Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The AP Fires Back at Obama Poster Maker Shepard Fairey

Here’s the newest on the entertaining (and potentially important) copyright fight between the Associated Press and Shepard Fairey, the artist whose iconic Obama poster riffs off an AP photo. Or rips off an AP photo, depending on your perspective.

Fairey, who’s become an Internet cause celebre, at least among the Lawrence Lessig set, had already filed a pre-emptive suit asking a federal court to declare that his poster doesn’t infringe on the AP’s copyright. Today the AP answered back with a countersuit.

I’ve embedded the entire response at the bottom of this post. But strip out the legalese and it boils down to “making a copy of something we own isn’t art, it’s theft.” Slightly longer quote from AP CEO Tom Curley:

“This lawsuit is about protecting the content that The Associated Press and its journalists produce every day, with creativity, at great cost, and often at great risk. The journalism that AP and other organizations produce is vital to democracy. To continue to provide it, news organizations must protect their intellectual property rights as vigorously as they have historically fought to protect the First Amendment.”

The knee-jerk response from most of my blogosphere buddies is to dump on the AP for being narrow-minded dullards who “don’t get” the Web. And in some cases, I think they’re right, especially when the organization tries to wall off its headlines from Web aggregators–that’s the definition of a losing battle.

But at the very least, I think the AP has a reasonable argument here, one that it buttresses in the complaint with visuals–other examples of Fairey’s work, which also riff off/rip off other people’s images. (Irony noted: The AP lawyers probably didn’t need to clumsily insist that the images below, which come from a court document that’s open to the public, are for “viewing purposes only”).

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— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo