The Millions features an interview with artist and copyright lawyer Alfred Steiner on the present and future of copyright. Steiner's own work plays with the boundaries of originality, and he suggests that copyright, as it stands, does some disservice to the individual artist because it doesn't allow for imitation, and imitation is an affirmation of one's place in art history. He argues that the current length of copyright is too long:

My sense is that life plus 70 years is too long. It doesn’t need to be that long to fulfill the purpose. You could argue that one interesting analog is fashion. There’s no intellectual-property protection for fashion, but I don’t think anyone would argue that fashion lacks for innovation. So, do we really need to protect the author for his entire lifetime plus 70 years to encourage innovation? I don’t think so.

However, even though Steiner's work and thinking questions the authority and originality of the artist, the work does not actually go so far as to endorse outright plagiarism:

If you go to my website and look at my works, when I borrow something it’s obvious, it’s transparent. I have these drawings that are based on characters from The Simpsons. They’re not merely copies, but anybody who’s familiar with American pop culture will recognize where they’re from. I’m not trying to hide it. Or if I’m basing something on a work by another artist, I’ll say “after Koons.”

Originally Published: March 23rd, 2011