Remember that photo of Obama that looked like he was maybe smoking a joint? You know, this photo
of a jaunty, young Barack Obama? (Published as part of a Time Magazine photo essay after the 2008 election)
Well the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has appropriated the photo, without permission of the photographer, and made an amusing poster.
The folks at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws got there first. For their annual conference poster, they took an old photo of cool-dude college freshman Obama puffing away — on a regular cigarette, mind you — and tweaked it just ever so slightly to fit their message: “Yes We Cannabis.”
Think it might be a problem for the president (who opposes legalization)? It’s really a problem for the photographer. Lisa Jack, an Obama classmate at Occidental College, snapped the image in 1980, one in a series of photos that never saw the light of day until she debuted them in Time’s 2008 Person of the Year issue. She had no idea her photo had been appropriated by NORML until we told her Tuesday.
“They do not have my permission,” said Jack, a psychology professor in Minnesota. These photos “are absolutely not to be used in this way. … I really made a grand effort to do this properly, and I’m very irritated. If I’d wanted these to be used for political purposes, I’d have sold them to Hillary years ago.”
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre cheerfully acknowledged the lift by artist Sonia Sanchez, who summoned the psychedelic aesthetic of ’60s rock posters. “With very little adulteration, she placed what appears to be a cannabis cigarette” in the president’s hand, St. Pierre said. But she made few other changes: Obama “almost made the photograph for us.”
Everyone who attends the September conference in San Francisco will get a poster; NORML is also selling them on the Web ($25 for an 18-by-24-inch with St. Pierre’s autograph, $15 without). Can they do that? St. Pierre admits they didn’t get permission, but “our lawyers thought it was adulterated enough to comply with the fair use laws.”
[Click to continue reading Reliable Source – Furor Over an Obama Puff Piece ]
So is this kind of parody of a public figure that US copyright law allows? It isn’t quite as clear cut at the famous Larry Flynt -Hustler Magazine lawsuit with Jerry Falwell, but seeing as President Obama is on record as being against cannabis legalization, perhaps it is.
The Wall Street Journal Law blog wonders:
But is it “adulterated enough to comply with the fair use laws?” The standard, a copyright lawyer tells us, is whether there was a “transformative use.” And that doesn’t necessarily mean the image has to be transformed — an image can remain exactly the same and satisfy fair use if the picture is framed in a way that sends a message. In other words, its “use” is transformed. “For example, a Nancy Reagan picture on the poster would send a parodic message,” he says. “This one is a closer call.”
[Click to continue reading The Best Fair-Use Controversy Ever? – Law Blog – WSJ]
- well, via Marie’s twitter feed, actually, but twitter is down at the moment [↩]