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Artist Behind High-Profile Michelle Obama Mural Faces Backlash - He Made A Big Mistake

If you’re going to be doing a high-profile piece of artwork, it’s a pretty good idea to make sure that all of the work you assemble is your own. While it’s perfectly fine to ask others for input and even draw some inspiration from their works, it’s standard practice to attribute those folks appropriately so that they can get the credit they deserve.

Failure to do so can open up a lot more than hurt feelings, as you’ve now compromised your integrity and opened yourself up to potential legal troubles.

As AOL shares, that’s where Chicago artist and urban developer Chris Devins is right about now. He was tasked with creating a mural of former First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Side of the Windy City.

Devins came up with a winner, as his depiction of Michelle as an Egyptian queen drew rave reviews.

However, there was a slight problem with his interpretation. Another artist had already come up with the same concept, and the image that artist came up with was a darn near mirror image of what Devins created.

The red-faced artist has claimed ignorance, but many observers aren’t buying it.

"The artist part of me was just in love with the image. And I knew that it was the right image at the right place at the right time," he said. "What I felt I was doing with the Michelle Obama piece ... I wanted to put something there that I felt expressed the strength and the identity of the community."

That’s a fantastic sentiment and all, but artist Gelila Mesfin had already crafted the same concept. For Devins' part, he claims that he "never intended to obscure or take credit for anyone else's work," but it’s nonetheless an incredibly poor look.

The other artist is apparently not as well known, and a little nod of credit on such a high-profile project may have been all that was required to get permission.

No word on whether or not legal action will be pursued, Patrice Perkins, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, notes that it’s certainly possible.

“The default rule is that you have to get permission if you're not the copyright holder. If someone hasn't gotten permission, their defense can be fair use," she explains. "Transformative use is someone saying, 'I transformed the original nature of this work so much that it now has become its new piece, it's taken on new meaning - it has new substance, and it's no longer that original work.'"

For a real simple bottom line, directly asking for permission or finding out the proper way to attribute someone that may have created a piece you’re interested in is always the best course of action. While there’s no proof that Devins knew the other piece existed before he got to work, the other piece had gained some traction on social media.

A simple internet search of his idea would have likely pointed him in the right direction, and it may have even prompted him to go in another direction with his mural. For now, he’s got a beautiful mural, and a reputation that needs some rehabilitation.

Source: AOL
Photos: Chris Devins/GoFundMe, The Obama White House, Instragram, Twitter, The Obama Library

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