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Artistic License

The Philosophical Problems of Copyright and Appropriation

The art scene today is one of appropriation—of remixing, reusing, and recombining the works of other artists. From the musical mash-ups of Girl Talk to the pop-culture borrowings of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, it’s clear that the artistic landscape is shifting—which leads to some tricky legal and philosophical questions. In this up-to-date, thorough, and accessible analysis of the right to copyright, Darren Hudson Hick works to reconcile the growing practice of artistic appropriation with innovative views of artists’ rights, both legal and moral.

Engaging with long-standing debates about the nature of originality, authorship, and artists’ rights, Hick examines the philosophical challenges presented by the role of intellectual property in the artworld and vice versa. Using real-life examples of artists who have incorporated copyrighted works into their art, he explores issues of artistic creation and the nature of infringement as they are informed by analytical aesthetics and legal and critical theory. Ultimately, Artistic License provides a critical and systematic analysis of the key philosophical issues that underlie copyright policy, rethinking the relationship between artist, artwork, and the law.

240 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Art: Art Criticism

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Media Studies

Philosophy: Aesthetics, General Philosophy


"Moving between the complex and contested spheres of copyright law and aesthetic philosophy Hick weighs a number of questions sparked in part by the broad efflorescence of appropriation art in the later 1970s and ’80s and still of pressing concern to many contemporary artists, critics, and scholars. He at once endorses strong copyright protections and advocates for presumptive fair use by appropriation artists. . . . Artistic License makes a complex and interesting case for a unique understanding of intellectual property ownership and usage. The book’s project is ambitious and the arguments insightful."

ASAP Journal

"Darren Hudson Hick is a rarity: a sophisticated philosopher of art who understands and cares about the law. His new book has a lot to teach philosophers about how the law both protects authors' rights and limits them, often to protect others who want to sample, quote, adapt, or appropriate existing works within their own. Philosophers of art who care about artistic practice can learn, not only from Hick's rich and varied examples, but also from his account of one of the great forces shaping that practice. Hick's account of copyright is sometimes descriptive, sometimes revisionary, and thus has something to teach lawyers as well."

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

A short review cannot do full justice to the richness of Hick's work. The book's wealth of examples, the rigor of its argumentation and its familiarity with relevant law (from a wide variety of jurisdictions) all contribute to making it a model of its kind.

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Hick’s focus is on appropriation practices in the visual arts. . . . Copyright, Hick argues, often appeals to the natural rights of the creator to punish appropriation. But Hick makes the case, based on a theory of rights, for justified appropriation, a limit on the natural rights of the creator to support the expressive freedom of artists. . . . Engaging and stimulating to read, his ideas are seeds for hearty discussion.

IP Law Book Review

“Hick examines a range of key concepts central to intellectual property law, including authorship, works, originality, and infringement. The book is especially rich with detailed examples from the real art world, as well as numerous legal cases involving these works, well-informed with philosophical insights. It has enormous potential to address an area of growing interest among not only philosophers, but also legal theorists and the art world.”

Julie C. Van Camp, California State University, Long Beach

"The theoretical framework that this book offers remains decisive for thinking about the future of artistic appropriation practices in an increasingly digital world marked by the expression of identity differences." (translated from French)

Magazine Spirale

Table of Contents



One / Culture Clashes

Two / Ontology, Copyright, and Artistic Practice

Three / The Myth of Unoriginality
Four / Authorship, Power, and Responsibility
Five / Toward an Ontology of Authored Works
Six / The Rights of Authors
Seven / The Rights of Others
Eight / Appropriation and Transformation




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