Art

To what extent should we have a creative licence?

Image Credits: The Mona Lisa Foundation

By Francesca Lea

‘Public Domain Day’, otherwise known as New Year’s Day , marks the expired copyright on texts entering the public domain. A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to name a few released in 2022. The significance of giving way to creative licence can be seen in the development since The Great Gatsby’s release in the US in 2021, with 34 new print editions published in the past year and the development of a television adaptation by Michael Hirst.

While it may be 70 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s death, there has been voiced caution surrounding this freedom. James West states that this enables “shoddy editions” in the mainstream market. It is understandable to be protective over the quality and reputation of the future regard for The Great Gatsby, but don’t we all take a creative licence from things that inspire us? Should there really be limited access to the rights of the storyline for future generations?

In all parts of life, in person and virtually, alive or dead, real or fictional, we are inspired by role models. When we engage in an online trend we are not copying the person before us, we are adding a spin, consolidating the trend by inspiring others in our creativity. As of March 2022, the LA pink wall trend has garnered 207,000 posts under the #pinkwall on Instagram. In 2020, the York Gallery Exhibition featured the work of Stephanie Potter Corwin “Murmurations”. 

Image Credit: Francesca Lea

Corwin’s general sentiment is interconnectedness. That even in these similar pictures, they are different, they are spins and interpretations. They say a picture tells a thousand words, and while they say we should tell our own, don’t we all take inspiration from others too?

We find inspiration in others’ lives as it’s objective and generally not so close to home. When we take inspiration, we are not copying but reimagining. The fact is it would be impossible to recreate the best works before us that we are so keen to re-envisage. As Ben Macintyre states, “I wish I had written The Great Gatsby”.

No one can recreate the same reception or time period in which the original entered, nor the moment of inspiration that comes across in the writing.In a Channel 4 documentary, Adebanji Alade tried to replicate Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The lengths taken to replicate 17th century materials alone is a testament to the time of painting as much as the skill of the artist. Even Da Vinci could not paint the Mona Lisa to look the same as his first painting of her 11 year prior.

A first edition will always be the first edition for a reason, prized over everything else. Though copying The Great Gatsby to make some quick money isn’t productive, if we stopped all reproductions the best interpretations wouldn’t be discovered. We have to envisage these texts through a creative licence to keep them relevant in the modern age.