Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AP Defends Photograph

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Nearly everyone is familiar with Obama's Hope poster. It was on TV when he spoke, hanging out in the background or on signs in the crowd. Now, it is disappearing from the public eye because of an ongoing lawsuit between Shepard Fairey, the poster's artist, and the Associated Press (AP), whose photographer snapped the picture on which the painting was based (yes, it could also have something to do with the President's dwindling approval rating). As the case itself began to fade into obscurity, it got a fresh stoking from Fairey's idiocy. He admitted to lying about which photograph he used as a reference for the painting. He did so because he believed his case would be won more easily if it appeared that he used a wide shot photo refererence, with other people in it, that he cropped down to leave only Obama's face. His chances of winning the case would have been even better if he'd just told the truth.


Im an artist. I appreciate the defense of intellectual property. I also revere the Associated Press. They provide the bulk of information from the journalistic frontlines. To me, they're heroes. But here, in this instance, they are being silly.

Fairey is defending his painting by claiming he altered the painting enough from the source material that he doesn't have to honor the original intellectual property rights. The fair use act makes it possible to borrow certain aspects from other art without the artist being legally penalized. Thank goodness for it too, otherwise we'd never have another action movie or pop song.

The lawsuit comes from the Associated Press's belief that Fairey did not alter his painting from the original photo ENOUGH to qualify under the fair use act.

This left me wondering what they are actually defending. Fairey obviously changed the color. He also tweaked proportions here and there. He completely removed the background of the painting and replaced it with balancing colors. So the AP must be defending the composition of the photograph--they believe that the photographer took a unique photo, worthy of royalties, based on the way the photograph was framed.

I truly understand the frustration when someone rips off your work. I can imagine the frustration the photographer felt knowing that he took the photo that was the basis for the most recognized painting in the world. However, if the only thing he can possibly defend as his own intellectual property is the composition, then he needs to examine his own ethics. The only thing that distinguishes his photo from every other politician's portrait is that it has Obama's face on it. And for permission to use that in artwork, one should ask him. He granted permission.


Does this Picture of JFK look a bit familiar?
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This is one of the most taken pictures in politics. Who gives the Associated Press the right to call dibs on that composition when it's been done thousands of times before? For those of you who don't know, it is the Superman portrait--the upward angle; showing off the jaw, eyes angled slightly over the viewer's head. It is the same angle from which the Greeks viewed the statues of their Gods. Of course that angle is going to be popular and the Associated Press has no right to claim it as their own.

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