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Google takes down Miro image

Google's Miro logo
A representative of the family of Spanish surrealist Joan Miro asked Google to remove the art from its homepage today.

Google's homepage carried an image containing elements of several of Miro works. Theodore Feder, president of Artists Rights Society, which represents the Miro family, said: ``There are underlying copyrights to the works of Miro, and they are putting it up without having the rights.''

In a written statement to the Mercury News (see Merc story), Google said that it would honor the request but that it did not believe its logo was a copyright violation.

We, too, post thumbnail images at SiliconBeat, and in the cases where copyright appears to be a concern, we've have been told it is ok as long as we give a credit line and/or a link to the original source where possible. Arguably, this Google homepage logo space is more than a thumbnail image. It is a space where Google's world famous -- and one of the most valuable -- brand logos usually sits. But the Miro art was a compilation of several elements of his work, which Google might have felt was a safer bet. Yet the family is claiming it amounts to a "distortion" of Miro's art. If we had to choose sides on this, we'd pick Google's, even if we believe strongly in supporting the integrity of an artists' work.

What do you guys think? There are no doubt many among you who work at Internet companies that deal with images. And many venture capitalists who invest in such companies.

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Copyright is copyright, even Google has to play by the rules. "If we had to choose sides on this, we'd pick Google's..."

Uhh, based on what? Their creation or amalgamation of Miro's work is somehow benefiting him, the creator and copyright owner? Does Google pay you to write this stuff?

J on April 20, 2006 5:25 PM
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I'm surprised that a graphic that obviously wasn't created by Joan Miro and that is intended to celebrate Miro's work is a copyright violation. Isn't that fair use?

Maybe it isn't. I'm not a lawyer. But as a human being I think it makes the Artists Rights Society and Miro's family look like greedy jerks.

Michael on April 20, 2006 5:44 PM
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Probably would have taken it down too (is it really that big of a deal to fight?), but sided with Google in saying wasn't copyright violation, i.e, was far enough removed from original, at least according to what I've read. I haven't looked at the original "elements" that were combined in this collage, but parodies and other plays off originals have been fair game before, so why not in this case?

Matt Marshall on April 20, 2006 6:17 PM
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Arguably, it does benefit the Miro estate by raising the profile of the artist, perhaps making future auctions and licensing agreements more valuable.

Albert Cheng on April 20, 2006 6:26 PM
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I have to agree with Albert Cheng on this. For many people including me, Miro was unknown until I went to google this morning. So it does help Miro estate and I don't know what the fuss is about.

There is an interesting implication of violating copyright online, atleast in this case. Just take it down. Is it as simple as that ? HOw does one prove that the copyright violation indeed happen this morning ?

anon on April 20, 2006 6:49 PM
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I agree with Albert Cheng, too. This was a one-time opportunity to educate millions of people about Miro - why blow it?

Pete Cashmore on April 20, 2006 6:59 PM
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So help me understand: they're getting free exposure on one of the world's most popular website, which will surely raise awareness of the artist and his work (from which they will no doubt benefit), and they complain about it?

Remove the link, they don't deserve it! I've always thought that Surrealism was somewhat overrated; glad to see Miro's family thinks the same...

vincent on April 20, 2006 7:01 PM
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It seems like the artist involved created his or her own original work by combining different aspects of existing works by Miro. Essentially, a Miro mash-up. It was not copied and there was work and skill required for its creation. For a variety of reasons I do not think that they would have a case. It seems like more of a cultural conflict than a copyright problem. The art world, for all its creativity, is a very traditional industry and I am sure that the caretakers of the Miro name did not know how to react to the otherwise well-intended move by Google. My guess is that the problem arose from the form and not the substance, i.e. if Google had contacted them beforehand, perhaps they would not have reacted this way. It is kind of sad when you think about it because if even one new person was introduced to Miro's work, it would have been worth it. Hard to imagine this being against the wishes or Miro or any other artist.

Simon on April 20, 2006 7:12 PM
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This was the first time I heard of Joan Miro and I am sure a lot of folks would have clicked on the images to know more. Others would die to have their name on google home page!!

Nihar on April 20, 2006 8:15 PM
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I know that I clicked on the images early this morning before they were taken down and I learned quite a bit. I think that threatening Google and forcing them to take it down was a bad move.

Starky on April 20, 2006 8:37 PM
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Many people feel Google has become greedy and arrogant. The two founders buy a 757 for their use. Companies that are unfairly penalized in their search engine rankings have no recourse. Google䴜s very business model rests on re-indexing the work of others for which they usually don䴜t pay, whether it䴜s website content, satellite imagery, or whatever. I give Google credit for being awesome technologists and having a brilliant model. But maybe what we䴜re seeing is a reaction to perceived arrogance on Google䴜s part. As a matter of common courtesy, most people probably would have contacted Miro first--even if it's not required legally. I'll bet Google did not.

Bob on April 20, 2006 8:40 PM
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Thank-you Google for the education in art. Copyright?, give me a break. Just more heirs earning $$ on what they DIDN'T do.

Steve on April 20, 2006 10:27 PM
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I don't see anything wrong with Google's work of "art". As other have remarked it is again a question of people seemingly trying to gain attention trying to protect what they had never created. This copyright/patent crap has gone far enough. Come on, give people a break. Google is paying the price for, after all, becoming Google. Hope they continue their creative spirit.

Anand on April 20, 2006 10:53 PM
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You have missed the point, Google was successfully sued by Perfect 10, a few months back, because Perfect 10 proved in court its online photo sales were hurt by Google䴜s image site at the same time Google profited from Google Ads while showing their thumbnail photos. The trail is now in damage award state and once completed will set precedence for other similar photo sharing site using similar practices. Once authors see the damage award given to Perfect 10 many other suits will follow, this is only the beginning. We saw this trend approaching and was the basis and business model for starting www.spymedia.com which systematically polices author rights and allows legal commerce for user generated photos.

Tom Quinn on April 21, 2006 12:49 AM
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well... copyright violation or not - which i dont think anyone here is a well reputed copyright lawyer - the link (as usual google style) probably linked to a google search for this artist. im gonna say that this link probably introduced about 23423423423421234 people to an artist who they otherwise would have never even known existed. yeah - people like me. but after reading this, i kinda think that these people are more about making money on art that they didnt create (and im not talking about the logo, im talking about the artists actual works) rather than actually doing something positive for the arts.

tell me ... what ever happened to karma? did he leave the building? i wanted to ask him if he could get anyone in that family involved with this to fall into a wood chipper... feet first... :) im a mean spirited son of a bitch - but hey, at least ill be useful when (if) america ever falls into another civil war.... :) :) wheres my shotguns at...

Frank J. Mattia on April 21, 2006 1:15 AM
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For real??

So who's going to tell me that our entire society isn't based on syntheses of past creations? When does "influenced by" become "copyright violation"?

It's such a shame that people's greed can still surprise me.

Cole on April 21, 2006 1:51 AM
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Let's not forget the Google is a COMPANY. Stealing an artist's work and using it to sell more products is outrageous.

"choose sides on this, we'd pick Google's" What kind of comment is that? ...it really comes across as SB not being objective.

If google had a Harry Potter doodle without paying J. K. Rowling, would you still be on Google's side? What is the difference?

toby on April 21, 2006 4:52 AM
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The Miro family should realise the extra awareness having Google feature his work on their homepage brings. Plenty of us neophytes who have no idea who Miro was until we saw it on Google and went looking.

And for free, no exhibit costs, no advertising costs. Very shortsighted and petty of the Miro family IMO.

Paul Watson on April 21, 2006 5:00 AM
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"Stealing an artist's work and using it to sell more products is outrageous."

Let me get this straight: On the one hand, we have Miro, a less-than-obscure-but-not-so-famous 20th c. painter, of whom I'd say 90% of Google's users have never heard until yesterday (I am an art afficionado, and only heard of Miro a few years ago, when I visited the Guggenheim). On the other we have Google, one of the best known websites in the world, which is NOT selling a thing on its home page (where the Miro logo appeared). See where one might see the trouble with this logic?

Megan on April 21, 2006 7:15 AM
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Perhaps it is less of a copyright issue and more of an issue of etiquette and respect for the artist. Probably no one from Google consulted the Mir— family and they felt offended. They probably would have liked to had some say in what was presented as a "Mir—" object (the Google logo -Mir—-ized). I am just speculating. However, don't you agree that it would be a typical corpoate American haughtiness and insensitivity to the rest of the world if they did not first consult and make some communication to the foundation before making such a universal statement by their voice alone? The protocol might have been violated here.

vanjulio on April 21, 2006 7:48 AM
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La famil’a de MIRO deber’a de sentirse alagada y no tomarse las cosas como lo que no son.
!!!!!!Ay mi Espa–a!!!!!!

Manolo on April 21, 2006 8:06 AM
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Miro? Bah!

(actually folks, maybe the Miro folks would be cool with Google doing it, but not every other Tom, Dick, and Harry. To keep their costs low while still protecting their rights, they -- unfortunately in this case -- needed to put a clamp on Google.)

Salvador Dali on April 21, 2006 8:35 AM
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I am a fan of Miro and even have some framed posters. A friend of mine has signed Miro prints.

Some people do not like his work, some love it. Regardless of how you feel, I'm astonished that his family got upset that Google was paying a tribute to the man and his work.

Adam Brown on April 21, 2006 9:08 AM
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it seems rather darn stupid to have such a prominent pointer to miro's work removed by those that try to honour his work and further its appeal and appreciation.

jh on April 21, 2006 9:53 AM
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Doing a pastiche in some artist's style isn't copyright violation. I sometimes draw Miro-esque doodles in my notebooks, and somehow I don't think this makes me an intellectual property thief.

catlebrity on April 21, 2006 12:12 PM
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I think that the family should be happy that Google wanted to honor him. I'm not sure if they took exact elements from his art work, which they shouldn't have done, but he created an entire genre of artwork, which has been replicated time and again (and sold!). Either way, I think the family has made a bigger fuss out of this than needed.

Robbie on April 21, 2006 12:38 PM
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This art amounts to a fair quotation, plain and simple, which is permitted by copyright laws. Google should have hired a better lawyer.

Yuri Ammosov on April 21, 2006 1:20 PM
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To maintain a copyright the holder has to defend it, or it will lapse. I suspect the family (?) felt the need to go through the motion and Google just decided not to make a stink of it even if what they did was probably fair use.

Sven on April 21, 2006 2:00 PM
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The question of whether the logo benefitted Miro's estate is not the point. The mere fact that they requsted it to be taken down says a lot about what motivates them. The question is whether Google did this in violation of copyright law, or basic etiquette in asking permission for such a thing.

What do you think would happen if Google did this on dead celebrities b-days -- like for example maybe a collage of Elvis Presley photos on his b-day, or compiling other works of art (film, media, music) into their logo? To be sure, they'd be in a lot of trouble ...

J on April 21, 2006 2:09 PM
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I knew who Mir—ÊáÁ was and I liked his work. The google design made me smile in tribute to the man and I dind?t think for a moment that it interfered with the artist?s creativity, work, property rights or anything of the sort. I think the family has the right to interpret this as it wishes, but by choosing to reject it, are denying people the knowledge of the artist and his fans the opportunity to remember him.

Carmen on April 21, 2006 4:35 PM
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It's no different than Marky Mark taking the song "Under Pressure" by David Byrne and David Bowie and using elements of it for his song "Ice Ice Baby." It was blatant copyright law because it was done WITHOUT PERMISSION of the original artist who created the work. Copyrights are hard to enforce, but in this case, I wholeheartedly agree with the artist for asking Google to take it down. And to their credit, Google complied and hopefully apologized. The last thing we need is some big corporation, in this case Google, to think they are above basic copyright law when it comes to using images. They are not.


weegee on April 21, 2006 9:41 PM
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It's no different than Marky Mark taking the song "Under Pressure" by David Byrne and David Bowie and using elements of it for his song "Ice Ice Baby." It was blatant copyright law because it was done WITHOUT PERMISSION of the original artist who created the work. Copyrights on the net are hard to enforce, but in this case, I wholeheartedly agree with the artist for asking Google to take it down. And to their credit, Google complied and hopefully apologized. The last thing we need is some big corporation, in this case Google, to think they are above basic copyright law when it comes to using images. They are not.


weegee on April 21, 2006 9:42 PM
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It is appalling to see how obsessed with money everyone is. Anyone with ANY sort of artistic inclination would appreciate the gesture made by Google to honour an artist that they admire. All this copyright nonsense takes the focus away from the ART, and turns it into a mere PRODUCT. Miro's family ought to be ashamed.

En on April 22, 2006 2:08 AM
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I've looked over the three Miro artworks which the Mercury-News reported were claimed as the source of the Google Miro logo (available on the net, by the way). There is only general sense of similarity, and NO actual copying (with the posible exception of a single asterisk-like star).

This seems to be an attempt by the Miro copyright owners to wheedle extra money. Very much a matter of business over art.

R. Shaw on April 22, 2006 10:30 PM
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If you ask me, this seems like another instance of the use of "intellectual property" as a tool for enforcing the will of the greedy on the rest of us. Unfortunately, this has become a rather common practice.

Recommended reading: http://www.eff.org (Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting "us" from greedy people. The site contains quite a bit of information about copyright and patent law abuse among other things.)

Me Myself on April 23, 2006 3:13 AM
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From J: "What do you think would happen if Google did this on dead celebrities b-days...To be sure, they'd be in a lot of trouble..."

Absolutely. For instance, if they put up doodles that were clearly in the style of Monet, Picasso, Warhol, Piet Mondrian, MC Escher, Michaelangelo, da Vinci, van Gogh, and Frank Lloyd Wright, there would be a big stink about it, right?

I was one of the many, many people that had never heard of the artist before I clicked on the doodle, and I am simply appalled that Google had the audacity educate me without consent of the family.

P.S. The only way that Google would make money from doodles is if you to go to a sponsored link after you click on one of their doodles, which I'm quite certain they don't force you to do.

UC on April 23, 2006 7:24 AM
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This was very short sighted of the Miro family - This act of Google would have introduced the Artists to literally MILLIONS and an entire new generation.

Sometimes it is counterproductive to be so focussed on ideas that that larger picture is not understood.

Also, Google does add a hypelink to those logos, to related SERPs, thus helping even further to publicize the Artist's legacy.

Search Engines WEB on May 6, 2006 8:45 PM
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Hey Weegee,

It was Vanilla Ice, not Marky Mark. If you approximate more than 10% of a song you must have permission, otherwise you don't need it.

Cole on May 7, 2006 4:58 AM
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First, my understanding is that some elements are copied, but more so, this is clearly a derivative work --> pt to Miro.

Second, this hardly passes a fair use test - it is for commercial purposes, and it is not a parody. Imagine if they we're paying tribute to FIFA and didn't pay for the logo rights. If google wanted to pay tribute they could have and should have coordinated it with the family.

Third, someones personal ignorance of Miro is no defense for google. Miro is arguably one of the most important painters in the last 200 years - if you can afford Miro's works you know who he is. Miro died with a deep cultural legacy, who knows what google will be in 10 years. Would it be OK if Malborough payed a tribute to Miro in their logo? Hustler? I mean, more people would know about Miro...

Not fair use, derivative work on June 9, 2006 8:14 AM
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