My friend Jill Miller, a UC Berkeley art professor and respected experimental artist, found out that a few years back, a photo of her was used as the cover art for an LP called Thrash & Burn (image above, top left) by eccentric musician Ariel Pink, a Trump supporter who attended the 1/6 insurrection. Thing is, Jill didn’t know Ariel and nobody asked for her permission. Apparently someone who was in art school with Jill had snapped the photo and, for some reason, given it to the head of Ariel’s former record label. Maybe. When Jill found out about the usage, she didn’t pursue legal recourse. Instead, she used AI to create 50 alternative album covers featuring Ariel as a spin instructor, garden gnome in a dunce cap, as a roll of toilet paper, and other ridiculous representations. The text on the new covers reads “Ariel stinks,” just like the original. It’s a great story of artistic appropriation, pranksterism, and, yep, copyright law and Right of Publicity. Gil Kaufman masterfully tells the tale at Billboard:
“I’m not mad,” Miller says of the emotion behind her image-tweaking efforts. “I think I made a playful, humorous response that is an alternative to litigation. And the ‘smelly’ aspect makes it even better… some are just careers he could consider if music doesn’t work out, like a used car salesman. Plus they’re all for sale, so if he needs 50 future album covers he can buy them all!”
The first group of NFTs in the Stinks project dropped on Friday (Jan. 20) and interested collectors can click here for more information or to check out a free digital album cover to replace the existing one on their digital music platforms. Each cover is being offered for around .39ETH (approximately $630 each at press time); a second drop is planned on Feb. 2.
When asked to clarify an earlier statement that “the whole point is to make me look bad, and have a little fun at my expense,” Pink says Ariel Stinks feels to him like “a prank… a sort of snarky bit of revenge… This person obviously feels like they were exploited and that troubles me deeply, but this is not the way to address that.}[…]
Miller says that the buyers of the NFTs will retain commercial rights to them and suggests that if Pink really wants to make things right, he could buy some, or all, of them to “compensate someone who for sure helped sell your record with her face on the cover.” After all, that way she gets something and he gets something — because as of now, she says, “I got nothing.”
“Ariel Pink Used an Artist’s Face on His Album Cover Without Permission, So She Responded With ‘Ariel Stinks’ NFTs” by Gil Kaufman (Billboard)