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Apple's little problem with ripping off artists

We can appreciate the fact that Apple seems to draw a lot of inspiration from art -- we really can. But we're noticing a pretty disconcerting trend taking shape: Cupertino's getting all Picasso on us with the "Good artists copy, great artists steal" stuff, time and time again knocking off other artists' and creative companies' work in its own products and advertising. Seems a little odd for the company whose mainstay customer is the creative professional, and whose most enduring ad campaign compels us to Think Different. Let's take a quick look back at some of the lumps Apple's taken for its ads just in 2006 and 2007.

Why, just this weekend we found out Colorado artist Louis Psihoyos filed suit against Apple for allegedly swiping his wall of videos photo after Apple backed out of negotiations to license the imagery to use in the Apple TV intro video and branding.

But Mr. Psihoyos is certainly putting up a much harder fight than artist Christian Marclay gave Apple, with whom he was in negotiations over permission to recreate his 1995 abstract film, Telephones (above), for use in advertising the iPhone. When Marlay declined, Apple just up and used it anyway, running its own totally indistinct version that aired during -- what else? -- the Oscars. Marlay abstained from suing.

But it wasn't only artists' work Apple has ganked. Compare for yourself: Lugz Shoes' Fall 2002 commercial, and Apple's 2006 Eminem / iTunes ad. (We especially like the Lugz / iTunes commercial mashup.) Lugz was highly unimpressed, and sent Apple a cease desist to halt the airing the commercial immediately. Tail firmly between legs, Apple pulled the ad.

And, of course, how can we forget the nearly shot-for-shot remake of The Postal Service's music video for their hit single Such Great Heights? The band was less than impressed by Apple's swipe, but Cupertino insisted it had no prior knowledge of the music video when it contracted the directorial team of Josh Melnick and Xander Charity to whip 'em up a commercial for the Intel transition.

The thing is, at the end of the day we really like the fact that Apple tries to fuse art with technology -- even in these most literal of cases. But let's get square: nobody likes a ripoff artist, and Apple's got to learn its lesson before the company crosses the line from Pablo Picasso to Elmyr de Hory.

P.S. -Anyone else think it's weird none of this is mentioned in Wikipedia's article about Apple's advertising?

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booyaka @ Jul 5th 2007 12:54PM

LMAO keep it coming engadget! I lub u guys!

Apple fanboy Pwnage!

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Alan Partridge @ Jul 5th 2007 1:05PM

Apple are the 'Daft Punk' of technology

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Xboxman @ Jul 5th 2007 4:37PM

Are you kidding me?!

Daft punk samples music from other artists... if u listen to both songs completely. You will realize they are in fact completely different. Daft punk is and always was about sampling other music and bringing it to life. They give credits to the artists in all of their albums.

Daft punk and apple are certainly NOT alike.

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f14tomdog2 @ Jul 5th 2007 1:24PM

Pretty sure that Daft Punk Sited all of the people that they took samples from on their CD, Apple didn't. Thats why they are getting sued.

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loci @ Jul 5th 2007 2:07PM

i.clones i.conform i.drones....and "Think Different"

heheh oh the irony!!

the core of an apple fanboi is the fear of being different and the need to be part of a million+ "elite club"

apple are marketing gods

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Ant @ Jul 5th 2007 1:54PM


wtf do you think djs do?! its called sampling for a reason.djs remix and sample. no shit daft punk uses samples.i dont even like daft punk but thats just a dumb comment.

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jabber_wolf @ Jul 5th 2007 2:44PM

Very sad , very obvious.
Yet don't call them apple fan boys, if they defend this obvious and unimaginative marketing, they are simply MACTARDS!

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Tibwolf @ Jul 5th 2007 12:59PM


Wait, Apple is totally original. Apple does everything first.

This is blasphemy.
This is MADNESS!

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Joe Smith @ Jul 5th 2007 1:24PM

MADNESS??? THIS. IS. APPLE!!!!!!!!!!!

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Alan Partridge @ Jul 5th 2007 1:27PM

YouTube is fun! Steve Jobs admits he is a thief -

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booyaka @ Jul 5th 2007 12:59PM

Wow first Apple rips off their costumers now they're ripping off other artists?

Shame on Stevey

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siriusfox @ Jul 5th 2007 1:31PM

This is all marketing guys. Anyone who works in a business knows marketing is a bunch of slime-balls in any company.

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E.J. @ Jul 5th 2007 4:07PM

Think before you speak: without marketing, there would be no sales and with no sales there would not be success in a product.

Don't generalize marketing people. Qualify it like: "Apple marketing is a bunch of slime balls."

As a marketing person, I've never ripped off an artist and it's safe to say that I never will.

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Joe S. @ Jul 5th 2007 8:05PM

Keep sucking Steve Balmer's balls. If Apple has done nothing, What exactly has MS achieved?
Many of the concepts for the MS GUI came from Apple...Xerox didn't think of everything 20 plus years ago.
Plenty of the guys from Xerox went to work at Apple.
Getting a little tired of these MS ball washers thinking that MS actually has done something relevant.
They are usually 3 - 10 years behind the curve....but why let reality enter your life at this point.

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CT A @ Jul 5th 2007 1:00PM

I guess Engadget decided to give us some retribution from all the iPhone news it has posted in the last year.

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Cardbored @ Jul 5th 2007 1:00PM

Nice to see a little change of pace after all the iPhone-is-God coverage XP Apple really is just as evil as Microsoft...

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Kevin @ Jul 5th 2007 1:01PM

Why not mention how Apple always complains that Microsoft copies off of them.

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Trace The Hedgehog @ Jul 5th 2007 4:38PM

Wow, we pick on Apple once and the fanboys are already complaning like its Apple that gets picked the whole time.

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Kevin @ Jul 6th 2007 1:03PM

Did you even read my comment? I am far from an Apple fanboy.

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booyaka @ Jul 5th 2007 1:01PM

Wow first Apple rips off their costumers now they're ripping off other artists?

Shame on Stevey

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crossfire @ Jul 6th 2007 1:40PM

Oh, but their target customer's are the artists! Every one else is just collateral damage.

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Picasso @ Jul 5th 2007 1:04PM

Don't forget Gondry's Tiga video


at least they used Cut Chemist in the ad

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mmeister @ Jul 5th 2007 1:28PM

sorry.. I didn't see the Apple ad as a copy of the Tiga video.
but thanks for pointing out a cool video (Tiga).

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Eric @ Jul 5th 2007 1:39PM

Check out about 2:30 into the Tiga video if you still don't think so. The Apple ad is just a slower version of that exact same effect.

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killorbytes @ Jul 5th 2007 9:55PM

Both of those segments are actually odes to Pablo Picasso. It's not a rip off, it's taking a concept that was pioneered by someone else and building upon it. That's how innovations happen. In this case, Picasso's light drawings, here's an example:

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BHill @ Jul 5th 2007 1:05PM

It's not Apple's fault that they used the same film makers for their commercial as the Postal Service used for their music video and the film makers just used the same idea unknowingly to Apple. It is the film makers who are to blame here. If someone stole a iPhone and sold it to me as their's am I to blame for buying it? I had no knowledge it was stolen, I swear.

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Eric @ Jul 5th 2007 1:35PM

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

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pball @ Jul 8th 2007 7:50PM

Actually if you have any reason to believe it was stolen you can be held liable, as if the price is too good to be true it probably is

also this is funny apple can't think of anything original. I would think people would more interested in seeing original and non-over used ads
and how can they not of lost a lawsuit yet over these?

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cs0875 @ Jul 5th 2007 3:55PM

Maybe Apple used the same filmmakers, buyt wouldn't you view their previous work before hirinig them? Apple isn't my friend down the street who says, "So, I heard they were good, let them make my commerical." They had to see what they had done before. When Apple relized they ripped off a video they already did, Apple should've told them to fix it or hit the road.

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Jeff @ Jul 5th 2007 6:57PM

Why do people think that The Postal Service somehow has more ownership of their music video's appearance than the creative team who came up with, shot, and edited the video? Last I checked, The Postal Service was a band known for making music. When their music accompanies someone else's video imagery, the pictures don't suddenly become their creation too. Even if they payed for it.

Just saying, that should be acknowledged before the rant continues. If Cristo wrapped Microsoft's headquarters, could Apple not pay him to wrap theirs?

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ps @ Jul 6th 2007 4:49AM

i think it goes something like this: hey, apple called... time to pitch a new commercial. hey, fellow ad guys, let's look at what the kids are doing today. hey, that's a cool video, let's write up a treatment/proposal that's the same as that. hey, apple bought it... well, let's hire those guys whose idea we already took***. hey, nifty, this ad agency is paying us a boatload of money (which is really only 20% of the boatload they're making off apple) to basically re-do our video that almost no one saw, and now it will run on primetime tv. hell yes.

*** variation: oh, the original guys said no... let's hire another ass-kissing company to do it for us that has no morals or pride. etc...

and... repeat x many more unoriginal ideas.

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Neeko @ Jul 5th 2007 1:06PM

Hello fanboys were are you..COME OUT COME OUT WHERE EVER YOU ARE........

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Adam Lett @ Jul 5th 2007 3:54PM

Here I am! I'm an Apple Fanboi. What do you want? Do you think that because I absolutely adore their hardware and their software, and because I believe they are absolutely to be admired for the way they do business in general, that I should defend everything they do? I mean, it's not like I'm on the payroll...

But OK, I'll try:

This is just anothers example of how Apple understands that information wants to be free. I mean, it's not like someone broke into the homes of any of these artists and stole anything tangible. All they did was copy ideas.

Alright, so maybe they broke the law. But I think that what they did was the corporate version of smoking a joint. Which is totally what Apple stands for, anyway.

Two thumps up from this fanboi!

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Miles @ Jul 5th 2007 1:07PM

Who fucking cares?

Apple still makes better hardware and software than any other company in the world, so beat that.

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booyaka @ Jul 5th 2007 1:09PM

Like the iPhone? lmao

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Dinraj @ Jul 5th 2007 1:17PM

Apple "makes" better hardware? Off-the-shelf components

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Bart @ Jul 5th 2007 2:27PM

I would say the iphone is a great example

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dwaede @ Jul 5th 2007 1:20PM

Don't give them credit that isn't due. In the area of MP3 players technology, Archos is the world wide leader. Don't even try and say they aren't.

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Nathan M @ Jul 5th 2007 1:21PM

Yeah, they're totally not using the same hardware as PCs now, like intel chips etc... oh wait. They are. As far software, OSX is basically unix with pretty lights on top. Woo-freaking-hoo.

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Roflgoat @ Jul 5th 2007 2:13PM

"so there"

I know it's the internet, but c'mon. You don't have to be a 4 year-old. Oh, and the only hardware that Apple possible "makes" is the cases that they design.

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bobartig @ Jul 5th 2007 6:55PM

@ Dinraj,

Yes, the hard drive, ram, optical drive, display, those are all 'off the shelf'. That was never not the case.

If you had any idea how much design, engineering, and effort goes into making the rest of their computers, you'd have a heart attack. Apple pushes industrial design and manufacturing processes by doing things in ways noone has done before. They agonize over every detail, such as how the buttons should work, how the hinges function, what shape the edges and bevels should have, how the plastic is formed, and what color it should be. (although these days its more like "black or white?... both!")

At the end of the day, they have a unique product that you may find stunning, or may think is awful, but the fact is that nobody does what they do in terms of product design within the personal computer space.

What does this really mean? In terms of product design, they literally defy comparison to the rest of the industry.

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John @ Jul 5th 2007 6:10PM

Yeah, Apple sure makes great hardware... except they don't make the hardware. Wait, actually, they do make the cases for the macbooks. Except that the cases have had discoloration and chipping issues. Apple's forté has always been user interface and marketing... except as we've now come to realize, their marketing gets a bit of outside help.

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kdmaster @ Jul 6th 2007 10:14PM

so if if you don't buy "off the shelf"....
does that mean you make your own components?

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farfisa @ Jul 5th 2007 1:07PM

I guess the message is: If Apple wants to buy your stuff, sell because they'll take it anyway!
(That goes for developers too--I'm glad the CoverFlow guy got paid!).

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Miles @ Jul 5th 2007 1:16PM

I guess you people forgot who invented the first PC, the mouse, the gui, the floppy drive, usb, firewire, and CD-Roms.

Hint: It wasn't Microsoft.

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Ryan Block @ Jul 5th 2007 1:18PM

Yeah, it was Xerox. For the GUI, anyway. Mouse came from Stanford, FireWire came from the IEEE, the CD-ROM was developed by Sony and Philips, USB came from Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, NEC, and Philips, and the floppy was developed by IBM in 1969.

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booyaka @ Jul 5th 2007 1:21PM

It was Xerox. What's your point?

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treetrunk @ Jul 5th 2007 1:35PM

No shit. Microsoft are a software company.

Hint: It sure wasn't Apple either.

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