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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 v1 (525388) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:59PM (#29122971) Homepage Journal

    tho if it was taken from the cover of Time magazine, someone made the original image with some photoshopping, it may not be far enough separated from the original to be considered a derivative. It's not parody either.

    It's possible that Time (whoever makes the mag) themselves contacted Flickr with a takedown?

  • 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:Hmmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Totenglocke (1291680) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:13PM (#29123285)

    But why stick with more obvious motivations when you can turn everything into a retarded political pissing match, right?

    Yes, because it's not like we experience that kind of politcal bias here on Slashdot all the time where people get modded down because someone of the other party had mod points......

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:17PM (#29123351)
    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?
  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skye16 (685048) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:17PM (#29123359)

    Actually, they never could take a joke. Not with good grace and humor, at any rate. But that's okay, it's often hard for people to do that when they care passionately about the subject in question. That's kind of basic to the vast majority of humans, really. The rather unfortunate part of it is that people degenerate to such infantile gestures. These gestures, in turn, can probably be traced to back to being incapable of holding a rational, respectful conversation with someone of differing viewpoint, whether because of their own inability or the opposition's inability. Eventually it degenerates to a useless shouting and cockmongery that does not help the democratic process in the slightest. It's most unfortunate, but in a democracy, even the retards get their say. I suppose what's most unfortunate about it is that retards tend to be much louder than the thoughtful types, though your mileage may vary.

  • Re:Funny (Score:4, Interesting)

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


    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...

  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by qortra (591818) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:29PM (#29123623)
    Perhaps you're right, but I don't think this is a liberal thing. I think it is an Obama thing.

    People had no difficulty making fun of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Neither did they have difficulty making fun of Al Gore. Even in the late 90s when the internet was comparitvely small, parodies, insulting comics, and distorted likenesses of President Clinton were quite common.

    Obama just has more charisma. People who like him take greater offense to slander against him. This is probably what the 30s and 40s were like with FDR (the only president to be elected 4 times BTW).
  • except (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ClintJCL (264898) <clintjcl+slashdo ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:41PM (#29123867) Homepage Journal
    Except that's not what the terms of services say. They don't just say "we do what they want". They state certain policies. None of which say "derivative works can be removed if we don't like them".
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:56PM (#29124173)

    Ipernity *was* ok....but they've changed. I switched from Flickr to Ipernity.......but I finally killed my account with them because of their Mickey Mouse censorship rules. I know quite a few professional photographers who also left Flickr and moved to Ipernity.....and then left for the same reason.

  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by qortra (591818) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:59PM (#29124227)
    I know we all like to complain here, but Slashdot is one of the most even handed moderation systems I have ever seen. Have you ever posted to Reddit or Digg? If they even suspect you're related to somebody who once voted Republican, you get down-modded by over 300 people and banned within minutes.

    I see comments of all flavors that get modded up here - Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Populist (well, maybe not those). I do love it here.
  • by Desler (1608317) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:01PM (#29124265)
    Why? Flickr can take down any picture it wants due to the agreement made when signing up to the site.
  • by dyingtolive (1393037) <brad.arnett@notf ... g ['hir' in gap]> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:06PM (#29124345)

    So what you are saying is that Flickr is exercising their right to support their political party of choice throught he media that they own. Kind of like the opposite of Fox right.

    That still doesn't make it right. Furthermore, there is a difference. Flickr is a "community". By manipulating the "real" content in the "community", you do this little thing called shaping the perception of public opinion. Fox News can soapbox the radical right opinion until Bill O'Reilly is blue in the face, but they can't make it seem like nobody hates Obama compared with Bush.

    For a fun exercise, imagine what would happen if for the previous election, Google just ignored/down-ranked McCain hits in favour of Obama or even Hillary.

  • by yurtinus (1590157) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:14PM (#29124437)
    We are not at war and have not been at war since World War II. If you want to get technical, we are "authorizing the use of military force." (yes, I sensed the sarcasm of the parent :P)
  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:20PM (#29124507) Homepage Journal

    When Flickr only allowed real-life photos, an image like this would have been removed regardless of the content.

    He is not the author of the photograph.
    He does not have copyright for the photograph.
    He does not have permission to use Time trademarks.

    You can fair use all you want on your own resources.

    After the legal flap over the HOPE painting for using an AP source image, yeah, Flickr might want to avoid the mess altogether. Between having to lawyer up against Time-Warner and earning the indignation of right-wingers, it's no contest, you piss off the impotent right-wingers.

  • by lorenlal (164133) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:24PM (#29124577)

    I can't just take a harry potter book and slap a picture of Bush boxing with Obama on the cover and call it fair use due to its political interpretations.

    Flaw with your post: The flickr user did not publish the whole magazine. Try this: Take a cover of a Harry Potter book, and slap Obama's head on in place of Harry's and proceeded to add a message saying, "Magical spending will save us all!"

    This a much more apt comparison.

    In fact, something similar was done. [] Does that change your opinion?

  • by lorenlal (164133) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:35PM (#29124755)
    This is a very interesting post. In fact, I believe that you are dead on. Taking it a step further, as posters above state, Flickr has government business (contracts, etc). Does Google?
  • by Clovis42 (1229086) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @04:47PM (#29124937)

    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.

    Fair Use is pretty much dead.

  • Re:So.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:34PM (#29125621) can contend that [Bush] preserved more life by going into Iraq than what was lost. Future generations also need to be considered.

    The civilian death rate immediately after the invasion was much higher than the civilian death rate immediately before the invasion. People who have taken the trouble to crunch the numbers estimate that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died as a result of the US invasion (that is, they would not have died had the US not invaded).

    Now, you seem to be claiming that there are "future generations" who will not die as a result of the US invasion (that is, they would be expected to die in the future had the US not invaded). So, we have a situation where if the US invaded certain people lived and certain people died and if the US didn't invade then certain (other) people lived and certain (other) people died.

    Basically, the USA caused the death of certain innocent children with the belief that it was saving the lives of certain other innocent children. And that raises an interesting philosophical question: "Is it OK to kill certain innocent people in order to save the lives of certain (other) innocent people?" Is it OK to force one innocent person to give up their life for another innocent person?

    Take medical research for example. It is likely that if we performed fatal medical experiments on innocent people that the pace of medical discovery would be faster. That is, we could save the lives of innocent people by performing fatal medical experiments on other innocent people. I suspect that if we crunched the numbers we would find that performing fatal medical experiments on only a few thousand innocent people we would be likely to make medical discoveries that would save the lives of millions.

    So, anyway, I don't really have an answer to all that but I do think it's a bit more complicated than looking at whether a particular course of action saves more innocent lives than it kills.

  • by The Evil Couch (621105) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:54PM (#29125925) Homepage
    Just because they would almost certainly win in court doesn't mean that Flickr wants to spend money to defend it in court. This is especially true, since even if the guy had a "pro" account, which he doesn't, he'd only be worth $25 a year to Flickr.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:22PM (#29126261) Journal

    It is unethical, but not unlawful, it is discrimination, but discrimination by political beliefs is not covered by the US Constitution. It violates free speech and freedom of expression, but Flikr is a private company so they can act like Communists or Fascists or whatever and censor as they see fit.

    I'm not entirely sure this wouldn't be unlawful. At least in the flickr case. Flickr as well as several other internet sites have government contracts and government agencies use them to their benefit. When those sites show their political leanings in more then a "I support this guy" and turn it into a "You can't criticize the guy I support", it's as if the government who is rewarding them is actually saying it.

    If that doesn't violate a law as in no campaigning from government offices, government rewards or the use of government services for particular political speech, or a violation of the first amendment by the government who is in control of the services they use, then it should be.

    Please understand, when I say the first amendment, I understand that flickr is a private company, however, when the US government contracts with and used a private company that imposed a particular political speech and forbids dissenting views, the government has effectivly taken the first amendment away from the people. This is the theory behind all the controls on costs, message, and all with other media like radio and TeleVision. The US government should be bared from doing business as essential services with these companies as long as those types of policies are in place to avoid conflicts with the first amendment. Currently Flickr is one of the main places to view administration photo's and such. I see it as no different then taking ads out in only politically biased media outlets in order to fulfill government disclosure in some misguided attempt to expose people to a particular political view.

  • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:55PM (#29128527)

    But then the first amendments only really prevents government control of speach (sic)

    That is very true. And this right was formulated in an age when governments, rather than corporations, posed the greatest threat to free speech. Perhaps a modern right, reflecting the changed reality, is required?

    Now I don't believe the freedom of any particular publisher to determine what appears or does not appear in their publication, ought to be restrained. Freedom of speech clearly includes the freedom not to speak. OTOH where a person, say by reason of their dominance of a particular market, can in effect dictate to 3rd parties what appears in their publications, freedom of speech is dangerously undermined. I'm thinking here, for example, of magazine publishers who have to run their pre-publication copy past the Walmart censors, before they can afford to go to print.

    In the case of a website like Flickr, which advertises itself as a forum where people can publish their own creations, we step into a very large grey area. If a person has their own site, should the hosting company or network provider, have the right to say what they can or cannot publish, on the basis that it is being published on that company's equipment?

    Paradoxically perhaps, if the US government were to be "socialist" and provide taxpayer funded "free" social and content publishing sites, the rights of the individual users to publish what they want, including parody images of the President captioned with the word "socialism," would be safeguarded. So how does one balance the right of a content publising site (such as Flickr) to determine what appears on their site, with the freedom of expression of the users of that site?

  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @03:08AM (#29129995)
    Look at it the other way. Flickr could lose money by being the vehicle of somebody else's political propaganda. Somebody there just decided it wasn't worth the hassle, just as they would do with postings of hardcore pron. They don't need to grow a pair for somebody else's fight.
    If a group wants to spread this image they can avoid being dropped by paying for their own webspace, it's that easy. If the US loony far right doesn't have enough money at this point it's their own fault for being too quick to spend what looks to the remainder of the world as bribe money.
  • by Blackhalo (572408) <jmattj.ix@netcom@com> on Thursday August 20, 2009 @03:24AM (#29130059)
    "When I first saw the "Obama as Joker" "parody", I actually didn't think of the Joker at all."

    Really? My first impression was that it was powerful and compelling social commentary and drove home the point that. what I now have as president was not what I voted for. Instead of "Hope and Change," I have the Banker in Chief. This image seems to me to be an effective and quite scary. Perhaps that is a good reason why it is so controversial with the Obama faithful?
  • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:19AM (#29130621)
    I'm an U.S. natural citizen living in a socialist democracy. We have socialized medicine, socialized education (through Ph.D.), and many other social functions of the government. Poverty is measured in fractions of a percent.

    The labor unions are not run by guys who wear $5000 suits and don't like their pictures taken. They're run by union reps who actually represent the unions.

    Fact is, in this country, we take for granted the freedoms Americans are constantly being reminded they once had... or had to give up to have other freedoms.

    We have a higher percentage of homes with guns than America does, but they are typically only found in houses of official military reserve. Guns just aren't a part of culture. They typically only come up in discussions about paranoid Americans who are gun freaks.

    We have a crime level low enough that the police department doesn't even bother with budgets for forensics, it's cheaper to use other countries when needed.

    Our kids play outside unattended and we don't panic.

    Before a picture is taken down from somewhere, there is at least some form of debate involved.

    I'm NEVER going back... this utopian (except for the awful weather) society is everything Americans try to convince themselves America is.

    Only real problem here is that since the educational level on average is much higher than in the U.S., we have to import labor to do most of the crap work.
  • Anarchist Communism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aok (5389) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @09:52AM (#29132277)
    For those saying how the photo doesn't make any sense because the Joker was all about anarchy and Obama is socialist (or socialist-leaning), I recently came across this seemingly conflicting political view:

    Anarchist Communism []

    Anarchist communism advocates the abolition of the state, private property and capitalism in favor of common ownership of the means of production,[1][2] direct democracy and a horizontal network of voluntary associations, workers' councils and/or a gift economy through which everyone will be free to satisfy their needs.

    So perhaps an Anarchist Socialist is possible! :)

"Oh dear, I think you'll find reality's on the blink again." -- Marvin The Paranoid Android