8-bit Chiptune Cover Art Cost This Man $32,500

Chiptune artist and tech guru Andy Baio released an album last year called Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis' jazz masterpiece Kind of Blue. Yet despite receiving permission to cover the songs, Baio still found himself in court. What gives?

While Baio got the blessing of Davis' publisher to cover the songs, and donated any money he got from a Kickstarter fundraiser away, he didn't even think to ask about the cover art. Deciding it was most fitting given the nature of the album, he took the original art from Kind of Blue and made it all 8-bit. Appropriate and cute!

Not in the eyes of the lawyers representing the man who took the photo that adorns the original album cover, though, who took Baio to court. Unable to afford the cost of fighting them, he eventually settled out of court and agreed to pay $US32,500. And to never use the artwork again.

I get it, copyright law is important, but using it as a truncheon to bludgeon those who can't afford a legal battle is about as shitty as the law gets.

Kind of Screwed [Waxy, thanks everyone!]


    The more I read the more it seems copyright law is only beneficial to people who can afford to litigate.

      Or just the people who create original work and don't appreciate every sad sack with a copy of photoshop ripping them off?

        A sad sack, producing music, and donating funds to charity??

        What kind of angel does one need to be to not be a 'sad sack' in your eyes...


        A cease and desist could of been fine


          And sorry to rag on photographers, but I was able to pick up my sister's (she's a professional photographer) DSLR and snap random shots on the "auto" setting at a wedding and they looked great. The above album cover could have been taken by a chimp in a gloomy room.

          "Could of"? Really? Still?

    Not to be over critical here and i am not blaming Kotaku Australia... but what has this got to do with gaming??? other then the word 8-bit...

    The thing that is starting to piss me off with the american Kotaku is them either posting stuff like this or posting 1 sentance stories.

    No wonder why they are disliked.

      who cares if it's not gaming related, in general 95% of the stuff here is gaming related and the 5% that isn't gaming related are decent posts about human interest.

      Post like these help spread opinions and encourage discussion


      Since when has Kotaku been only about games? I thought it was about gaming culture and related stories... a story about 8bit music harking back to the old skool gaming days of C64 and the likes, with it's rise of popularity and cult following credited to the the bygone era of 8 bit gaming....

      ... yes, nothing to do with gaming culture here...

      Keep up the good work Kotaku, you are doing fine.

    Kind of a dick move. Okay, so Maisel was upset that somebody had "pixellated" his photo. Is his ego and self-confidence so fragile that he needs several tens of thousands of dollars to nurse it back to health? The man lives in a building worth tens of MILLIONS of dollars and he still wants to milk a thirtysomething musician for something he will just treat like pocket change. It's like Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David suing a teenager for reinacting The Deal on Youtube.

    What a dick! If the guy had kept the money he made from the album then fair enough but he'd given it all to a fundraiser and this bastard still decides to sue him over the picture?

    How is it not incredibly obvious that just downscaling a photo like that is likely to get you in legal trouble, regardless of the cause you are working for?

    Seems like a foregone conclusion in this day and age. "Didn't even think" is about right.

    Just to be devil's advocate here:

    If you own the copyright on something and fail to protect it, you set a president and can potentially lose your copyright rights entirely.

    It doesn't matter what the guy did with his proceeds, he should have at least asked if he could make a "cover" of the cover, the same way he remembered to ask permission to make a cover of the songs.

    HE'S at fault. Man, I hate Luke. He always throws a commentary bias on his stories and he's most of the time compeltely wrong.

      *precedent, completely

      I'm not sure you're being the devil's advocate here. You just mostly sound right.

      As a commercial artist I partially agree: Although surely a cease and desist letter would be a more appropriate first step than jumping straight to a demand for hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.

      As a human being though: F*ck Maisel! The guy's SUPER rich and he's severely screwing over somebody who made an honest mistake while making a project for fun.

      You're completely right. It's purely a protection of copyright. The photographer would have licensed that image for particular set of uses.

      What this 8-bit cover does is take that image and use it unlicensed in a manner that the photographer's original license would not have covered. Since the chiptune artist was making money, the photographer is within his rights to ask for compensation.

      A photograph or cover art, once in the public domain (i.e. on the internet), is normally considered to be free for use as long as it is not used for personal or commercial profit (not legally, but that's the general view of it). What this guy did was neither. All the funds went to charity. Hell, he even got permission to cover the song, something half the guys on youtube don't bother doing.

      I think whilst the photographer was within his legal rights, it was a pretty dick thing to do to someone who was just raising money for a charity and had even gone out of his way to ensure he was doing the right thing by the musician.

    So he knew that he needed to get permission for the songs, but figures that the photographer can go hang?

      But the point is that his use of the image was practically parody. It certainly wasn't the original image.

        It's not a parody at all. It's a direct copy with a filter applied.

          Even so, I suppose I think it can be justified by the fact that a song takes a LOT of effort to compose, whereas any single photo cannot be considered to take anywhere near the amount of effort.

          Idk, maybe that's just my opinion, though.

            I see what you're saying, but I don't think we can make that a fair distinction.

            A photographer could quite easily argue that capture the very essence of a subject through their lens requires more skill than simply point and shoot - but that making a song is just sticking notes on a page.

            That aside, though, he pretty much reproduced the entire album with an 8 bit "filter", including cover art, but only got permission for the songs. He then made profit from his work - what he did with the money afterwards is beside the point, the fact is he used someone else's work to make money, and it's not a parody.

            The song may have taken a long time to write, but I'm sure the photo did too. Taking a great photo probably involved training and years of hard slog, not just the time he took the photo in. Artists should be free to protect their work no matter the medium.

          Quote: SuperFred June 24, 2011 at 4:45 PM
          It’s a direct copy with a filter applied.

          Not so!
          Please see http://mrgan.tumblr.com/post/6840184364/hand-pixelated for clarification

    Wow, I'm actually surprised at those trying to justify Maisel's actions.

    Yes, if you let it go you set a precedent, that's obvious. But to go balls out suing the guy over it when he made no profit on it at all and gave all proceedings to a fundraiser? That's going too far. That is nothing more than pure arrogance and greed. Cease and desist letters have a purpose, this is one of those situations where it would have come in handy.

      You can't issue a cease and desist AFTER someone has made all their money, done whatever they like with it, and moved on. There's nothing to cease any more. At that point, all that's left to do is sue to protect your IP and copyright.

      "he made no profit on it at all and gave all proceedings to a fundraiser"

      Bullsh♥t. He made money, then chose to give it away. What he did with it doesn't matter - the fact is he made a profit off someone else's IP.

      If you argument had any validity, then if you rob a bank and give all the money to a charity you should be left alone because you gave it to a worthy cause. Right? Wrong.

        I think most people are here are making a distinction between legalities and ethics. The fact that he gave the money away to charity and that the photographer is excessively rich are the type of things that most people would feel should be taken into consideration, whether the law does or not. That's why Robin Hood is generally considered to be a good guy, and why most people reading this story will think that Maisel is being a dick.

          I think you're having trouble with ethics as well.

          Ethically, the artist should be sought the permission to use the work of another artist prior to publication of his own work. Ethically, to profit from another's work without acknowledgement or permission is wrong.

          Legally, he profited. Initially, he made money off the project, which is obviously a profit. What he did with it afterwards is not important - he made money from it.

          After he made it, he donated it all to a Kickstarter. Is that cool? Yes, probably. But he also now profited socially and professionally because of it. He's obviously known as "That guy who gave all his profits away" and has a social gain and social capital now. Professionally, his name is now out there in a wider range of media and he may generate future work as a result.

          So yes, profit was made.

          "Being nice" isn't ethics. Don't make that mistake.

        So I get why he had to protect his copyright. What I *don't* get is, since it was settled out of court, why did he require $32,500. I have zero legal training but wouldn't suing him for a dollar be enough? As long as you show that you're active in protecting your copyright by filing a suit why be a dick and ask for lots of cash?

        Perhaps we don't have the full story here, but I don't think "defending his copyright" is a conclusive defense of the facts presented.

          He was in the right, so he made the other guy pay his legal costs, most likely.

            You're a dick and most likely one of those guys who if he won the lotto would tell his family and friends to GTFO and keep all the money for himself.

            The guys house alone is worth 30-50 million and he couldn't settle for a "don't do it again"?

            Maisel's life was not any worse of for this. His luxury yacht payments (if he didn't buy outright) would still be made on time.

            People like you who defend the actions of people like Maisel are just as bad as any terrorist or serial killer. You don't condone or endorse physical harm on people but you sure as hell have no issue with psychological, moral or economical harm to people which can be and has been just as bad.

              All you were lacking there was comparing me to Hitler. GG, you fail at internet.

              I see you failed to find any way to rebut by dissertation that Maisel was IN THE RIGHT. So by saying someone's in the right legally and ethically, I'm as bad as a serial killer? Cool.

              No-one gets to have a 30 or 50 million dollar house by giving freebies to everyone.

              Even if he has a 50M house, is it paid off? Does he have a massive mortgage? Is he in financial difficulties at the moment? You have no idea.

              Just because someone has assets due to HARD WORK on their part that has paid off, doesn't mean that someone who blatantly ignores IP and copyright laws should get off free - now he has 30K to pay back, he won't make the mistake again, and it sends a signal to anyone else expecting the guy to "give me a slap on the wrist".

              Like it or not, that's how it works, and how it should work. The law is the law, and you can't argue that richer people have less rights to protect their work simply because they've made money. You're a dick.

    As a graphic designer, I can relate to the photographer. It's just about the worst thing in the world when someone devalues your contribution and reproduces your stuff without permission.

    It's kind of ironic because jazz has (almost) always been about taking what people have done previously and evolving and expanding on it. Miles Davis built his career on playing other peoples tunes. All jazz muso's do it, the songs have a name, they're standards.

    After spending some time learning a bit about photo-manipulation for a digital art class, I found that photographers can be some of the most obnoxious self-entitled types out there.

    Yes, I know they work hard and need to eat, I'm not advocating that people just steal and plagiarize things, but some god damn humility goes a long way.

    In fact I'd go as far to say that you don't really enjoy being a photographer if how much money you make from one shot is the most important thing in the world to you.

    I want to cheer on the little guy, especially because the big guy seems to be a rich entitled tw♥t.

    But I just can't do it. I look at the original cover, and the revised, and it is clearly the same picture, just altered. And like a story the other day about someone just helping themselves to someone's art and then being surprised when they get called on it, I do think the artist is right to protect what is theirs.

    There is a lot in the world that copyright does wrong, but it also does some things right, and I think this is one of them. As much as the internet has been very 'once it is on the net, it is free for everyone!', artists do still have rights.

    I think sometimes we get too much on the side of 'support the little guy!' and forget that sometimes, the big guy is actually right.

      But it was a tribute album for pete's sake! The guy wasn't taking money out of the photographer's pocket any more than he was taking it from Miles Davis.

      If Maisel had a problem, the decent thing to do would be to ask Baio to change the cover, and if necessary force him to do so. It's one thing to protect your work, but it's quite another to suck the money from people who mean no harm, and in this case, do no harm.

    He'd already made money from the copied work. That moves it beyond a cease and desist level, and into where it ended up.

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