Orlan Grabs Gaga for Grand Theft

French artist Orlan is suing Lady Gaga and the French subsidiary of Universal Music for plagiarism in a Paris court.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network can instantly recognize the flagrant plagiarism involved, as depicted in this photo.

In the lawsuit, the artist accuses the singer of stealing from her to construct the visual universe of her third album, “Born This Way.”

According to Le Quotidien de l’Art, which broke the story, Orlan is demanding $31.7 million or 7.5 percent of the profits from that album and video.

The lawsuit specifically mentions the beginning of the video of “Born This Way,” which features Lady Gaga’s made-up decapitated head. Indeed, it is very similar to Orlan’s sculpture “Femme Avec Tête” (“Woman With Head”) from 1996.

This isn’t the first time Lady Gaga has been accused of freely taking ideas from the visual arts realm. She already made Orlan’s facial implants her own (though it was kind of like raiding your best friend’s closet for her high heels).

And the famous meat dress she wore at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010 was borrowed from a similar dress made by artist Jana Sterbak.

But intellectual property issues can be hard to pin down in imagery and performance. Where should be the line be drawn between inspiration and theft?

Clearly entertainment artists steal routines from each other all the time. Artist Richard Pettibone is known to obtain most of his Pop imagery from Warhol.

In 2011, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker accused Beyoncé of plagiarizing her work in a music video, but this didn’t result in a lawsuit. Perhaps the current case will help settle some of these thorny questions.

Orlan was born Mireille Suzanne Francette Porte, a name that she dropped at the age of 15. She makes use of plastic surgery as a part of her art, to transform her face and body in such a way that it questions traditional perceptions of beauty.

Her entire career is best described as a series of rebirths and triumphs of will over technology. Beginning with black-and-white nude poses, she has a rich 40-year-old history of ‘shocking’ artistry under her belt.

She went through 9 plastic surgeries in a span of just 5 years – from 1990 to 1995. One operation changed her chin to imitate that of Botticelli’s Venus, another changed her forehead to look like the protruding brow of the Mona Lisa, and yet another altered her mouth to look just like Francois Boucher’s Europa.

Beauty was the last thing on her mind during these surgeries. “My goal was to be different, strong; to sculpt my own body to reinvent the self. It’s all about being different and creating a clash with society because of that. I tried to use surgery not to better myself or become a younger version of myself but to work on the concept of image and surgery the other way around. I was the first artist to do it,” she said at the time with pride.

At this juncture however, the risqué performance artist is taking no risks in prosecuting this case. She has hired attorney, Philippe Dutilleul-Francoeur, who heads up France's top law firm for intellectual property and art restitution.