Graphic Art & Fair Use

Walking home from class last night, I happened to catch this set of interviews on Fresh Air with Terry Gross about a lawsuit currently in process over the now-iconic Obama Hope poster and artistic fair use. The poster artist, Shepard Fairey, used an AP photograph of Obama as the reference for his graphic, and people have raised questions about whether he was diligent enough in crediting his source -- specifically his failure to track down the photographer, Mannie Garcia. The Associated Press approached Fairey for use fees and damages after the source of the image was identified, and Fairey has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against the Associated Press arguing that his use of the original photograph image falls under the fair use protections of U.S. copyright law.

Coming, as I do, from a family of artists, mapmakers, academics, booksellers, and librarians, these issues are all intensely relevant to the work that the people in my life do on a daily basis. (Not to mention the part of my soul that moonlights as a legal junkie). I found Gross's interviews with both artists involved fascinating. They gave me a lot to think about in terms of the nature of creative expression and what constitutes inspiration as opposed to plagiarism in visual mediums (most of my background is in text). My dad commented via email this morning, "I was thinking about how I would rule in such a case which is of couse now complicated by the lawsuits, etc. Personally, I thought the artist's offer to pay the original liscense fee was fair but AP's desire for 'damages' was too much given it was not a 'for-profit' undertaking."

Anyway, check out the interviews and feel free to leave any thoughts comments.

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