Copyright Battle over Obama Image

I know that we have passed the copyright stuff, but I thought that this was a really interesting article! This happened in second week of January (2009) when Shepard Fairey, who was a street artist and later he became a part of the Obama presidential campaign, made the famous “Hope” poster from the Obama’s Portrait.

As it is said in this BBC news article, Shepard Fairey is being sued for using the AP’s (Associate Press) photograph without their permission.

There is clearly an ethical issue happening here and we can look at the fair use and what we learned and try seeing whether or not his actions were right. I think it is also worth noting that he did not make any money from this poster while being sued for a lot of money.

Is it fair use?

The purpose of the use is for Obama’s presidential campaign. This has nothing to do with the original purpose of the portrait that AP used it. It is also not commercial by any means. (A lot of people made money from selling T-shirts or banners with this image, but not Shepard Fairey).

Nature of use: In my opinion the portrait had no characteristics of its own. It was a very basic portrait of Barack Obama when AP used it. Also, the work was published to public and was publically available. This is simply like the biography of Barack Obama (Which I am assuming you can freely copy and use)

The amount of the work that was copied is somewhat concerning. This is due to the fact that Shepard Fairey used the entire image. However, I think the reason that the poster became famous was because of the effects applied to the image and the word “Hope” underneath the poster.

Shepard’s action did not have any effect on the market that would be towards what AP had published. What AP had published was in 2006 and Shepard used the picture 3 years later.

All in all, I think that Fairey’s action is considered fair use.

It’s worth taking a look at this article from Stanford explaining Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors

Comments are closed.