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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 Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:53PM (#29122841) Homepage Journal

    Does freedom of speech mean anything anymore?

    • by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:55PM (#29122883) Homepage
      No, and it never has, really. It's always been a buzzword.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Feyshtey (1523799)
        The cool thing is that its so true and you have the right to say so.

        Wait...
        • by DrLang21 (900992) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:26PM (#29124599)
          Unless sedition laws get passed again. President Adams would have you jailed for that image.
        • by pentalive (449155) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @07:22PM (#29126869) Journal
          Except probably on flickr.

          But then the first amendments only really prevents government control of speach. If I want to have an all out <ideology> website, I can erase <opposing ideology> posts with impunity. It is, after all my own website. It's just
          that the government cannot make a law saying I have to delete <opposing ideology> posts.
      • by pizzach (1011925) <<pizzach> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:41PM (#29123881) Homepage

        Freedom of speech especially don't occur with copyrighted content. Of all people, followers of the gpl should know this.

        Alkhateeb's original Flickr page surpassed 20,000 views. The Times found his Flickr site last week thanks to a tip left by a loyal reader of The Ticket. By Friday, the page had been taken down.

        It's so horrible that Times didn't want their photo tinkered with....which is probably from AP who is nice and strict with their photo licenses btw. You can play with your tinfoil hats if you want though.

    • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:56PM (#29122909) Homepage Journal

      Flickr is a company, not a government. You have no constitutional right of free speech on Flickr.

      Sucks, I know, but that's the way it is.

      • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:05PM (#29123107)
        Hey, winkydink! Stop thinking so hard! Can't you just show the same level of blind and ignorant hatred as the rest of us? We wanted to have a rant about how corporate America was stripping away our freedoms, how we were losing our rights, and how the Gooberment was full of totalitarian assholes!

        Now we'll have to kick some puppies to vent our frustrations. Thanks a lot, puppy hater.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:07PM (#29123147) Journal

        Flickr is a company, not a government. You have no constitutional right of free speech on Flickr.

        The issue is slightly more complicated when the government turns corporate websites into official media distribution channels.
        Examples: The White House flickr page, twitter page, facebook page, etc.

      • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:08PM (#29123165) Homepage Journal

        You were one of many people to respond with this exact sentiment. I'll just respond to you.

        I know that a private site has the right to moderate as they see fit. This isn't the removal of pornography, or racist material, illegal material, or any of the usual suspects that would warrant such a removal.

        This is Flickr (a US based company) telling its users that they aren't entitled to express political opinions. Does Flickr have the right? It is their site, so yes they do.

        Should Flickr censor people however? No. I would hope the democratic principles that supposedly infuse this country would be reflected by US businesses to a certain extent. I hope this turns into the Streisand Effect, wherein trying to censor this image, they only bring far more attention to themselves.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Toonol (1057698)
          I wonder how even-handed they are about it. I imagine there's a fair number of photoshops of Bush on Flickr, based on copyrighted images. Is it just that this one achieved notoriety?
          • by Beer_Smurf (700116) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:28PM (#29123605) Homepage
            They don't seem to have a problem with the photoshopped Sarah Palin porn, so I'd say not very.

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/stef0065/2995333239/ [flickr.com]
          • 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?

        • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:17PM (#29123353) Journal

          This is Flickr (a US based company) telling its users that they aren't entitled to express political opinions

          Actually, this is Flickr telling it's users that oppose Obama that they are not entitled to express their political opinions. There's still tons of GWB photos out there that make this Joker image look rather tame. Don't take my word for it. Go onto Flickr and search for George Bush and look at the pictures. Then search for Obama and compare those to the GWB pics. I could not find a single negative Obama pic. I had a difficult time finding a positive GWB pic. And please don't try to tell me that 100% of Flickr's users love Obama and hate Bush.

          • by cml4524 (1520403) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:32PM (#29123693)

            There's still tons of GWB photos out there that make this Joker image look rather tame.

            That doesn't matter. Flickr claims they took it down because they believe it was a copyright violation, not because it's offensive. The standard, then, is not "how nasty are the remaining Bush images", it's "how many of the remaining Bush images appear to violate copyright law".

            Furthermore, the image seems to have sat their quite happily until a bunch of teabaggers took it and started vandalizing public property with it, shoving it into the media spotlight.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jpmorgan (517966)

              The standard, then, is not "how nasty are the remaining Bush images", it's "how many of the remaining Bush images appear to violate copyright law".

              All of them? I haven't seen one Bush image where the photoshopper owned the copyright on the source material. Most are based on photos from organizations like AP and Reuters.

              I don't think you can rationalize your way out of this double standard; it's pretty blatant.

            • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:18PM (#29124495) Journal

              Furthermore, the image seems to have sat their quite happily until a bunch of teabaggers took it and started vandalizing public property with it, shoving it into the media spotlight.

              Actually, the guy who created the image is a rabid leftist. He dislikes Obama because he's not liberal enough.

              Or are you suggesting that a Dennis Kucinich supporter is a "teabagger"?

              Your "teabagger" statement kinda proves the point. Anyone who disagrees with Obama must be "teabagger".

            • by DrugCheese (266151) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:03PM (#29125201)

              Search for 'joker' then, there are thousands of pictures of the Joker, some straight from "The Dark Knight". If it was truly for copyright violations they'd take these down as well wouldn't they?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Do they have the right to do it? Yes.
        Do I have the right to bitch about it? Yes.

        Cool how that works out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Flickr is just demonstrating their political views by removing that which they disagree with. Seems pretty normal these days, to me....
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:57PM (#29122939)

    Why is flicker taking this issue so seriously?

  • by EraserMouseMan (847479) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:59PM (#29122969)
    It is interesting that when Time did this very thing to a photo of Bush our unbiased main-stream media thought it was thought-provoking and no censorship or wrist-slapping was encouraged.
  • So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reidiq (1434945) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:59PM (#29122973)
    It's ok to have a picture of Bush as Hitler/Joker/Satan, but Obama is clearly off limits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cml4524 (1520403)

      but Obama is clearly off limits.

      Flickr says they took it down over copyright concerns. Are you:

      a) Calling them liars
      b) Someone who didn't bother to RTFA
      c) Trying to play the victim card and cry about oppression that doesn't appear to actually exist

  • Funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krou (1027572) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:01PM (#29123001)
    What I love is that the creator of the image, Firas Alkhateeb, has seen his work *cough* borrowed by the Republicans as an anti-Obama anti-Socialist campaign, but his actual intention with the image was to protest about Obama not being liberal enough. (And the fact that Alkhateeb is a Palestinian makes me smile, too.)
    • Re:Funny (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Abreu (173023) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:18PM (#29123385)

      Indeed.

      Here in Mexico, Rius (a well-known political cartoonist and avowed socialist) once said that he regretted not expressing the criticisms he had for the Soviet Union and Cuba. He refrained from doing it because he "did not want to give ammunition to the enemy".

      I wonder if Alkhateeb has similar second thoughts...

  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:04PM (#29123067)

    You have as much right to political trolling in Flicker as you do standing on a soapbox in your local mall.

    You are allowed to troll so long as the management approves.

    --
    BMO

  • by Homburg (213427) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:04PM (#29123083) Homepage

    Unquestionably a parody of the President and Time Magazine which would be covered under fair use.

    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. 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? 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.

    I think you could make a good case that this kind of transformative use of copyright material ought to be generally allowed, but it doesn't help that case to exaggerate the actual scope of fair-use rights to make derivative works.

    • 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.

      • Let's assume that this is an "open and shut" fair use claim. So what? This will do absolutely nothing to stop you from being sued. The suit will cost you a ton of money or you will lose. Now, you might feel that is a great way to spend your money, but Flickr doesn't want to spend their money dealing with this. Flickr did nothing wrong here. They made a simple, obvious business decision. The problem here is our copyright laws, which give big corporations that can pay for expensive lawyers all the power.

        Fai

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DRJlaw (946416)

      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 bein

  • 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.

  • Not all... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mantrid42 (972953) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:12PM (#29123259)
    My friend told me he saw a few of these and he was very upset. Not about the portrayl of Obama, but that they don't understand the Joker at all. Anarchy is more his flavour than Socialism.
    • So... (Score:3, Funny)

      by denzacar (181829)

      They should have used a photo of Noam Chomsky instead?

      But... Where would they find one of him without glasses?
      And if they did - how would we know it was him?

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:13PM (#29123271) Homepage

    From TFA:

    Regardless, [the artist who made the original Obama Joker image] Alkhateeb does agree with the Obama "Hope" artist about "socialism" being the wrong caption for the Joker image. "It really doesn't make any sense to me at all," he said. "To accuse him of being a socialist is really ... immature. First of all, who said being a socialist is evil?""

    Even more so, combining the accusation of Socialism with a depiction of Obama as the Joker makes no fucking sense. The Joker was about chaos and anarchy which is so far away from Socialism that the juxtaposition just strikes me as ludicrous. All it does is make the one who put the poster together look like an ignoramus. I can see the thought train-wreck now: "Lessee... Socialism is evil, and the Joker is evil, so the Joker equals Socialism!" Yeah, I doubt someone that bright even knows what they're accusing the president of. Other than that they're trying to tie him with "evil".

    So take a clever image which the artist says wasn't intended as a political message (even though he criticizes Obama), add some moronic twat who thinks it's the perfect political message, and you get something that makes your average political cartoon look intelligent. It'd be like taking those stupid Bushies-In-Drag images, slapping haphazard labels on them like "Immigration Reform" or "Emperialism" and acting like you're a political genius.

  • 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 Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:35PM (#29123767) Homepage

    We're still at war. Obama is a War President. If you are not with him, then you are with the terrorists. Any treasonous acts against the president must be quashed at all costs to preserve our freedom and the Cunstitution.

    If it was good for W., then it's good for O. If you're going to whine about it, why did you think it was OK to give the President this power? Did you always think that the President would be a guy you approved of?

    • by CajunArson (465943) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:38PM (#29124811) Journal

      Yeah except for one big problem: Despite the fact that some posters who have self-persecution delusions think so, the Bush administration did not go around yanking down every insult and parody against him on the Internet. If he had, then 90% of the posts from most /. stories that pass as "politics" would have been taken down by those evil Bushies... last time I checked they were all still there. As other posters have pointed out there are all kinds of nasty photoshop pictures of Bush that were put up while he was president and never taken down.

              The stupid lines you parroted above are not what your evil "neocon" enemies were saying, but rather what other liberals parroted to make themselves feel more oppressed and therefore more self righteous. Hell, George Bush had protesters right outside of his private home in the middle of Texas and nothing happened to them except Cindy Sheehan made bags of money and got her own cult following. When Bush was asked about Cindy Sheehan, he didn't call her a Nazi (See Nancy Pelosi insulting people who have done more honest work than she ever will for that), instead he said that he understood that she felt hurt and that she had a right to protest, but that he still believed in what he was doing. Now you can disagree with Bush, but I'm getting REALLY sick of the liberal mantra that all anti-Bush speech was suppressed for the last 8 years because it couldn't be farther from the truth.

  • 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.

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