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February 27, 2009

Copyright Debate

It's highly unlikely that you haven't seen the now iconic "Hope" poster of President Obama at some point in the last year. We're coyly avoiding posting it as the national debate has moved from the campaign trail to focus on copyright issues raised by the poster itself. The furor stems from the artist's use of an Associated Press photograph as a starting point for the piece. The AP is claiming copyright infringement, and the artist, Shepard Fairey is claiming fair use (in terms of making art, fair use means loosely that the derivative work differs in intent and content enough from the original as to make it legitimately separate, see the U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use page). Further adding to the debate is the dispute over whether the AP or the freelance photographer, Mannie Garcia, owns rights to the photograph.

Anyone working in the creative fields should pay attention to the arguments being made on both sides and the legal outcomes of all lawsuits involved. Nearly as long as art has been made, artists have parodied, reinterpreted, and borrowed from other artists and popular culture. New technology and the increasing practice of appropriation in the arts raises new questions about where the lines of ownership lie, what might be considered appropriate appropriation and what might cross the boundaries of infringement.

Yesterday, on NPR's Fresh Air, Fairey, Garcia, and a copyright lawyer discuss their differing opinions on the matter. You can listen to the full episode, here.

In the meantime, if you're an artist of any kind, you may want to check out the College Art Association's page on Intellectual Property rights, and particularly the fair use portion.

Keep reading for links to blog posts and more news stories about the Fairey/Garcia/AP kerfuffle as well as other Fair Use issues.

Fairey Use from the Wire
Fair Use vs. Fairey's Use in the Boston Globe
Notes on Culture in Boston Magazine
Shepard Fairey: Obey Copyright from MyArtSpace
Artist Cage Match: Fairey vs. Orr from the Austin Chronicle outs Fairey as playing both sides of the copyright issues.
Fair Use and Free Speech a YouTube video about Independent Documentary Filmmakers' statement on what is fair use.

Posted by hthrlowe at February 27, 2009 02:51 PM


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