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Censorship Government United States The Media Politics

Flickr Yanks Image of Obama As Joker 869

Posted by timothy
from the such-treatment-is-only-for-the-old-boss dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An interesting article yesterday about the unmasking of the recent creator of the controversial and iconic Obama/Joker image that has been popping up around Los Angeles with the word Socialism under it. The Los Angeles Times has identified the images' creator as Firas Alkhateeb. Even more interesting though is the fact that after getting over 20,000 hits on the image at Flickr, Flickr removed the image from Alkateeb's photostream, citing 'copyright' concerns. The image in question is clearly both an independent derivative work and unquestionably a parody of the President and Time Magazine which would be covered under fair use. It has appeared on many other sites without issue on the Internet." According to the same reader, "Flickr also recently nuked a user's entire photostream over negative comments on President Obama's official photostream."
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Flickr Yanks Image of Obama As Joker

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  • by blg42 (1484007) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:01PM (#29123023)
    With pseudo free services such as Flickr, you have to abide by their terms of service. Expect them to err on the side of caution rather than risk litigation by large companies. My guess is they were more worried about Time magazine being referenced than the president. According to their terms of service: "You acknowledge that Yahoo! may or may not pre-screen Content, but that Yahoo! and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to pre-screen, refuse, or remove any Content that is available via the Yahoo! Services. Without limiting the foregoing, Yahoo! and its designees shall have the right to remove any Content that violates the TOS or is otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of any Content, including any reliance on the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of such Content. In this regard, you acknowledge that you may not rely on any Content created by Yahoo! or submitted to Yahoo!, including without limitation information in Yahoo! Message Boards and in all other parts of the Yahoo! Services." Note the phrase "otherwise objectionable". Nice vague language to give themselves the right to remove just about anything. Even though the image was probably copyrighted, it might not have been removed if the rest of Time magazine cover had not also been reproduced. Some might argue that that was implying that Time some how shared the views of the poster (granted that is a bit of a stretch).
  • by cml4524 (1520403) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:05PM (#29123099)

    when Time did this very thing to a photo of Bush

    Proof? I'm finding exactly nothing of the sort, and all similar searches lead to a cartoonist's drawing published in Vanity Fair.

  • What's the point? (Score:3, Informative)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:07PM (#29123153)

    I'm sure that the Obama administration has his info on file already through the http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/ [whitehouse.gov] website.

    Isn't anyone else bothered ONE LITTLE BIT by the administration asking people to forward email rumors, etc., critical of the Obama or "the health care plan"? The site says "please don't forward names, etc." but they publicly ask that those things be forwarded. So if you have a slightly conspiracy minded friend, and you are one of the many recipients of his email, guess what - the Administration likely has your email address.

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:14PM (#29123293)
    It's a political parody. It's VERY hard to pursue claims of copyright infringement against specifically political speech; the courts are very conservative about such things.

    The EFF has also gone on record saying they didn't think this was an infringing image.
  • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:21PM (#29123441)

    to be fair use as a parody, something has to be a parody of the copyright work, not the subject of that work. Second, it's not at all obvious to me that this is a parody of Time Magazine. What feature of the Time cover is being parodied, exactly?

    Congratulations, in traditional slashdot fashion, you forgot to RTFA. The original work on Flickr was a version of the Time Magazine cover with the doctored Obama photo. According to the artist, it was done out of curiosity about photoshopping an image and not really any sort of political statement (educational, also fair use). A different faceless internet artist grabbed his photoshop and did more photoshopping to produce the poster with "Socialist" on it. And you might want to read up on parody, I don't think you really came close in your analysis of the legal definition of parody. But, I'm no lawyer, so I won't pretend my opinion on the matter carries any weight.

  • by Homburg (213427) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:24PM (#29123525) Homepage

    The Joker was about chaos and anarchy which is so far away from Socialism that the juxtaposition just strikes me as ludicrous.

    It depends what kind of socialism [blackened.net] you're talking about. Of course, though Obama isn't a socialist of any sort, he's even less a libertarian socialist than he is a social democrat (which I think is what people mean when they accuse him of being a socialist).

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:33PM (#29123721) Journal

    Well, lets take a look really quick.

    on the home page for flickr, I simply types Bush in the search box and found these results in the first few replies.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bar-art/1549247793/ [flickr.com]
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/inkvision/43028237/ [flickr.com]
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrwaldo/309309512/ [flickr.com]
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eduardo_dacosta/511117225/ [flickr.com]

    I think the one that probably shows the most evidence of this is this one.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bmj/5799991/ [flickr.com]
    Notice the caption "it's true, photo's don't lie".

    Yea, it's obvious that they are protecting Obama. Probably because Obama has decided to steer a bunch of government money/usage [readwriteweb.com] their way with making the government sites on Flickr.

    BTW, when I searched for Obama, it was about 10 pages in before I found the first photo criticizing him.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/3834570613/ [flickr.com]

    It's nothing more then a re-posting of the pulled photo with a story under it about the action. I wonder how long it will stay there?

  • Obama is off-limits (Score:4, Informative)

    by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:34PM (#29123741) Journal

    If by miracle my post is not drowned down into depths of oblivion, note that Dubya was depicted tens of times with very unflattering altered photos, and so was Cheney, while the W. administration was in power - and nobody complained.
    See this [observer.com] or this [vanityfair.com], for example.

    Also, while Mc Cain was campaigning, this rather shocking picture was publicized [newsbusters.org] by The Atlantic - who later recanted and apologized - but the point is, nobody in the McCain camp complained, let alone did you have public and officers making a fuss about it.

    But with Obama, the thought police is up in arms bigtime.

    And they are right to be: Obama is sacred and he farts rainbows, and his words are words of wisdom, and he poops gold nuggets. And Obama won't speak up: it is the Will of the People that is against any criticism of the Beloved President.

  • by Aurisor (932566) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:43PM (#29123911) Homepage

    You're only allowed to use copyrighted characters and images that belong to the object of parody. This means that if you're mocking Disney, you can use Mickey Mouse, but you can't use Mickey Mouse to parody someone not associated with Disney.

    It's counterintuitive, but it's exactly the way our legal system works. This is exactly the same thing that happened when Penny Arcade used Strawberry Shortcake to parody American McGee.

    Of course, what's actually happening here is that the people who disagree with the parody are using the letter of the law to get it removed. Moral of the story: if you're going to piss people off make sure you dot your i's and cross your t's first.

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:04PM (#29124311)

    Yes, it is, but it was Times' parody and he just added "socialism" under it.

    Time made no parody with it's cover [time.com].

  • by DRJlaw (946416) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:07PM (#29124365)

    It's not "unquestionable" at all. First of all, the fact that it's a parody of the President does not make it fair use - to be fair use as a parody, something has to be a parody of the copyright work, not the subject of that work.... It seems to me that the image in question is using the Time photograph to produce an unrelated piece of work commenting on the President. That's no more fair use than, say, sampling a record to produce a new track is fair use.

    It's not unquestionable, but it's very close to being so. First, 17 USC 107 permits uses for "criticism, comment, news reporting..." in addition to parody and satire. Neither the article nor Alkhateeb appear to have claimed that the image is a parody -- that's a fiction originating in the summary. The EFF reportedly considers it to be political commentary. Alkhateeb might consider it to be criticism. Almost any way that you slice it, this sort of speech qualifies for fair use. Second, you appear to be focusing on the wrong image -- Alkhateeb did not create the ObamaJoker "SOCIALISM" poster, but the modified Time cover included in the article -- and the modified Time cover could very well be construed as parody. The courts have stated that "The original work need not be the sole subject of the parody; the parody 'may loosely target an original' as long as the parody 'reasonably could be perceived as commenting on the original or criticizing it, to some degree.'" (Mattell v. Walking Mountain Productions, 9th Circuit 2003). Third, you've ignored the four factors, including (1) the purpose and character of the use (political and noncommercial); (2) the nature of the copyrighted work (already published with little residual value -- a September 2008 weekly magazine cover does not have much commercial value months or years later); (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole (it would be interesting to see whether the photograph was registered individually or under a serial registration for the magazine); and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (in view of the substantial transformation of the cover, I think you can readily argue that there's virtually none).

    Flickr, Time, and DC Comics can do what they wish so long as they are willing to take the PR hit. But your position on fair use is particularly flawed. As has been noted by other posters, non-commercial political speech is essentially the most protected form of speech that there is. Alkhateeb could easily file a DMCA counternotice that puts the ball right back into Flickr's court, and the chances of Time or DC Comics succeeding in a copyright infringement claim are extremely low.

  • Anyone who actually reads the article about the original creator of the "Joker-ized" Obama portrait [latimes.com] knows a few things that are being overlooked by thoughtless partisans in this discussion so far:
    • The originator did not include the word socialism
    • The originator was not attempting to make a statement about disliking Obama himself
    • The originator feels the label of "socialism" doesn't even make sense

    And of course, anyone who knows anything about the Joker himself knows that he was really more of an anarchist.

    So anyone who thinks that there is some great political conspiracy behind this needs to pay at least a little attention to what is actually happening here regarding the image and its author. And then after that they should hopefully stop hyperventilating enough to realize that even if Flickr pulls an image it doesn't just disappear from the internet - it is still out there for people to see and Flickr knows that too.

  • Re:So.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {werdnaredne}> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:11PM (#29124407) Homepage Journal

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=george+bush [flickr.com]

    Heck, tons of people have been linking images from Flickr searches in this thread.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:13PM (#29124423) Journal

    When you claim the media is 'liberal' you do two things: you demonstrate that you do not understand what the word 'liberal' means, and that you subscribe to a simplistic view of the world where everything is black and white.

    OK, then how's this: The media treats Democrats better than Republicans. I could also say that the media treated anti-war protesters much better than the anti-government-insurance protesters or "tea-baggers" as the press likes to call them.

    Prime example: Here [dailyradar.com] is a CNN reporter at two different protests. One is an anti-Bush protest where she calls a giant Bush head with a Hitler mustache a Bush "look alike". Then you see the exact same reporter interviewing a Tea Party protester with a picture of Obama as Hitler. She says, "do you have any idea how offensive that is?" Same situation, different presidents, different responses. Watch that and please tell me that the press is not biased.

    Here is a quote from a UCLA study (not a conservative school, btw):

    "Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said coâ'author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

    Google "media bias" for more.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:23PM (#29124557)

    Watch that and please tell me that the press is not biased.

    The press is not biased in the way you want them to be.
    All you've demonstrated is that a reporter was probably biased.

  • by LeftE (976479) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:04PM (#29125217) Homepage
    Actually, Obama's overall approval rating dropped below 50% as early as July, with his Approval Index being below zero every day since June: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/obama_approval_index_history [rasmussenreports.com]
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:15PM (#29125385)

    All you've demonstrated is that a reporter was probably biased.

    Um... reporter ARE the press.

    You have a small problem understanding quantities don't you?

    Also, you've ignored the UCLA study that backs my claim up. See, it's not just me. There are many MANY studies that all say the same thing.

    There you go with the misunderstanding of quantities. The link your provided claims it is the only such study. Yet you claim there are are MANY of them. Furthermore, there are plenty of criticisms of Groseclose's study that suggest poor methodology on his part - like his claim of the Wall Street Journal being highly liberal being based only a specific 4 month period while similar analysis for NPR and CBS covered nearly 12 years.

  • Re:So.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:27PM (#29125529)

    Excuses excuses. So the WMD were there, but they werent. Or they were all transported, or maybe destroyed. The idea that Bush cherry picked intel to make a case he knew was damn unmakable in unacceptable by you, which is a shame as its the best thesis for why this war happened. All the reports skeptical of these claims were buried and ignored. A smear campaign from on top (Cheney told Libby to tell Novak to expose Plame as retribution), etc dont seem to phaze you. I mean, we are outing secret agents for telling the truth! And you still think this was all reasonable behavior.

    You can nitpick the Lancet all you like but all studies float aroudn the same ballpark: HUNDREDS of thousands of lives. Ok, lets say they are off by 100k, its still around 400 to 500k lives killed. All civillians. Incredible!

    >Oh wait, it is easier to make simplistic lies that we were interested in oil rather than look at the facts.

    Sounds like that describes you better than me.

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:49PM (#29125837)

    >The media treats Democrats better than Republicans.

    You obviously werent around for the Clinton years.

    >Google "media bias" for more.

    Sure, from here [corporations.org]. Turns out they have a corporatist right-wing bias because right-wing ideas like taxing the poor and not the rich and going to war on a whim means more profits for the elites:

    In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. This was greeted with skepticism at the time. When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six.

    In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

    GE owns NBC. GE makes aircraft engines for planes used in Iraq and Afghanistan. [ethicalshopping.com] MSNBC was completely and uttery pro-war with their hilariously inept Lestor Holt giving us the "Iraq Lowdown" everynight more or less cheerleading for war. Funny how that works.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @07:00PM (#29126669) Homepage Journal

    Not a lawyer by any means, but I'm more familiar with the UCMJ than I am with civilian law.

    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/punitivearticles/a/mcm94.htm [about.com]

    Also found this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedition [wikipedia.org]

    Laura Berg, a nurse at a United States Department of Veterans Affairs-run hospital in New Mexico was investigated for sedition in September 2005[13] after writing a letter[14][15] to the editor of a local newspaper, accusing several national leaders of criminal negligence. Though their action was later deemed unwarranted by the director of Veteran Affairs, local human resources personnel took it upon themselves to request an FBI investigation. Ms Berg was represented by the ACLU[16]. Charges were dropped in 2006[1].

    I did read a page dealing with US Code, and the final entry said something about being repealed, but it wasn't clear if a subsection, or the entire section dealing with sedition had been repealed.

    I strongly suspect that it can be rolled out if the government chooses to use it. I also feel that sedition should have been used against US citizens who went to Afghanistan to fight against US forces, rather than creating some damnfool "illegal combatant" laws to cover them.

  • Re:So.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by demonbug (309515) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @07:22PM (#29126867) Journal

    It's ok to have a picture of Bush as Hitler/Joker/Satan, but Obama is clearly off limits.

    The level of failure in your post, along with many others in this thread, is staggering.
    Taking down the "original" shopped image had absolutely nothing to do with the supposed political commentary it contained. It had everything to do with the fact that the artist left the rest of the Time Magazine cover intact - specifically, "Time" in great big letters across the top. You know, exactly the way Time does it. While the shopped image of Obama would be clearly acceptable as a parody, and by all indications Flickr would have had no problem with that, the "original" image clearly violates Time magazine's trademark. If the original 'shopper had changed the title to "Crime" or something non-identical to Time's trademark, then it would have been a non-issue. However, with the edited image clearly misusing the Time trademark, Flickr really had no choice but to take it down when informed of it (which, not surprisingly, happened when it shot up immensely in popularity). This probably has little or nothing to do with use of the Joker's likeness (which is probably fair use), or the subject matter (anti-Obama people seem to love to pretend that they are being prevented from expressing their opinion), and everything to do with a clear infringement of Time Magazine's trademark - by leaving everything from the Time cover on there, the 'shopper is pretty much pretending that this was a Time cover.

    It becomes a little more dicey when you get to the 2nd-order 'shopped image, where all of the Time magazine text (and trademark) has been removed (and the blatantly political speech added). At this point it is clearly a derivative work of the 1st-order 'shop, which as discussed above clearly violated Time magazine's trademark. If the original 'shopper had gone straight to the 2nd order image, then this would pretty clearly be parody or protected political speech. The fact that it is a derivative work of a work that clearly infringes on a trademark makes it a lot dicier - so Flickr took the reasonable stance of ditching that image as well (actually, I don't recall from the article if the 2nd-order 'shop was taken down from Flickr, or if it even appeared there, but whatever).

    A whole bunch of people have jumped on this trying to claim that Flickr is trying to prevent criticism of Obama. I'm sorry, but the story is much simpler than that - look at the actual image discussed in the article, and it is clearly mis-using Time's trademark. Sort of like if I decided to make a parody of Slashdot, and included everything down to an unaltered Slashdot logo while changing some of the text in the summaries. Clearly not an example of fair use or protected speech (now, if I called it "Smashdot" or something and used a subtly-modified logo, it would probably be fine - just something to indicate that no, this is not in fact Slashdot).

    So, a long comment to simply point out that the original image is in clear violation of Time's trademark - if you disagree I'd love to hear your reasoning, but it really is pretty clear-cut.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @08:17PM (#29127377)

    The Bush as Joker image was published by Vanity Fair and received no critical media attention. No one was offended.
    http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2008/07/bush-as-joker.html

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @08:49PM (#29127583)

    link to one that uses material that is in copyright?

    You realize all photographs are copyrighted, right? It's no longer something you must apply for, it's been automatic for decades.

    Have you seen the picture in question? in infringes on Time and the Joker...

    The image in question can't infringe on both, as both were separate images orginially. Putting them together (i.e. replacing Obama with the Joker) is called Parody, particularly political parody, and falls well within fair use. So much so, that Flicker hasn't bothered to remove any other parodic photos from their website, just the Obama pic.

    SCOTUS defined parody as "the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works."

    The Obama pic is certainly a new composition, and it definitely comments on the original work. It is both making a comment on the TIME cover (by mocking it), as well as making an association between Obama and The Joker. It's all parody.

  • Re:So.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @12:25AM (#29129137)

    Bullshit. They had free run of the place before the war and Bush pulled them out to begin bombing. [usatoday.com]

    "Late last night ... I was advised by the U.S. government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad," ElBaradei told the IAEA's board of governors. He said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council were informed and that the council would take up the issue later Monday.

    "I should note that in recent weeks, possibly as a result of increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been more forthcoming in its cooperation with the IAEA," he said, adding that inspectors still have found no evidence that Saddam Hussein has revived his nuclear program.

    Youre wrong again.

  • Nope. (Score:2, Informative)

    by timothy (36799) Works for Slashdot on Thursday August 20, 2009 @01:03AM (#29129385) Homepage Journal

    I may be braindead, or at least you may think so (Hey, eye of the beholder, etc), but I didn't "slap a fascism tag" on anything here.

    Cheers,

    timothy

  • Re:Say it proud... (Score:3, Informative)

    by danwesnor (896499) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:25PM (#29140281)
    Actually, if you read the AP article, he says he likes Obama more than Bush.

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