Whose Picture is it Anyway?

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There is quite a brouhaha over that dang-blasted Shepard Fairey Obama/Hope poster. Now Fairey is suing the Associated Press to thwart their demand that he cough up some dough for using their photo without permission. Meanwhile the photographer, Mannie Garcia, says that he, not A.P., owns the rights, and he’s happy to have it used as the basis for the poster. While I don’t want to rehash this controversy yet again, I do want to point out that this is not the first time photographs (and other artworks) have been the raw material for graphic works. In fact, the already murky area called “fair use,” which Fairey’s lawyers are invoking, has been applied before. Above and below are a few that have passed that very test. (Che by Alberto Korda and Paul Davis, above; Nixon official photo and Andy Warhol, below; Mao official portrait and Andy Warhol; News photo of Sacco and Vanzetti and Ben Shahn; Michelangelo’s Isaiah and Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, below at bottom.)

Can you recall other examples?

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →