Monday, February 9, 2009

Art or Plagiarism?

In the newest aspect of his intriguing copyright case Shepard Fairey, the creator of the now famous campaign image of Barack Obama, has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against the Associated Press. At issue is ownership: the AP says it owns the photo, the freelance photographer who took it also claims ownership, and Fairey contends that the photo was merely a starting point for his art and not of importance at all. While Fairey's image does bear an undeniable likeness to the photo, Fairey clearly enhanced and abstracted it, and in the end his image makes a much different statement than the original photo. (Not to mention that he cropped it; in the AP photo Obama is sitting next to George Clooney).

No matter how the court rules, the case has already brought additional attention to Fairey's art, currently featured at the ICA in Boston, MA. In addition, it raises interesting questions: what are the guidelines regarding artistic usage of images readily available on the internet? Can artists react to one another without the risk of copyright infringement? How and where do we draw the line between criminal plagarism and simple inspiration?

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