Please Don’t Change Someone Else’s Art

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night is one of the most famous and amazing paintings of all time. What if, however, some company today decided to market that painting by adding a Manhattan city skyline to make it more modern? Maybe even add a guy talking on a cell phone? Haven’t you always wondered what it would look like that way? No? Really? Well, how about modernizing the Mona Lisa by giving her sunglasses and a modern hairstyle? And adding Leonardo da Vinci himself into the painting performing a lewd sex act? No? Tacky, you say? That’s art! Don’t mess with it!

Now imagine, taking Wuthering Heights and adding in a racy bondage sex scene. Yikes! Another terrible idea, but this one, folks, is real. E-book publisher, Clandestine Classics, is releasing beloved classic literature, such as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with new scenes, namely hot sex scenes. I have no problem with sex. This rant isn’t about that. This is about changing someone’s work.

You see, over time, a piece of art eventually becomes part of the public domain, meaning no one owns the copyright. Once it’s in the public domain, anyone can use it as they see fit, making greeting cards out of famous artwork, selling books, etc. They can even change the work, if they so desire.

While it may be legal, it is unethical. Being in the public domain, does not give someone the right to mess with another’s work. If they want to resell that work, fine. We live in a world of commerce, I get that, much to my chagrin, but changing it is a whole other thing. Art is genuine expression. The creator felt the need to express something, whether that be an emotion or point of view, through music, words, painting, sculpting, etc. It shouldn’t be changed. Otherwise, it becomes a lie. Those new passages in Wuthering Heights are not Emily Bronte’s words, not her thoughts, not her feelings. That book is what she wanted to express. If she lived today, maybe she would have written a different story, but she does not, and her books are her books, period. Take ‘em or leave ‘em but don’t change ‘em. The words of some modern hack should not be inserted to make a profit.

Let me tell you, as a novelist, I put a lot of work into my writing. I feel every blasted word I write. Most real artists do. If someone took my book once it was in the public domain and added stupid scenes to make it more “modern,” I would come back and haunt the heck out of them.

What type of world do we live in that classic literature has to be sexed up and dumbed down for people to buy it? Why must everything be a gimmick?

Seriously, this publisher should win an award for Worst Idea of All Time, and the people who buy these books should be labeled as idiots.

I’ve included below the source article for this story:


6 thoughts on “Please Don’t Change Someone Else’s Art

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  1. Question: What about satirized versions? Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” come to mind. I have mixed emotions about the various (often commercialized posters) parodying these two iconic images of American art.

  2. TOTALLY agree with you on that! If one wants to add a modern feel to a classic painting…then by all means…paint your original work, with the feel of the classic. Just as a musician writes an “arrangement” of a piece of music. Why mess with true art…sometimes you just have to let the classic be the history it has become.

  3. This is appalling! It reminds me of how I felt when Turner started airing “colorized” versions of classic movies. I hated them – still do. Thanks for including the link to the original story.

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments and likes! 🙂
    Mark, I have mixed feelings on some parody too, because not everyone understands that it’s a joke. People aren’t as savvy as they used to be and can’t always tell the difference. Clandestine is reprinting the books with new passages and adding another author’s name to the book — ex: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Some Hack. That’s ridiculous, and I think some people will believe that is the original book, just as they would if it were Hopper’s Nighthawks painting with the Star Wars characters in a bar.

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