Presidential Photo Use for a Book Allowed? Parody Exception? for-Profit UNexception?
March 21, 2010 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Using photo of the President for a "for profit" parody enterprise? Guide me, MeFi!

I am putting together a book with, let's call it "presidential humor." about our president.

Where can I get a picture (preferably free) that I can use on the book's cover? I'd assume Wikipedia (using the correct license for a particular image) but I am also under the impression that sing an image of a president in parody might NOT be OK if it is for profit?

1) can a photo of a president be used on a book (assuming I use a public domain photo?)

2) assuming a parody has special exception to it not being allowed, does the "for profit" angle make it forbidden?

you are not my lawyer... but any and all guidance would be appreciated!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Obama White House's Flickr can be used for this. Here's their terms of use, which clearly cover this.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2010

My understanding is if it's a government photographer it is in the public domain. The well known picture of Nixon and Elvis is public domain. Otherwise you have to pay BIG $ to Elvis's estate. IANY(copyright)L.
posted by Pecantree at 5:02 PM on March 21, 2010

Yeah, IANAL, but I am a law student and I happen to have done a good amount of research into parodies, so I know a little bit more about them than normal.

Parodies usually get exempted. The logic is that people are hesitant to license their work out to other people who would then use it to make fun of them, so the Supreme Court carved out an exception.

The for profit angle does not make it forbidden per se, but it could pose a problem. I don't know what you're trying to do and this area of law is very fact-specific, so if you want to play it on the safe side, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Based on your limited facts though, it sounds like it's not going to be a problem.

For your own enrichment, the applicable doctrine is called Fair Use. Google 17 U.S.C. 107 to see the statute. Nolo and American University are 2 good readable sources without too much legalese.

If you want to dig into the nitty gritty of it all, the Supreme Court case that covers these issues specifically is Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music. It deals with 2 Live Crew and their song "Pretty Woman".
posted by borjomi at 1:09 AM on March 22, 2010

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