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Label: shell

Friday 14th November 2014Kurt Perschke and the Big Red Ball

Sometimes, copyright infringement is a murky situation - difficult to prove, as in the case of derivative artworks, satire, and convergent design - but sometimes it's pretty hard to deny. If you're a relatively well-known artist with a signature piece, it can be hard to see how others managed to miss it. Enter the artist Kurt Perschke, whose most recent project involves an installation of a 15 foot high red plastic ball near various major landmarks around the world. Named the RedBall project, this continually unfolding and ongoing project was started 13 years ago, so it's not exactly a question of prior art - and yet earlier this year, Perschke found some undeniable similarities between RedBall and a recent marketing campaign by petrochemical giant Shell.

While Perschke has yet to file any kind of formal challenge or lawsuit again Shell, he has nevertheless made many public comments about the similarities. “It’s painful. There isn’t any doubt in my mind. Even though it might seem that a ball would be a ball would be ball, RedBall is specific in the way it is constructed and built and these graphics that they have created are spot on.”

Shell has so far denied the informal accusations, as a spokesperson told the Guardian recently, “This Shell campaign uses red spheres as a visual device to illustrate the volume of CO2 that the Peterhead CCS project is designed to capture each day. It is intended to help consumers understand through a simple visual representation the importance of capturing CO2 for a better energy future." It's a remarkable testament to their public relations abilities that even while refuting accusations of plagiarism they can manage to stay completely on-message.

Curiously enough, this isn't the first time Perschke has had issues with a large company's advertisements. In fact, just last year, he filed a lawsuit against a French company, Edenred, and they settled out of court with undisclosed terms. Perschke hasn't yet decided whether he is going to file a similar lawsuit against Shell, but as he said to the Guardian, "It is my creation. I think it is lazy. My work has a history, it has been around for years and to appropriate it maybe seems more than lazy – even a little dangerous. The larger issue is the impact on the work, I don’t want the work impacted or associated in this way. We’ve worked for many years on a project which really does bring joy and surprise to people and we don’t want it co-opted.”

Posted on November 14th 2014 on 11:23pm
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