In one of my meetings last week in Washington DC, during a discussion on copyright, someone mentioned (in an offhand manner) that I should look into the copyright questions surrounding the rather iconic Barack Obama campaign poster that, by now, you've probably all seen:
However, as many (though not all) people know, this poster was not created by the campaign, but a street artist named Shepard Fairey, who admitted that he just grabbed a photo of Obama from Google Images in order to create the photo, but had no idea who had actually taken the photo. Thus, as was pointed out to me, technically, all of those posters were almost certainly violating someone's copyright. It was an interesting question, but before I even had a chance to look into it, one of our readers, Mark Rosedale
, sent in a story about exactly this question. Apparently, after some research, a photo journalist from Philadelphia named Tom Gralish had tracked down the original photograph
-- complete with a copyright credit to freelance photographer Mannie Garcia
, who was apparently on assignment from the Associated Press in 2006 when he took the following photo:
The good news, of course, is that, in a follow up, Garcia seems perfectly happy that his photo was used
, and not at all upset: "I know artists like to look at things; they see things and they make stuff. It's a really cool piece of work." In fact, he admits he did not even realize that his own photo was the inspiration, though, he says "it always seemed so familiar." He does admit: "I wouldn't mind getting a signed litho or something from the artist to put up on my wall."
Still, there may be some unresolved questions here. Considering that the work was done for hire by the Associated Press, it's possible that the AP might actually own the copyright on the photo -- and we've already seen that the AP has, at times, had a somewhat twisted view
of copyright, especially when it comes to fair use. And, of course, with the Obama administration filling the Justice Department with big copyright supporters
, perhaps the DoJ should begin investigating such infringement...