Copyright, copywrong, copyleft

I’ve been trolling the Wall Street Journal these days. Not so much because I’m a masochist about my financial portfolio (but, wow, these are great days for masochists!), but because the august Journal interviewed me about travel photography for a feature they’re publishing next month (April 19th, they say. I’ll keep you posted). And I figured, any journal that has such good taste in travel photographers is worth a look:-).

Well, this article caught my attention.  It’s about the famous Manny/Fairey case. You know the one where the “artist” appropriated the Obama picture from the AP’s Manny Garcia, colorized it, called it his own, and proceeded to make tens of thousands of dollars selling it.  That’s Manny’s shot on the left on the next page…

Obama Poster
Associated Press

When the AP got wind of the misuse (thanks to a scrupulous gallery owner who was going to exhibit some of the work, and asked Fairey who took the photo that was used as the poster’s basis but was refused an answer) they got on the case and sued the “artist” for infringement.

Instead of working out a license fee with the AP and Garcia,  Fairey, along with anti-copyright guru Lawrence “if-I-can-see-it-it’s-mine” Lessig from Stanford, is countersuing.  Talk about being through the looking glass.

It’s like a guy breaking into your house, stealing your stuff, and suing you for the injuries he sustained when you tackled him in your living room and called the cops. Can you say “brass cojones?”

Despite the apparent cut and dried infringement here, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in court, where logic often does not rule (the very fact that I’m rooting for AP, an organization that is infamous for usurping rights from freelancers, is just an indication of how weird things have become in the intellectual property field!)

As I always do when I’m trying to suss out the legalities of our business, I swing over to the Photo Attorney blog. My friend, Carolyn Wright, an excellent wildlife photographer AND an intellectual property lawyer, always has some cogent analysis as well as pointers to other sources. It’s really worth a read through the articles she’s sourced on this controversy. Guaranteed to make your blood boil. Which of course, you’ll love, if you’re a masochist…and these days, who can afford not to be!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Bob – I like the use of the punctuation in the “artist”. There is a case of swiping if you know it. Good post and the Photo Attorney is great as well.

  2. Hi Bob-

    There is always that guy out there that has to make a buck no matter who he has to step on!

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