Artists v. Google

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm

The internet can be a useful tool for artists wanting to promote their works. But what happens when the trusty tool that we’ve all relied on stops working for us?

Recently a group of illustrators has been waging a (losing?) war with Google ever since the internet-giant asked several illustrators whether their works could be used as “skins” for Google’s new web browser, Chrome. Chrome allows users to select different “skins” in order to customize the look of the browser. One of the artists tapped was Gary Taxali, who became furious when Google declined to compensate the artist for his work. A New York Times article explores the issue.

In April 28, Taxali quickly responded by posting on Drawger, a website for illustrators. He wrote, “So for you, I give you a special salute that I hope will keep you away because I don’t need your work.” The post, which lamented about the reduced fees for illustrators because of the economy, was accompanied by an illustration of a one-fingered salute. (The post has been since taken down by the artist)


Other artists such as Joe Ciardiello and Melinda Beck have also rejected Google’s offer. Ciardiello commented, “You’d think that if anyone can afford to pay artists and designers it would be a company making millions of dollars.” Indeed, even in an economic downturn, Google managed to turn a profit of $1.42 billion.

Google’s spokesman responded that the company does not typically provide compensations for such instances and cited examples of artists such as Jeff Koons, Bob Dylan, and Gucci, whom in the past donated images of their works. In addition, Google alluded that the exposure of the artists seems to be an indirect type of compensation.

Brian Stauffer, a Miami illustrator, best describes the issue that goes beyond the lack of compensation. “There’s a lot of concern that newspapers and all of print is becoming a bit of an endangered species…when a company like Google comes out very publicly and expects that the market would just give them free artwork, it sets a very dangerous precedent.”


But many artists already accepted the offer from Google, which renders the battle against Google and the internet almost futile. So how can these artists wield this double-edged sword?


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