Mannie Garcia/Associated Press
The New York Times tells us that Shepard Fairey, the artist who produced the iconic image of Obama is suing the Associated Press to counter their claim of copyright infringement. Verified is the source photograph that is the basis of the artwork. Providing a further wrinkle, the photographer himself is claiming that under his agreement with the AP, the rights to the photograph are his rather than theirs.
The key issue is whether or not the artist's "treatment" of the source material produced something that is original, or something that is derivative in a way that requires certain permissions that were neither requested nor granted. The initial volleys from the attorneys and experts leave me undecided. For the moment, I'm of the opinion that the artist should have secured the rights to the "image" before he began to sell his "version". For me, the deriving of revenue is the critical factor. I tend to credit any photos I post that are not of my own doing, but I make no money from this blog. I think the instant you receive ad revenue from a blog, your responsibilities are different. You now have a home-based business. You are using other people's material to make money. I would think some level of permission would be necessary. The grey areas here are very grey. More grey than that bow in Aretha's hat. That hat is a good example. It traveled around the world overnight. Are those who used it for entertainment purposes, and derived income (ad revenue) in the course of the delivery of that entertainment, obligated to pay something to someone for the use of that hat? Oy.