AP Just Can't Stop: Sues Retailers Over Iconic Obama Image & Gets Quick Settlement

from the abuse-of-copyright dept

We've covered the ridiculous AP case against Shepard Fairey, which ended in a settlement probably in large part due to Fairey's own stupid reaction to the case. He had what many fair use and copyright experts considered to be a very strong case on fair use here, but in destroying evidence and lying, he basically blew all credibility. In the end, it probably made sense for him to settle, because the court almost certainly wouldn't be able to separate out Fairey's own dumb actions from the key issues in the case. Of course, the AP is now looking to cash in even further on its victory, suing a variety of retailers, including Urban Outfitters, for selling t-shirts with the image.
The whole case is absolutely ridiculous for a number of reasons. First of all, the AP didn't even recognize the photo itself until someone else came along and pointed it out. And now it seems to claim that it deserves all of the benefit of Fairey's work? It wasn't the photo that made the work iconic.

The AP's claims here are even more laughable. Spokesperson Paul Colford, who every so often sends me chiding emails, when I point out silly things the AP does, might want to fire up his email client. Here's what he said:
"When a commercial entity such as these retailers, or the company that sold the shirts to them, gets something for nothing by using an AP photo without credit or compensation, it undermines the AP's ability to cover the news.

"It devalues the work that our journalists do, often in dangerous locations where they may literally risk life and limb to cover a story."
Can anyone read that without laughing? Seriously, Paul. What about this use "undermines the AP's ability to cover the news"? Absolutely nothing. It doesn't help the AP's credibility when it makes claims that can't even pass the laugh test. Nothing Fairey did took away from the AP. At all. Fairey made it clear that he wasn't interested in licensing an image, so the AP wasn't denied any money. And, again, since it came out that this was an AP image, it only generated a lot of positive attention to the AP (until they went legal).

Furthermore, how does it "devalue" the work of the journalists? Any logical look at this situation would suggest the exact opposite. It made more people value the AP's photojournalism work. And the stuff about "dangerous locations"? What does that have to do with anything? Was an event at the National Press Club in Washington DC with (then) Senator Obama and George Clooney a "dangerous location"? Of course, you mean other journalists, but please give a single example of how this harms them in any way. You can't. Because it doesn't. Saying this makes the AP look desperate, greedy and clueless... yet again.

Update: And just as I was posting this, word comes down that the case has been settled already. I'm sure it's easier to just fork over some money, rather than fight it, but what a joke.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    Hmmm.

    "And the stuff about "dangerous locations"? What does that have to do with anything? Was an event at the National Press Club in Washington DC with (then) Senator Obama and George Clooney a "dangerous location"?"

    Depends. Did Glenn Beck hold one of his Redneck Rally's the day before? Could be dangerous then....

     

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  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Hmmm.

    Perhaps it's "danger" in the more long-view sense.

    Washington reporters are likely in danger of diabetes or heart-attack or something-like-that.

    QED Washington is a "dangerous location" for reporters.

     

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  3.  
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    Bob, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:39pm

    I can read it without laughing.

    While I think your point about this particular case makes a limited amount of sense-- after all Shepherd Fairey's work didn't stop the AP photographer from getting up the next day and going to work. But I suspect that you're selectively cutting out paragraphs and focusing on them instead of trying to have any sympathy for his position.

    Consider all of the photos of Japan's crisis being lifted by websites left and right. You might argue that it doesn't matter if Joe Blogs borrows a photo and puts it on the site. It's not like Joe Blogs is punching the photographer in the face or stopping them from getting up the next day.

    But it diminishes the need for people to go to the websites that share some of their revenue with the AP. If I can get enough coverage of BoingBoing-- I'll have fewer reasons to go to a site with a legit license. Even if I go to the site with the legit license, I'll have fewer reasons to click through to the stories with the photographs I've already seen all over the web.

    Did anyone from BoingBoing risk their life to take this picture in Japan?

    http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/15/the-fukushima-fifty.html

    I highly doubt it but there's no photo credit and no way to know where they got the work. If I were betting, though I think they're just crossing their fingers and trying to pretend it's all fair use.

    It must be nice to cover the Japanese earthquake from an ocean away.

    Or consider this fine piece of journalism:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/15/inside-saif-gadaffis.html

    One line of introduction and everything else was lifted from the New Statesman. It's so easy to have cool stories when you don't have to actually visit sites and take real pictures.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:43pm

    Re: I can read it without laughing.

    It's clearly obvious that the Untied States government should shut down Boing Boing for such flagrant acts of copyright infringement.

     

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  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

    Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Oh yeah!!? Well every time I "lift" a photo I make certain to find the photographer and punch him/her in the face. Just kidding.

    That aside, would you kindly restate your response in a less-rambling more precise kind of way? My sarcasmeter is having trouble with your post.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Re: I can read it without laughing.

    But it diminishes the need for people to go to the websites that share some of their revenue with the AP. If I can get enough coverage of BoingBoing-- I'll have fewer reasons to go to a site with a legit license. Even if I go to the site with the legit license, I'll have fewer reasons to click through to the stories with the photographs I've already seen all over the web.

    Wait, you're suggesting that the sites with the *actual* reporters and the *actual* photographers are so clueless that they can't provide enough value to make people want to go to them? You're suggesting that they add so little value that people would rather visit a site like BoingBoing?

    It certainly sounds like the problem is with those news organizations failing to provide valuable services themselves. I mean why would people choose BoingBoing over those other sites -- who have more access, more details and more news?

    It must be nice to cover the Japanese earthquake from an ocean away.


    Yes. If you're not there, don't talk about it.

    Are you serious?

    One line of introduction and everything else was lifted from the New Statesman. It's so easy to have cool stories when you don't have to actually visit sites and take real pictures

    Made me want to read the full piece, which I did. Wouldn't have heard about it otherwise. I'm not sure what your complaint is exactly. You don't like people promoting other people's work? Is that it? I'm sorta left scratching my head.

    If you're the same "bob" who I've discussed this with before, it also seems you have a bit of unhealthy obsession with BoingBoing and the whole photo credit thing. I'll have you know that a couple weeks ago, BB posted a story and used a photo that a good friend of mine took, and they did so without credit or a link. I sent Cory a friendly email pointing to the origin of the photo, and within an hour he'd posted the link, a correction and even an apology to the photographer -- and told me that someone had just sent him the photo. All good.

    Rather than complaining, perhaps try informing?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 3:57pm

    Moot point

    At this point, I find it hard to believe that anybody is actually BUYING Obama merchandise. His popularity peaked and declined slightly faster than the pet rock.

     

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  8.  
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    Bob, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    In other words, he just posts without doing any checking? Makes it so much easier to make money when you don't do the research and just post whatever comes over your transom. This is supposed to be a defense of his practices?

    And no it's not an unhealthy obsession with BoingBoing. It's just as the self-proclaimed most successful blog in the world, they are a leader and a convenient symbolic target.

    Yes. If you're not there, don't talk about it.

    I was talking about flying over the reactor to take a picture.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Can you tell me who took those Saif Gadaffi photographs? Thanks.

     

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  10.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Hmmm.

    Nah. I think meant it was dangerous because of all those nasty "aggregating bloggers" that were mixed in with the "real journalists".

     

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  11.  
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    Cow Lard, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    Photo? Really!

    Dam, I must be stupid or blind.
    But I thought that ARTWORK was created as part of a series of postage stamps.
    I thought, gee that ARTIST captured a great light, one worthy of the intent of the man who became president. Regardless of what you may think of him or politics, which unfortunately is the art of compromise. The intent is a leading light.

    Then it dawned on me, its AP who's stupid & blind and leading us into the DARK! With its no compromising business politics of make me more money at anyone else's COST!

    Hey MIKE, why don't you post him my sentiments and regards.
    You may wish to ask him to remove the convenience filters from his eyes though.

     

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  12.  
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    bob, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    It certainly sounds like the problem is with those news organizations failing to provide valuable services themselves. I mean why would people choose BoingBoing over those other sites -- who have more access, more details and more news?

    I'm sure people make very different choices, but I'm sure that many don't actively choose one over the other. Still, they can still ignore stories if they visit the newspaper site after visiting BB and seeing the picture.

    And as I explained, people may visit BB, see the pictures of Japan and then decide that their curiousity about Japan was sated.

    Oh, I'm sure some people will click through but it could just as easily be the opposite. In most cases it will be. I think everyone has seen enough log files to know that only a few percent actually click through.

     

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  13.  
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    Josh, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    I'VE GOT IT!!!!

    I KNOW WHAT THEY DID THERE! Now I'm going to turn it to my advantage. First I'm going to take a photo of something (can be anything really), then when someone views it online (and it is effectively saved to their cache), I'm going to say:

    "When somebody has my image and gets something for nothing by using my photo without credit or compensation, it undermines the my ability to come to work. Give me money."

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    And as I explained, people may visit BB, see the pictures of Japan and then decide that their curiousity about Japan was sated.

    Equally true: I may tell someone about what's going on in Japan, and they may feel their curiosity is sated.

    Is me describing what I read in the paper "theft"? Do tell...

    Oh, I'm sure some people will click through but it could just as easily be the opposite. In most cases it will be. I think everyone has seen enough log files to know that only a few percent actually click through

    Yes, I see the log files, and people click. Oh boy do they click. I wish we had more people "stealing" from in this manner.

     

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  15.  
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    bob, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    If you click through to the New Stateman's website, you'll see it there. More proof that people don't click though.

     

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  16.  
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    bob, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Is me describing what I read in the paper "theft"? Do tell...

    Are you saying that the BoingBoing technique of writing one lame sentence and then copying the meat of the article is not theft?

    This example (and many, many more from the net for which BB is just a stand in) have nothing to do with the hot news doctrine or other more complicated issues about facts. It's purely about expression. The lame sentence does not add to the story, advance our knowledge about the facts, or even comment about the story itself. It just repeats it.

    It sure must be nice to cash a check for doing this little work.

     

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  17.  
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    bob, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Hmmm.

    People have been known to attack the President.

    And the photographer who's work was lifted here certainly risked his or her life:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/15/the-fukushima-fifty.html

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    See it where? Seriously, can you tell me who took the photograph? I cannot find the information.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 6:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    It's called copyright infringement and not theft.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:43pm

    Wow...

    You really don't get what Copyright Protection is all about, do you? :(

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    It's printed in the lower right of the photo

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 9:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Where?!? What am I blind?!? Besides, I asked for the photographer's name, would you kindly tell me then? Seeing as I am blind?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 9:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Not the Obama photo, the Saif Gadaffi photographs, at the New Stateman's website.

    bob? Where did you go?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 10:04pm

    Will the Urban Homesteaders .....

    Will the Urban Homesteaders sue the Urban Outfitters for using the term Urban????

     

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  25.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 17th, 2011 @ 1:34am

    Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    In other words, he just posts without doing any checking?

    No, he posted without knowing. He couldn't find the source. I told him. He fixed. All good.

    What are you whining about now?

    I was talking about flying over the reactor to take a picture.


    I'm not sure what your point is?

     

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  26.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 17th, 2011 @ 1:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Are you saying that the BoingBoing technique of writing one lame sentence and then copying the meat of the article is not theft?

    Yes. I'm saying it's not theft. Call the police and report the theft. Then report back to me on how loudly they laughed.

    This example (and many, many more from the net for which BB is just a stand in) have nothing to do with the hot news doctrine or other more complicated issues about facts. It's purely about expression. The lame sentence does not add to the story, advance our knowledge about the facts, or even comment about the story itself. It just repeats it.

    I see you didn't even bother to answer my question.

    So, let's ask again. You claimed -- totally and ridiculously incorrectly that BB's actions were wrong because BB might "sate" someone's knowledge on this story. I pointed out that it is not illegal for others to sate one's knowledge based on what was learned from another source.

    You refused to answer the question.

    That suggests you know that you have no real argument here.

    It sure must be nice to cash a check for doing this little work.


    It sure must be nice to be so stupendously ignorant to think that what BoingBoing does is such "little work."

    Besides, I'll again make the same point I made before: if it's so "little work," why doesn't the original source do it and "steal" all of BB's traffic?

     

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  27.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 17th, 2011 @ 1:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Where?!? What am I blind?!? Besides, I asked for the photographer's name, would you kindly tell me then? Seeing as I am blind?

    I've looked too, and I don't see it. Where is the name?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    It is amazing to watch you justify "news piracy".

    You have stated that one of your friends images was used without permission, and their excuse was "someone sent it to us". That is pretty lame. Why would that be tolerable? Should the rights holder have to scan the entire internet hourly to make sure their images (their work) is not being used without attribution? That would be insane.

    Should the Statesman have to scan the internet hourly to make sure their stories are not being duplicated?

    More importantly, should we keep giving a walk to sites like boingboing that clearly don't have any respect for anyone else's work?

    Mike, why do you support this sort of thing?

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    It's called the Internet; if you can't get over it then might I suggest you get off of it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperlink#Legal_issues

    Several courts have found that merely linking to someone else's website is not copyright or trademark infringement, regardless of how much someone else might object.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Update: And just as I was posting this, word comes down that the case has been settled already. I'm sure it's easier to just fork over some money, rather than fight it, but what a joke.

    The only joke is you not getting the concept. If Farley broke the law to create the image, everything that is produced as a result from that image is also in violation. Urban Outfitters was profiting from the illegal image. How hard is that to understand?

    The only humor in all of this is how you choose to ignore the law.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2011 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    Umm, what the heck are you talking about? This isn't an issue of linking.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can read it without laughing.

    So it's a fair use issue?

     

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