Entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on photographs or other images they find on the web, beware. A couple of wrong clicks could really cost you.
Take, for example, Shepard Fairey, the Los Angeles-based street artist famous for creating the iconic, red, white and blue poster of President Barack Obama with the word “HOPE” spelled underneath. The photo on which the poster is based belongs to the Associated Press, and Fairey used it, and added his own touches, without asking the 100-year-old news organization for permission.
That omission could mean a hit the pocketbook for Fairey, who is currently selling signed versions of his work on his Obey Giant website for $30. (A mural-sized reproduction of the disputed image is being sold in London for $146,195.50.)
Now AP wants credit and compensation for use of the photo. But Fairey, though he acknowledges that the image is based on a 2006 photo of Obama taken by Mannie Garcia for the AP, says he does not believe that the company has any right to his work. The two are currently negotiating a resolution to the dispute.
“This case is really about fair use,” says June Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia Law School. “It shows that entrepreneurs should tread very carefully when using someone else’s work.”
Copyright Law: What You Need to Know
A copyright protects the owner or creator from having a work used without permission. Whenever you write, photograph or sing something completely original, that work becomes your property to use as you see fit.