Friday, April 17, 2009

Mr. Graffito Slaps Back

Boston cops have turned me into a real Shepard Fairey fan. Now the Associated Press is marching in the fools parade as well.

Tip of the Toupee to Sanford Law's Fair Use Project for posting the Fairey answer to AP's absurd and hypocritical claims.

Clumsy Persecution

Locally, Municipal Court Judge Eleanor Coe Sinnott seemed to bow to pressure from our cops to upgrade the tagging charges against the artist to felony ones. Showing again why comedians and the nation at large ridicules Boston so easily and so often, the pig piling of increasingly outsized charged makes us look like, well, hicks. It's back to Mooninites that everyone but Boston cops and Da Mare saw the humor in two years ago.

First, note that the prosecutors, cops and judges are waving General Laws Chapter 266, Section 126-A at the ditzy artiste. This is Defacement of real or personal property; penalties; suspension of driver’s license and designed for vicious, malicious destruction of walls and more specifically desecration of tombstones.

This same set of municipal clowns ignore the hundreds of thousands of stickers, posters, flyers and post-no-bills bills on walls, telephone polls and more. Businesses, lost-pet seekers, rock bands and t'ai chi class advertisers alike routinely and with impunity plaster our city with easily identifiable advertisement, art and social commentary.

The rules-are-rules mob has joined in calling for Fairey to do hard time. They don't have intellectual framework of a first grader nor the sense God gave lettuce.

Clumsy Persecution

Enter the AP. It sued Fairey for adapting one of its photographs of President-to-be Barack Obama and totally changing it to produce the iconic HOPE poster.

As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I laughed. The AP has long been famous for robbing writers and photographers worldwide. In the guise of providing content for its paid media subscribers, it has long demanded full rights to what it's members publish -- to redistribute. That means that millions, maybe billions of articles and photos have been lifted and shipped around without additional compensation.

In this case though, Fairey's counterclaims post a big stop-the-bullshit sign in front of the AP. They note that the AP routinely, daily, photographs and otherwise reproduces art without compensating the artists. Basically, if you want to talk about violating copyright and outright stealing, the AP is the pro at it. Check pages 22 through 29 of his counterclaims for piles of examples of art stealing by the AP.

Fairey, on the other hand, as many have noted, radically transformed the original AP pic. It's unquestionably fair use. The AP is going down hard on this one and anyone hanging around should push them as they go.

As for our drama-queen prosecutors and judge here, they'll likely continue to claim how noble they were after Fairey cuts a deal, gets acquitted or pays a fine. The rest of us and the larger world will be mumbling, "Mooninites...again."

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