Could George Bush Be Sued For Some Of His Paintings?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 - 04:38 PM

George Bush's paintings, some of which long ago found their way into the public eye through a leak from the hacker Guccifer, were put on display earlier this week at the George W. Bush presidential center. 

Aesthetically, the paintings are an easy target. They're the publicly exhibited work of an amateur, and that amateur happens to be a politician who evokes very strong feelings. But what I found myself more interested in is a question posed yesterday by my colleague PJ Vogt: since it seems clear that these paintings were mostly done from pictures Bush found high up in Google Image Search results, could he be sued by the copyright holders for those pictures?

This would seem like a dumb question were it not for the lawsuit against Shepard Fairey for the Obama "HOPE" poster. 

Fairey painted the picture from an AP photo by freelance photographer Mannie Garcia. While Fairey argued that his painting is fair use (because it was transformative), he eventually conceded used the image without license and settled out of court with the AP.

Now, former President  Bush hasn't made any attempt to sell these paintings, but at least a couple of them fall under copyright. So were he to try and sell them, he would be open to the same type of lawsuit Fairey was subject to. So I guess this article ends with an anti-climactic non-answer. Could he be sued? Yes, probably, but that's only a concern for you if you're interested in buying one.


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Comments [5]

Smarter than Brian from USA


Only if you sell the work you put on Instagram that you have stolen from someone else.

Apr. 24 2014 06:56 PM
Vito Danelli from Darien, CT

This "Bush as an aspiring painter" media blitz is only to get the Decider guy back in the limelight. It's been acknowledged, even by his small minority of supporters, that he was a big liberal spender and hey, Two War and Two Tax Cuts in the first terms wasn't such great public policy. But of course, Bush "kept us safe" (starting on September 12, 2001).

Apr. 13 2014 06:32 AM
frances from New Mexico

I'm a wnyc supporter and npr supporter, so you can probably guess I'm not a huge GWB fan, but I think this web imaged approximation fo the original painting is fabulous. I think GWB II, our 43rd? president is a better painter than president. I love this image of Putin, and will look up online (unless I'm in the vicinity of the library) his other paintings. But then, I do love naïve paintings. This, however, is not exactly naîve, as he has met his subject and formed political policy. That's why I like it so much.

Apr. 12 2014 07:44 PM
Matt from Illinois

I was in Dallas this past weekend and got a chance to check out the gallery. I thought half of them were pretty painful to look at, but the other half actually gave me something to think about. I was happy I went, and it made me view Bush in a bit of a different light. I don't know what to think now that I know the images were stripped from google.

I think the selling of his paintings is unlikely. What is quite likely though is that the gallery goes on tour. Currently, the art exhibit at the Presidential Center is free to get into (the museum section is not). What would be the legal standing if these images were displayed at a gallery that one had to pay to get into?

Apr. 12 2014 02:56 PM
Brian Pearl from Los Angeles, CA

I LOVE LOVE LOVE On The Media but whenever you guys post anything about copyright I CRINGE. The Shepard Fairey case doesn't make this not a dumb question. I don't even know where to start. Please, just don't.

EVERY SINGLE IMAGE CREATED IN THE US OR A TREATY NATION ACHIEVES COPYRIGHT PROTECTION UPON FIXATION. So the answer is "technically yes but OF COURSE NOT." I'm sure there is stuff on your instagram that COULD prompt a lawsuit but it won't. Who cares?

Apr. 09 2014 10:31 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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