Plagarism and the art school
August 9, 2009 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Samantha Beeston , a young British artist, won the Textprint illustration prize this year. Except she allegedly did it with Lauren Nassef’s work. Since the accusations of plagiarism have come to light – including a fake sketchbook from Beeston – both her website and mention of her award on the Textprint website have mysteriously vanished.
posted by mippy (57 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lauren Nassef must be feeling very "flattered" right now.
posted by Sova at 2:24 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now it will all come down to who can make friends with someone at Boing Boing quicker. Will it be a creative remix of art to fashion being stifled by outdated notions of Intellectual Property or will it be a heinous appropriation of creative work driven by corporate like greed? Tune in for the next episode of Internets got Outrage.
posted by srboisvert at 2:29 AM on August 9, 2009 [28 favorites]


Edgar Martins heaves a sigh of relief.
posted by the cuban at 2:53 AM on August 9, 2009


Seems like Samantha Beeston has been unpublished. It's a little odd. The group shot has six people, but only 5 profiles, so I guess the girl right between Ruth Davis and Martha Steadman (below Hollie Maloney) is Samantha Beeston.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 AM on August 9, 2009


this is terrible, but sparse quirky line drawing seems pretty ubiquitous amongst the trendy these days, i wonder how many plagiarists get away with it by copying more cleverly.
posted by doobiedoo at 4:03 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


@srboiisvert -
Re: boing boing
I think it will be an announced (every day in about 20 posts) tour by cory doctorow who will discuss Lauren Nasseff's Images and how they relate to his next book project on some utterly inane post-whatever, cyber..., cultural manifestation, and his childhood dreams of being a cereal box figure but live with sooper powers, and ain't-I-banking-from-spouting-truckloads-of-cow-manure?
posted by hooptycritter at 4:28 AM on August 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


to his next book project on some utterly inane post-whatever, cyber...

...paper craft?
posted by fire&wings at 5:00 AM on August 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


...so I guess the girl right between Ruth Davis and Martha Steadman (below Hollie Maloney) is Samantha Beeston.

Well, there's also a photo of her in the 'accusations of plagiarism link' which is a good summary there you can also see that she pretty much duplicated Nassef's work. How she thought she could get away with this - I have no idea.
posted by vacapinta at 5:13 AM on August 9, 2009


I'm not sure why anyone would be surprised by this. It's like we live in a culture, now, that glorifies the appropriation of other's work, rather than doing your own original work.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


i code and run a photo sharing website, and we had a user who was uploading absolutely awesome pictures of trains, day after day. some time goes by and one day we get a request for deletion with someone saying this user stole their picture. then another one. then 5 more. i confronted the user and got this as a reply:

"Take my account down - most of the pics are mine. But the temptation was there. I caved in to it. I am arrogant and disingenuous."

with some research i found that not only was he posting stolen photos on our site, but photo.net, flickr, myspace, etc, etc. he also entered a photo into a contest and won! very strange behavior. when people would comment on his photos on our site, he would pretend he took them, saying things like 'this shot was really hard to get', 'the train conductor was looking at me weird when i took this pic'.
posted by Mach5 at 5:39 AM on August 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


we live in a culture, now, that glorifies the appropriation of other's work

I'm sure Beeston truly thought that after all the tracing and pasting, she deserved credit for her meticulous work.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:41 AM on August 9, 2009


I don't know if it's Metafilter, which has become PlagiarismFilter of late, or the culture at large, or what. Who is raising these people? Where are they going to school? What are they learning in school?
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:51 AM on August 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's like we live in a culture, now, that glorifies the appropriation of other's work, rather than doing your own original work.

Oh, please. There is fucking no one in the "copyright laws really need to be revised to allow for a somewhat more expansive artistic use of other artist's work" camp who would think this is ok. Beeston acted bizarrely and unfairly here; using her to tar folks working to expand copyright law is even more bizarre and unfair.

And I'm not sure I see any conspiracy of silence at Textprint. Yet. Some sort of acknowledgment of the accusations would have been better with the removal (precisely to nip the kind of "ooh! they're trying to hide their mistake!" stuff) but the accusations just surfaced Tuesday. Give them at least a couple of days to get to the bottom of it and it's the weekend. Let's give them until Monday to come up with a 'shocked & outraged' statement before we slam them for Stalinist whitewashing, ok?

And you know, I don't care much for BoingBoing, but the knees jerking here are really ugly.
posted by mediareport at 6:14 AM on August 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


I have absolutely no understanding, whatsoever, of how someone can stand before a camera accepting a prize for something they know they didn't actually create. At least Sherrie Levine did it with some style.
posted by cthuljew at 6:20 AM on August 9, 2009


From pictures Beeston looks really young, 20–22?

So hypothetically...she's in design school, the pressure gets to her. Maybe she's going through some personal shit. She gets creative block. Important Deadline approaches. She makes a stupid decision. Before long she's praised for things that aren't hers; she graduates and starts getting work she really isn't competent or creative enough to do on her own.

Pretty hard to dismount the hamster wheel in full spin. But of course she knew she was on borrowed time.

She knows all about the powers of the Google—how she plagiarized in the first place. And she's generation "Copy; right." So now her small world burns to the ground, anonymous designistas call her "bitch" and "whore" (I saw this in the comments on sites writing about it).

Yeah, it's dishonest and stupid but seriously, while I never plagiarized after age 15–16 (couple of school essays *shameface*), I did much stupider shit when I was her age. Like people-could've-fucking-died stupider. But it was never indexed and cached for the entire world forever (thank Cthulhu).

Hope you learn an important lesson, Beeston. Good luck.
posted by Glee at 6:25 AM on August 9, 2009 [19 favorites]


And you know, I don't care much for BoingBoing, but the knees jerking here are really ugly.

This is the Internet. Knees don't jerk- they spasm so violently and repeatedly that a large part of the health care bill for the next fifty years will likely be hip replacement surgery.

As to the question of copyright laws and artistic use of another's work and whatnot, I find that (as in many other concepts where laws are written and applied) that the line between 'artistic appropriation' and 'plagiarism' is often obvious to a person, but painfully difficult to articulate in such a way as to write a law about it.

This case seems to be obvious; it will be instructive to see what the law makes of it, should the law become involved.
posted by Pragmatica at 6:31 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am with Glee on this. Plagiarism of this nature is such a pathetic crime.
posted by Xoebe at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2009


I'm betting oodles of accomplished artists plagiarized over the past 20-30 years and got away with it. Specialties and trades being really tightly networked socially, with full of access to all kinds of nifty databases, hasn't really blossomed until the past couple of years. Now we have not only that but watchdog sites. I guess this is a good omen for those of us who care about honesty and integrity. The real question is how much will people really care about these things, aside from train wreck entertainment and background checks.
posted by crapmatic at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2009


So hypothetically...she's in design school, the pressure gets to her. Maybe she's going through some personal shit. She gets creative block. Important Deadline approaches. She makes a stupid decision. Before long she's praised for things that aren't hers; she graduates and starts getting work she really isn't competent or creative enough to do on her own.

Alternatively, she's been doing it in some form or another all her life. I'd prefer the above, but if it's the latter, it's a long time coming.
posted by Atreides at 7:00 AM on August 9, 2009


I don't know if it's Metafilter, which has become PlagiarismFilter of late, or the culture at large, or what. Who is raising these people? Where are they going to school? What are they learning in school?

posted by fourcheesemac at 5:51 AM on August 9
Maybe it's just easier to detect these days where anyone can quickly link to and compare other people's intellectual property online... although, by the same measure, plagiarists also have a greater amount of material to appropriate.

I believe school/college students of all ages are now subjected to having their homework/assignments run through pattern recognition routines to detect the traces of Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v 'research' too.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 7:11 AM on August 9, 2009


> both her website and mention of her award on the Textprint website have mysteriously vanished.

I wouldn't say 'mysteriously', as such things go. 'Curiously', maybe. Or 'self-implicatingly', as awkward as it sounds. Or 'guiltily'.
posted by ardgedee at 7:36 AM on August 9, 2009


Remember, kids: copyright infringement is still your best entertainment value.
posted by item at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I did an academic degree - just before students were almost expected to have a laptop in every room - and there were oposters everywhere on plagarism. This was only a few years ago. With art, though, I guess it's the argument of influence when it comes to art.

My favourite quote from the comments was:

@But lauren should take it as a complement in some ways as she now knows that her work is good enough to win awards and could gain her a high marked degree from a very good school.@
posted by mippy at 8:19 AM on August 9, 2009


A while back some freinds of mine who ru a small press anthology comic found a price of art they really liked on Deviant Art, asked the artists permission and used it as the cover for an issue of their comic. Only once the thing is printed they got a very annoyed email from the actual artist wanting them to stop using it - it turned out the guy on deviantart was some scammy little fucker who'd stitched them right up.

In the end they managed to replace the coverers without reprinting the entire run, but it was embarassing and a huge hassle for them, not to mention making them look like theives.

what I don't get is what the deviant art guy got out of it - there wasn't any money in it and as soon as the cover image was out he was sure to be discovered.
posted by Artw at 8:28 AM on August 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Atreides: Alternatively, she's been doing it in some form or another all her life. I'd prefer the above, but if it's the latter, it's a long time coming.

True, who knows. At least Beeston insta-killed her personal site, so we can surmise she understands something's wrong.

Had it been a respected veteran with 20+ years of excellence in her field: "stone the heretic!"-ish. But an up-and-comer around 20 years of age...even if it turns out Beeston only has lying-bones where her creative-bones ought to be I'd have a time getting too worked up about it. The original artists are being found, credit is going where credit is due.

Like Xoebe wrote, it feels pretty pathetic. A bit sad even: what could be the answer to cthuljew's thought about "how someone can stand before a camera accepting a prize for something they know they didn't actually create"? On top of that the shitstorm Beeston's in right now, at the start of her professional career she maybe shouldn't even have.

JustAsItSounds: Maybe it's just easier to detect these days where anyone can quickly link to and compare other people's intellectual property online... although, by the same measure, plagiarists also have a greater amount of material to appropriate.

Yea, and with online tools like TinEye anyone can suss out the copiez/originalz of almost anything (for small subsets of almost anything).


Weird, I found myself paying a lot of attention to attribution posting in this thread. What a fucking hassle. Beeston: I'm with you, good artists steal amirite?!
posted by Glee at 8:29 AM on August 9, 2009


> what I don't get is what the deviant art guy got out of it - there wasn't any money in it

Swiping others' work and touting it as your own is padding your portfolio, mostly. Which might still not make sense, especially if it's getting you commissions you can't fulfill because you can't draw as well as the material you swiped. But some artists are impatient and morally slack rather than untalented, and can still create when money's on the line.

> Yea, and with online tools like TinEye anyone can suss out the copiez/originalz of almost anything (for small subsets of almost anything).

It can spot images that are duplicates of each other, but I'd be skeptical of software that claims it can tell which artist holds the original.
posted by ardgedee at 8:44 AM on August 9, 2009


"Good artists copy great artists steal"
– Picaso

I guess that makes her both good and great. Well done.
posted by qwip at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is the Internet. Knees don't jerk- they spasm so violently and repeatedly that a large part of the health care bill for the next fifty years will likely be hip replacement surgery."

Oh, I am so using that.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2009


I'm fine with appropriation (even unauthorized appropriation), but i think it should be obvious as part of the work that it's appropriated, and that the sources are properly credited. This is just someone claiming someone else's work as her own.
posted by empath at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Appropriation should always be from The Man.
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it me or does the "art work" look like it came off of a 1970s bottle of Herbal Essence shampoo?
posted by codswallop at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's a bit twee.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Good artists copy great artists steal"
– Picaso


Funny... I thought the quote was "bad artists copy, good artists steal."

Or is it just me?
posted by MissNefertiti at 11:13 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought the quote was "bad artists copy, good artists steal."

Fwiw, WikiQuotes mentions "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." under unsourced quotations, and points to a very similar (and sourced) quote by T. S. Eliot:
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.
T. S. Eliot, in Philip Massinger, in The Sacred Wood (1920)
posted by effbot at 11:29 AM on August 9, 2009


Talent borrows, genius steals - Oscar Wilde

(also scratched on the run out groove of Bigmouth Strikes Again, iirc)
posted by the cuban at 11:41 AM on August 9, 2009


how someone can stand before a camera accepting a prize for something they know they didn't actually create

This happens in business all the time, unfortunately. But since most companies require you to sign away your rights at hiring time, there's nothing you can do about it. That being said, Samantha Beeston is not Lauren Nassef’s boss is she?
posted by tommasz at 11:48 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


» Is it me or does the "art work" look like it came off of a 1970s bottle of Herbal Essence shampoo?

Ha! In 15 years, Samantha Beeston's tween daughter Essencia will blatantly rip off David Rees and publish fantastically obscene, queer comic strips about pro-war Jamba-drinking art-thief terrorists using nothing but 70s shampoo bottle designs copy (it'll be 5th gen. retro by then).

Her mother, Samantha, the ostracised twee design textile thief, will be scandalized to learn people are eating Essencia's shit up and loving it.
posted by Glee at 12:15 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really don't think her age excuses her.
posted by kathrineg at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2009 [2 favorites]




"Good artists copy great artists steal"
– Picaso

I guess that makes her both good and great. Well done.


Yeah, but she failed to steal successfully, since no-one is arguing she's superceeded the original.
posted by rodgerd at 2:32 PM on August 9, 2009


Many (many) years ago I used to make pop promos. I had a showreel of some of my work, and a job at a production company. Then one day the boss gets me in his office and shows me the reel of an up and coming director they've just been sent, and there it was, one of my videos, right in the middle of his reel, only he'd credited himself as having made it.

The clip had been shot before I joined the company but luckily I was easily able to prove to my boss that it was me who had shot it not this jerk. We then tried several times to get in touch with him again, but I guess he must have found out I was working there because he never once answered any emails we sent to him.

I sometimes wonder if he ever got any work on the strength of my video on his reel, and every time I think about it it kind of pisses me off, but then I think back to exactly how much work that video got me and I think his chances must have been negligable.

I did have a reason for posting this story when I started but for the life of me I can't remember what it was now, so, er, this is just to say I've been Beestoned in the past.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:45 PM on August 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


What's astounding is the sheer volume of her theft. More than 50 images. Her entire sketchbook was ripped off.

Absurd. And youth is no excuse for this sort of plagiarism.
posted by dejah420 at 2:48 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I laughed at Thorzdad's snark, but he's horribly wrong. A correct analogy is "plagiarism" equals "stealing", while "copyright infringement" equals "library use". I think the clever web citizens quite uniformly identify & disparage plagiarists, like say ebaums world, but encourage extremely broad fair use, like youtube, blogs, mefi, etc.

It's quite simple really, plagiarism means obfuscating the chain of content, ideas, & influences, i.e. not giving citations, links, etc. A plagiarist both robs the creator of any avenue to profit and robs the consumer of natural avenues to further works, while copyright infringement merely means the creator to consider more indirect routes to profit.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:09 PM on August 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it will be an announced (every day in about 20 posts) tour by cory doctorow who will discuss Lauren Nasseff's Images and how they relate to his next book project on some utterly inane post-whatever, cyber..., cultural manifestation, and his childhood dreams of being a cereal box figure but live with sooper powers, and ain't-I-banking-from-spouting-truckloads-of-cow-manure?

That's the way it should have begun... but it's hopeless!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:22 PM on August 9, 2009


Honestly, I doubt anybody would have been tremendously offended by what she did if she had said -- hey i found these really cool sketches online and decided to make some wallpaper patterns out of them!

Of course, she wouldn't have won a whole bunch of awards, then.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is really common to have one's showreel pieces show up on other's showreels. I am a very long time video and film editor and visual effects specialist and I cannot tell you how many times I have screened a "demo" or showreel only to find work on it in which the person the reel allegedly represented had had no role whatsoever.
posted by bz at 3:55 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


no, really boing boing shits ginourmous rainbows, complete with leprechauns holding pots of gold - every time. Their farts fire out gold pirate dubloons. Just ask them. They made the original go-to internet site. DARPA folks lie.
....hard time typing...knee jerking uncontrollably... nah, just some good porn.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:11 PM on August 9, 2009


Am I the only one who thinks the art in question isn't actually all that worth getting riled up about?

Yea, I know, there was intellectual property theft going on and intellectual property theft is ALWAYS bad, but geez. This stuff won awards?
posted by SkylitDrawl at 5:15 PM on August 9, 2009


koff koff Richard Prince anyone?
posted by Magnakai at 5:58 PM on August 9, 2009


Am I the only one who thinks the art in question isn't actually all that worth getting riled up about?

No. I mean, if your goal was just do do 1 drawing each day, for practice, and this is what you produced it might be a good way to increase your skills, but as art this stuff is terrible. I don't get this hipster celebration of mediocrity style at all.
posted by delmoi at 8:00 PM on August 9, 2009


Delmoi,

Lauren Nassef's drawings aren't terrible. They aren't my style, but they are well executed for what they are, which is imagery with a specific look and feel geared toward illustrative work. She's an illustrator, not a fine artist, and I think it's rather unfair to judge her work as stand-alone art. Check out the illustration portfolio links on her site- her work integrates well with the graphic design it's been incorporated into. She's not a great "artist", but she's a solid illustrator.

And yeah, I can't imagine how anyone could live with themselves if they routinely traced other people's work and then claimed it as their own.
See also: Sam Flores
posted by stagewhisper at 9:07 PM on August 9, 2009


I don't believe Beeson should be given a pass for her age, even in this modern area of visual sampling, recasting, and re-imaging. Even if somehow, she managed to get through school and interactions with other designers and artists without a discussion of ownership and responsibility and artistic creation (which I doubt), the fact that she cobbled together her designs from illustrations from one source that she only slightly modified should have given her pause. The fact that she traced or duplicated the originals and adhered to the original artist's designs and lines instead of trying to draw or recreate the images by hand should have given her pause. The fact that she was using someone else's style as her calling card (iconography and motifs on her website design, much of the content of her portfolio) when she would be expected to illustrate new things in that style (for which there may not be images she could borrow) should have given her pause.

My guess is that she's gotten away with this before and hasn't been caught because she's been utilizing content from what she thinks will be obscure talents not familiar to her professors. I also suspect she was encouraged to enter "her" illustrations in the competition and couldn't figure out how to say no to her professor/instructor/encourager without revealing her theft.

To be fair, I should point out that people have stolen credit for illustrations, written content, and full-fledged user interfaces that I've created (and/or the work itself), so I'm not neutral on this point.
posted by julen at 10:11 PM on August 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't get this hipster celebration of mediocrity style at all.

No, you get off my lawn.
posted by setanor at 10:26 PM on August 9, 2009


No, you get off my lawn.

Is that really your lawn? Looks an awful lot like my lawn.
posted by maxwelton at 11:21 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't believe Beeson should be given a pass for her age,

Me neither. What, is "early twenties" the new infancy or something? Half of you sound like a bunch of prematurely geriatric baby boomers mumbling into your rest-home mush that anyone under the age of sixty isn't really an adult.
posted by rodgerd at 1:27 AM on August 10, 2009


Richard Prince wasn't trying to make us believe that the Marlboro ad, etc. were his original creations. Beeston stole Nassef's work and entered it in a competition as her own. This is not about the quality of Nassef's work but about theft and ethics.
Richard Prince's "irony" bores me.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:50 AM on August 10, 2009


I also suspect she was encouraged to enter "her" illustrations in the competition and couldn't figure out how to say no to her professor/instructor/encourager without revealing her theft.

"Professor, can I speak with you privately? I am really ashamed of myself, but I need to tell you that I can't enter that competition because a lot of the work you want me to enter was actually copied from another artist. I'm so sorry, I don't know what I was thinking, but it just kind of got out of my control. I went and looked up the school's plagiarism policy and I know that it's "zero tolerance" but I really hope we'll be able to resolve this, work out a disciplinary action, and get me back on track so I can stay and get my degree."
posted by nax at 5:47 AM on August 10, 2009


As my old boss Wally Wood used to say, "Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up."
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:43 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


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