Copyright Infringement Image

Copyright Infringement

By Alan Ng | August 3, 2023

PORTLAND FESTIVAL OF CINEMA, ANIMATION & TECHNOLOGY 2023 REVIEW! David Sabshon’s documentary, Copyright Infringement, explores the controversies surrounding art, fair use, and copyright infringement. While these topics are discussed, the film focuses more on an Australian artist who managed to subvert the elitist system that controls the business and narrative surrounding art. The artist is named CJ Hendry.

Hendry is most known for her hyper-realistic pencil art, which in my opinion, is incredible and beautiful. In 2020-2021, the artist ran a unique, out-of-the-box global exhibition of her work entitled Copyright Infringement 2.0. These pieces were inspired by her previous work, in which she was sued for creating a drawing based on photographs of famous figures, including Andy Warhol and Mohammed Ali.

Part one of this exhibit involves the work of artist Damien Hirst, specifically Spots, a series of multi-colored dots in a rectangular pattern. Hendry took his artwork and drew each dot as a 3D drop of paint, which begs the question, was Hirst’s simple arrangement of dots considered art? Was Hendry’s transformation of Hirst’s work into 3D copyright infringement?

Sabshon asks these questions to various art experts throughout Copyright Infringement, but that’s not the story’s thrust. It has more to do with part two of the exhibit, where Hendry printed her pencil art on a t-shirt and baseball cap. She then packaged it all in paint cans and left them in boxes scattered around five cities around the world for fans to scavenge. Most of the documentary is about these scavenger hunts.

“…Hendry printed her pencil art on a t-shirt and baseball cap…and left them in boxes scattered around five cities around the world for fans to scavenge.”

I’d say that 85% of Copyright Infringement is about these scavenger hunts, with a small discussion about art to fill up the rest. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I want to talk about art. Hendry’s art is fantastic. It looks so photographic real that it’s hard to believe it’s done in pencil. Hendry herself has a charismatic and friendly personality.

Sabshon walks us through all the details and preparation the artist and her team go through to distribute fifty boxes within about ten minutes of each other. She then posts each location on Instagram, and the mad rush for her fans to grab the box begins. Sometimes Hendry is there to film the pickup and response. Yes, she has decoys in case she gets tailed. This process is repeated throughout as she visits various cities around the world. It gets tedious at times.

Overall, I enjoyed Copyright Infringement, but I am annoyed because I wanted a documentary about copyright infringement’s legal and ethical ramifications, and I got something entirely different instead. I liked the discussion of what art is. Is it as simple as a series of colored dots on a page, or does it have to be elevated or evolve in some way? Also, is a photorealistic drawing of a photo actually copyright infringement, and just how much does one have to alter it to be considered fair use?

The point that the documentary makes is, who are the gatekeepers of art? Do you have to join the “club” to be considered legitimate? For CJ Hendry, she is not part of the elite art community of New York, Paris, or wherever. She is an everyday person from an ordinary upbringing. Rather than be commissioned by a prestigious gallery, Hendry reproduced and distributed her art on her terms, even if it meant leaving it in random locations for normie scavengers like us to find. Is art for everyone, or is it dictated by the right willing to pay millions?

Copyright Infringement is not precisely what I hoped for in a documentary about copyright infringement. But, if anything, it made me a fan of CJ Hendry and her revolutionary approach to the business of art.

Copryright Infringement screened at the 2023 Portland Festival of Cinema, Animation & Technology. For screening information, visit the Copyright Infringement official website.

Copyright Infringement (2023)

Directed and Written: David Sabshon

Starring: CJ Hendry, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Copyright Infringement Image

"…made me a fan of CJ Hendry and her revolutionary approach to the business of art."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. […] post Copyright Infringement first appeared on Film […]

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon