Label Cloud

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hope... That This Doesn't Become a Lawsuit

The first shots have been fired in the Hope War.

Shepard Fairey's ubiquitous image of President Barack Obama has become the subject of a copyright dispute. The Associated Press claims that it holds the copyright of the photograph upon which the image was created, and thus are entitled to a share of all monies earned. However, Fairey and his attorneys have filed a best-defense-is-a-good-offense lawsuit claiming that Fairey's work is protected under fair-use exceptions to copyright law.

The fair-use doctrine of U.S. copyright law developed from a series of court decisions over the years, and was eventually codified here. The exception lists guidelines that may be taken into consideration for certain exceptions to copyright law when a copyrighted work is used without permission. The one I think is potentially pertinent here is: (3) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

Meanwhile, Mannie Ramirez, the photographer credited with taking the original photo, which is believed to be from a National Press Club event in April 2006, claims that he still holds the copyright to the photo. Moreover, his position seems to place the value of Fairey's contribution to art and culture first, saying as quoted in the New York Times article:

“I don’t condone people taking things, just because they can, off the Internet,” Mr. Garcia said. “But in this case I think it’s a very unique situation.”

He added, “If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it’s had.”
So what do you think? Is Fairey protected by fair-use doctrine? Or does he have to cough up some change to the AP (or to Ramirez)?

1 comment:

Sven said...

From what I understand Shepard Fairey didn't charge anything for his art. I'm not sure what AP hopes to get a % of.