Where can I find copyright free photos of public figures?
March 1, 2004 8:53 AM   Subscribe

I might want to post a picture of W Bush with a potentially inflammatory caption on my blog. Probably NOT a good idea for me to just grab an AP photo..? (Inside, dere is more.)

What photo's of public figures are © and hassle-free? Or, am I safest disguising a photo: grab a photo and art it into a Tom Tomorrow-style thing, or convert the photo to grayscale and exaggerrate the contrast for a scherenschnitt scissor-cut type thing?
posted by Shane to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
IANAL, but I think you're getting right of reproduction mixed up with the right to take the picture. AP can take a picture of a public figure and use it in any commercial way, but that picture is then AP's IP.

I THINK it's then fair use for you to use it for parody or satire purposes, which is how tom tomorrow, the Onion, etc. gets away with it.

These are all my theories only.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2004

You should be safe on parody grounds... by you could always browse the US Government's archive of photos for the taking.
posted by silusGROK at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: ...the US Government's archive of photos for the taking.

"Most of these images and graphics are available for use in the public domain; they may be used and reproduced without permission or fee."


Thanks, silusGROK, Flanders, and anyone else who answers. I truly ♥ AskMe *sniffle*, youse folks are da best.
posted by Shane at 9:24 AM on March 1, 2004

or you could ignore the entire non-issue. they always send officious little cease and desist letters before attempting to squash your access to fair use, which doesn't exist at all if they have money and dislike your sense of humor enough. don't worry about it for cripes sake, don't drink the friggin' kool-aid until they force it down your throat, shane.
posted by quonsar at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: That's true, quonsar. I've tempted cease-and-desists in the past but never received one, and I won't feel like a real man until I do.
posted by Shane at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2004

consider them trophies.
posted by quonsar at 9:43 AM on March 1, 2004

"I THINK it's then fair use for you to use it for parody or satire purposes"

Assuming it is parody then you have the right to use them. But you'll probably get some very frightening letters from AP's lawyers anyway. Just because it's 100% legal doesn't mean they won't do everything possible within the bounds of the law to crush you like a bug.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:18 AM on March 1, 2004

what y6 said. don't think just because it's "legal" that you can do it without hassle. note that in all of my cases, the material has been removed. legal or not, you and i don't have the money to fend off the barratry (which, ironically enough, *is* illegal). money and lawyers in your employ generally render questions of legality moot in the land of the free and the home of the brave. the best you can do is tweak thier noses, and cause thier monthly billing for legal services to rise imperceptibly.
posted by quonsar at 10:26 AM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Well, the AP wouldn't normally even notice me, but the type of statement I was thinking of making might possibly piss off some conservative who might be smart enough to report me. bluedaniel from MeFi had a similar problem with that for a while. He somehow attracted the attention of this semi-psycho woman who lives to report even the most minor copyright-infringements (apparently just because she gets a kick out of it and otherwise has no life), and she actually gets an insane amount of cease-n-desist letters sent to people. bluedan's story was pretty funny, as I recall, but I don't remember enough to recount it well.
posted by Shane at 10:52 AM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Also, if I do this thing right, it's gonna be froggin' MEME material, whether it catches or not. Liberal (heh) theft and reproduction of it will be encouraged heartily by yours truly.
posted by Shane at 11:07 AM on March 1, 2004

Black's Law Dictionary, next to the term "chilling effect," should have a picture of this thread.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:43 AM on March 1, 2004

Could you just use your caption as a hyperlink to the photo?
posted by interrobang at 12:22 PM on March 1, 2004

There was a case a couple years ago where someone put together a Flash movie using AP footage of the that Cuban kid that had been kidnapped and the Budweiser "True, True" commercial. He got jumped on big time by the AP. But then word got around and everyone mirrored the file and AP backed down after a buttload of bad publicity.

So one the one hand you can use these and prevail even if you get a C & D, which isn't even getting sued. But at the same time there are some hair-splitting criteria for what is and what isn't parody.

I usually err on the side of pushing my luck when it comes to IP. For example the background on my website is the Decss code which was illegal to posses a while back. IP law in this country is oppressive. Corporate greed has completely taken over copyright, which was designed to protect like people like you.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:27 PM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Could you just use your caption as a hyperlink to the photo?

Thanks, John, but I want a complete package image/caption, maybe with the feel of the Che poster which, oddly, was created purposely copyright-free by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick in '68, thus encouraging meme-hood . . . although my own meme will probably spread to 6 or 7 people if I'm lucky ;-)
posted by Shane at 12:42 PM on March 1, 2004

Hope to see it...
posted by thomcatspike at 3:49 PM on March 9, 2004

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