.

  • Cassandra Hunt

    Ari, your photo has more class and elegance than theirs. Not nice! Shame on them! You just keep on keepin’ on, from your Arizona fan!

  • fragglerock

    I support you. Your integrity is admirable. Thank you and I hope you’ll continue to capture images of the women who redefine how we think of aging.

  • josie Harvey

    You have my support as a fellow photographer and human being! That was not a professional or graceful option they took. Your work is amazing. I feel as though that vision was yours and they could have found an agreement where everyone got what they wanted.

  • Ripsu Hongisto

    Horrible plagiarism, I support you and feel bad for you. But you must know that you are fantastic and your work is outstanding. Thank you – do not give up <3

  • As always you are classy and genuine. I am sorry your image and your message is getting co-opted by those who don’t truly “value” your work. I am as ever impressed with your constant quality of work. Bravo, you.

  • Agnes

    You should sue them! I think you have this right.

  • Harriete Estel Berman

    Copying is theft. One would think that musicians would have more integrity. I suggest you sue the record company. No way can they consider this a compliment or flattery, they stole your photography and vision of photographing these amazing ladies.

    If a person of your stature and visibility doesn’t hold the record company accountable for their actions, what can lesser know artists and makers do. Copycats are a chronic problem in all media. Time to stand up for creative individuals with a vision.

  • Wendy

    This is shocking and terrible. Not just for you Ari, but also for the women who freely and gracefully give their time and wonderful flamboyance to all of us who share your vision. It’s an insult to your integrity and to the integrity of your subjects.

  • Cara

    Yes, blatant rip off of the women who created those outfits! And of your composition. Obviously, considering they contacted you, this was deliberate disregard.
    Take to the net at least to shame them, if you don’t sue them.

  • Mage Bailey

    I am so very sorry.

  • That is so sad! What a shame, and outright plagiarism…

  • annie_on_the_trail

    Idiots. They probably paid the same (or more) to recreate the photo that they could’ve paid you in the first place!

  • Susan Fraser

    Shame on them. Look at it positively and remember Michele Obama’s words “when they go low, we go high”. These poor souls do not have enough artistry between them to create something new, but have to instead build on the fame of others – this speaks volumes about them. Your work will never be equalled, take comfort in that.