In his 1995 film Telephones, artist Christian Marclay spliced together snippets of actors from Hollywood films answering phones. Apple contacted Marclay, he says, to get permission to use the concept for a new iPhone ad (above) that debuted during the Oscars.
He refused. They took the idea anyway.
“The way they dealt with the whole thing is pretty sleazy,” Marclay says. He talked to a lawyer about taking legal action over the ripoff, but was told “there’s nothing I can do about it. They have the right to get inspired.”
Contemporary art, of course, is often about appropriation and recontextualizing material, but the brazenness of Apple’s move is too bad. Still, Marclay isn’t keen on going to court.
“This culture’s so much about suing each other that if we want to have anything that’s more of an open exchange of ideas, one has to stop this mentality. I’m just honored that they thought my work was interesting enough that they felt they could just rip it off.”
The following mini-documentary on Marclay’s work included Telephones about 3:40 in.