Miami Artist Busted For Stealing When Photographer Spots Copied Images On Sale at Scope UPDATE

Categories: Crime
And here are Killen's pieces:

via Jason Levesque's Facebook page
Within hours, Fontaine's gallery got wind of the accusations. Fontaine said he didn't even bother to call Miranda to hear his side of the tale.

"There was no reason to contact him," Fontaine says. "I'm going to put his stuff in a box and he can come pick it up if he wants to."

Levesque says Miranda did send him a message yesterday. The artist apologized, but called his work a "tribute" -- an explanation that didn't sit well.

"A Beatles cover band calls themselves a Beatles cover band," he says. "Even if my name had been on there, it still would have been a problem, but he kept the source work a secret."

Levesque's posts have blown up. His initial Facebook post has attracted more than 200 comments and shares, and a Reddit post on the theft has earned almost 500 upvotes.

The one positive from the affair, Fontaine and Levesque agree, is how it demonstrates the self-policing power of the artistic community online.

"The art world polices itself, and that's what's happening here. It's great," says Fontaine. "This is someone copying another contemporary artist, another peer, someone parallel in that career tract with him. That's just ridiculous."

Levesque says that's why he ultimately decided to call out Miranda on the web. Too many artists look down on photography as a medium open to outright theft, he says.

"I know for a fact a lot of those painters don't think of the photography as art," he says. "They see it as raw material. Look as this photo, I could make it art. They don't realize everything that went into that composition, or think through what they're doing."

As for Miranda, he's all but disappeared online, with his Facebook profile erased and his gallery listing scrubbed from Fontaine's site. Riptide left a message on his cell phone to hear his side of the story, but he hasn't responded. If we hear back we'll update the post.

Levesque says he hopes Miranda learns from the experience and doesn't stop painting.

"I sent him a note back and ... told him I sincerely hope you can pick up a camera and shoot your own reference material," he says. "You have talent. Done the right way you'll have no problem. I really do hope that works out for him."

Update: In an interview with Riptide, Miranda didn't deny lifting Levesque and Killen's images off the Internet. Instead, he called his paintings "homages" to the photographs.

"I didn't steal these images," he says. "My only mistake was not giving the original artists credit. I've now spoken to them and apologized to them. We came to the agreement that I have to take everything down and destroy it, which is exactly what I'm going to do."

He said the controversy, including an outpouring of anger online, had "damaged his life."

"Now everything is all fucked up," Miranda said. "I don't have a gallery. I don't have a job. I don't have any way to make money ... Now nobody wants to buy my work, even though most of it isn't a copy of anything. I'm not a millionaire! I live in a tiny little room and people think that I'm some famous millionaire. It's not the case."

He continued: "People are cursing me online, wishing I were dead. In my series there is no specification because it's not a projection of 'my work.' There are millions of piece of art in the world by millions of artists. Yes, I made a mistake by not giving the original artists credit, but those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. It's art."

Staff writer Michael E. Miller contributed to this report.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.
My Voice Nation Help
29 comments
shinyfluff
shinyfluff

weird. With the change in social mores (and copyright!) to accommodate music sampling and the use of iconic images in street art, the line seems blurred as to whether this is outright theft or just image appropriation and refinement. Personally, I like the paintings way more but that doesn't change the fact that the original artist was upset and that he feels robbed.

OhGeeMack
OhGeeMack

Sounds like a great opportunity to start fresh and use this experience as inspiration for a new piece. It would be an interesting story to tell on canvas.

fashify
fashify

I wonder if anyone has ever copied my work.

I'm probably not that popular yet :)

Bernie_Bernstein
Bernie_Bernstein

Unless its on black velvet or shows dogs playing poker - its NOT art!

Bernie_Bernstein
Bernie_Bernstein

They are both a pair of no talent bums. Don't quit your day jobs at rentboys.com

jenwatson
jenwatson

"Yes, I made a mistake by not giving the original artists credit, but those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. It’s art. "

prime example of 'only guilty he got CAUGHT'. The saddest thing here is that he still can't comprehend why he was in the wrong--why stealing art and selling it as your own is a bad thing. The only thing Fontaine saw in him was creativity--that falsified, he possesses no skill. The bulk of his work is stolen art.

joeymaas
joeymaas

The only thing that Josafat Miranda did wrong, was not taking advantage of the publicity.

Tom Grizzle
Tom Grizzle

Matt Hirsch there are several ways of doing this. There are Royalty Free images that are pretty much free to do with as you want. Copyrighted images need a lot more. Permissions and a contract are the beginning. Look up copyright laws online or try contacting the artist personally if possible. Don't forget Shepard Fairy almost went to prison for plagiarizing/copying his famous HOPE poster from a photographer.

ke25_1973
ke25_1973

Seems as if the guy still doesn't get it. It's sad.

Matt Hirschenbein
Matt Hirschenbein

Tom what is the proper thing to do if you want to use someone else's photo as part of your art? How is it best to give the original photographer credit? I am honestly curious and do not know what proper procedure is (if there is one). I have noticed many artists' works (mainly graphic artists) are made directly from someone else's photographs. NOTE* I am not an artist, but I do enjoy painting when I get a chance.

rav1122
rav1122

So he thinks the only thing he did wrong was not credit the photographer? Even if he did it would still be illegal to copy someone elses work like that without permission. He is making money and building a reputation on someone elses creativity. Maybe he really was uneducated in the legality of what he was doing (personally i dont think so), but anyone can see that this sort of copying is not right

artraged
artraged

Going through a similar situation with a company selling traced work based off my photograph, and I am now facing a lawsuit for publically expressing my opinion. (Makes no sense right?) The ones doing seem to always try to play the victim. This is another perfect example! Look how he is only concerned about not having a gallery, or a job, or that he's "ruined." One should know these are the consequences for plagiarizing. It is no one's fault other than his own. The problem is that the people who do this are SO used to doing it that they actually somehow make themselves believe that they are doing nothing wrong. They think they can pull random photographs off the internet and use it as reference material. These people are forgetting, photography is also an art. It takes considerable time to come up with a concept ALL THE WAY to executing it! Considerable time! I doubt this would be something that escalates into a courtroom setting, but hopefully he learned his lesson.

Eber1
Eber1

seems, he's only sorry he was caught ............. not a true apology!

Fred Love
Fred Love

Not cool. I saw people actually posting these paintings saying how much they liked them!

Tom Grizzle
Tom Grizzle

Sounds familiar, just last week I called someone out on stealing my work and claiming it was theirs. It's a part time job scouring the web and shows making sure no one is stealing your works

Nikki
Nikki

Wow, did you bother to do any research? Jason Levesque's a well known, frequently published illustrator. He's had several exhibitions, and as said in the article, photography is just a hobby for him, you dumb ignorant prick.

jnelson.0.1
jnelson.0.1

@Tom Grizzle Shepard Fairey almost went because the Associated Press came after him cause they owned the photo not the photographer. He was acquitted because he applied his own creative touch to the image. It seems that appropriation is only ok if you don't profit from it???? or is it only ok if the image lifted is "iconic" like Andy Warhol and Shepard Fairey did??? Do you need to change the context of the work??? When does appropriation become ok and what makes it ok or what makes it not ok??? As a photographer myself it wouldn't bother me if he did this to one of my photographs cause he change the medium it was produced in and that he still had to make artistic decisions while painting it. He may have used my photography as a foundation but still applied his artistic touch.

"Appropriation in the arts is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them." -Chilvers, Ian & Glaves-Smith, John eds., Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. pp. 27-28. Just a thought

KarenJT
KarenJT

@Matt Hirsch  Start off by contacting the photographer, he or she decides what is to be done.  You may not like the photographer's terms, but he or she has the right, it is their property.  Do this before starting anything, the photographer may have license arraignments that preclude any other use.  As somebody else said, there are tons of free images available on the web.

jenwatson
jenwatson

@Matt Hirsch I don't know where to draw the line myself, but this is clearly beyond just being "inspired" by the original.

The fact that he profits off of it in some way makes it worse, I think--if he was just posting it on his personal blog and didn't sell prints, I doubt there'd be outrage. But he's selling his art in a gallery, hired on the premise that this was his original, creative art.

Misery
Misery

@jnelson.0.1 @Tom Grizzle Those were two different court cases. Shepard Fairey almost went to jail after pleading guilty to criminal contempt, for destroying documents and fabricating evidence in the AP lawsuit. He was sentenced to 2 years probation and 300 hours of community service.

The civil lawsuit with the AP was settled out of court (he was never acquitted of copyright infringement, and the AP considers the resolution in their favor) One of the terms of the settlement was that he had to promise never to use another AP photo without obtaining a license first.

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...