Friday, August 13, 2010

Political Art and the Politics of Appropriation

Mama Rabbit Protests Park Policy (Apologies to Beatrix Potter)

One great thing about getting involved in the local issue of fighting the National Park's policy of killing the rabbits in San Juan Island's American Camp National Historical Park is the wealth of rabbit imagery available for appropriation to our cause. Last night with the help of photoshop I took Beatrix Potter's charming illustration of a disgruntled Mama Rabbit and transformed her umbrella into a protest sign thus taking a familiar image and enlisting it to serve my cause. I credit Beatrix Potter by making an apology and hope I will not be sued. Chances are good no one in a position to sue me will ever see my appropriated use of Mama Rabbit. But what might happen if they did?

 Hope by Shepard Fairey, Offset Print, 2008 and Barack Obama by Mannie Garcia, Photograph, 2006

When Shepard Fairey's iconic image of Barack Obama began to generate national interest, including fame, prestige and money, the fact that the image was appropriated from a copyrighted photograph by  Mannie Garcia came to light. Garcia, who was on assignment for the Associated Press at the time, claimed he owns the copyright. The Associated Press claimed they own the copyright. Fairey contends that his work is protected by the fair use doctrine and does not infringe on the photo's copyright. When Fairey admitted to destroying evidence that he had used the photograph as was alleged by the AP it did not help his case and in May of 2010 the judge encouraged Fairey to settle.

The fair use doctrine allows for certain limited use of copyrighted material without permission for uses like criticism, commentary, reporting, research and education.


  1. Well isn't this a whole lot of loveliness wrapped up in a splendid blog!
    I'm enjoying all the fanciful photos you have on display!
    thank-you for sharing the inspiration!