Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama Image Copyright Infringement Issues

To be blunt - NORML's use of the Lisa Jack image of Barack Obama is, in this author's opinion, plain and simple, copyright infringement. Photo District News did two great pieces on this - From Hope to Dope: Another Obama Poster Dispute and Getty: We'll Fight NORML's Copyright Infringement, so I won't re-hash what they wrote here.

What I will say about the image at right, is that the poster is an illustration SURROUNDING a photographic image. Unlike Shepard Fairey's claim of fair-use and derivative use, where (Fairey claims) the resulting image was so significantly different that other than angle of view expression/subject, the resulting work was not substantial enough that the original photographer has a claim (this is the inaccurate position of Shepard Fairey), this use has a hole in the center they filled with a photograph. Other than applying a green duotone tint to the original black and white, it's a photograph. They added in a swirl of smoke, but it's a photo, plain and simple.

(Continued after the Jump)

Since Getty is quoted in the PDN piece as saying "will aggressively pursue this matter as the copyright representative of the artist" the question at hand will be the soundness of Getty's copyright registration. If they simply included the Jack images in their own registration process, as a part of a "database addition" registration (which some agencies have done in the past), where they register multiple photographers' work in a single registration, that will be a big problem. If, however, Jack had registered the work herself, Getty will have substantial ground to stand on. The strength of this case will test Getty's (and other agencies) copyright registration procedures, if it goes to court, which is looks like it might. If Getty does go to court, and loses over a questionable registration, it could well signal open season on infringements on Getty and other agencies. Look to Getty to try very hard to settle this case quietly.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

While I wholeheartedly agree with your take on the Lisa Jack image, I find it laughable that the AP takes issue with the image used by Shepard Fairley. Fairley "claims" to have created the image purely as an expression of support and expected no financial return, unlike NORML who openly admits to selling the poster as a fund raiser. More telling is the fact that the AP isn't seeking confiscatory remunerations for the photographer who shot the image (Mannie Garcia), but for themselves. I know from personal experience that the AP typically pays photographers no more than $15-$25 for images that they then market world wide.

DDayLanding said...

Sounds like agendas at play that are not purely related to the protection of an artist's image. Politics and law are at the helm here - not art or photography.

JeffGreenberg said...

"this use has a hole in the center they filled with a photograph. Other than applying a green duotone tint to the original black and white, it's a photograph."
Its the size of the photo vs. size of multi-elemented poster that matters, IMO.
(You've surely taken editorial photos that included an unmodified copyrighted photo within your photo -- like I have -- & it was fair use)
For example:
What matters is whether NORML & conference promoted in poster is nonprofit & whether NORML sold poster, IMO.

John Harrington said...

Jeff -

If I take a portrait of a subject where somewhere in the background there is a framed photo or painting, I could very well run afoul of the copyright of that artist, which is why you often see tv shows blurring out artwork on the walls in reality tv shows. Clearly in this case, the photo is the center of attention for this poster.

-- John

Newer Post Older Post