You may have heard the recent stories about former President George W. Bush's new exhibit of paintings of world leaders
. There's been plenty of chatter about the former President picking up painting as a hobby since leaving office. While many may have assumed that he used his experience in meeting with those world leaders in order to have an accurate representation of what they looked like, the truth is that he just pulled results from Google Image search result for each one
. Literally. Some people have gone through and done Google Image searches on each of the subjects he painted, and discovered that the paintings were clearly all based on either the very first result, or very near the top search result.
Yes, that's right. George W. Bush is an appropriation artist.
Many of those images are from Wikipedia, where they're under Creative Commons licensing, but others are clearly covered by copyright. As Animal New York notes, the image of former French President Jacques Chirac comes from a photo of the cover of Chirac's book cover, where the copyright on the photo is actually held by the Associated Press.
The Animal New York article is probably correct that it's unlikely that the Associated Press will go after the former President for copyright infringement, but only because it's hypocritical. In the past, the Associated Press did, in fact, sue Shepard Fairey
over his iconic image of President Obama, that was also based on an AP photo. Fairey (stupidly) did himself in by trying to destroy evidence
and then lie about it, seriously harming his case, and distracting from the central question of whether or not his image was fair use. But, the AP has sued others
over that image as well, so you never know.
While the chances are minimal, it certainly would be interesting to have a case in which, of all people, George W. Bush, becomes the poster child for fair use.