Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Copyright to the Revolution
July 16, 2003 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Copyright to the Revolution (translation): "On Wednesday, 9 July 2003, the superior court of Paris banned a poster campaign launched by the group Reporters Without Borders to protest the totalitarian policies of Cuba. This campaign, designed by the agency Rampazzo & Associates, was built around an iconic image of Ernesto Che Guevara, inspired by the original image by the Cuban photographer [Alberto] Korda. The decision came in a suit brought by Diane Diaz Lopez, the late photographer's daughter, accusing the organization of misappropriating the original image taken by her father." The poster reads: "Welcome to Cuba, the world's largest prison for journalists." Korda had sued in 2000 to prevent use of the image in an Absolut vodka campaign. An article at Uzine (French) shows how the image in question was composited.
posted by hairyeyeball (25 comments total)

 
Reporter: Che, how does it feel to be a tool of the intellectual property establishment?
Che: [rolls over in grave]
posted by quonsar at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2003


I can't imagine what he'd think of being the victim of all the tourist kitsch that is sold in Cuba, of which this portrait is a central icon...
posted by whatzit at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2003


"As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world, but I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for ... any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che."
- Alberto Korda, regarding Smirnoff Vodka's use of the Che image

So apparently "social justice" does not include freedom of the press, freedom from opressive regimes, and human rights.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:26 AM on July 16, 2003


What's the fuss here? The photograph was the copyright of Korda. Why shouldn't his daughter be able to stop the photograph being used in this manner? I hardly think Che Guevara himself would have approved of his image being used in an anti-Castro campaign. I hardly think he would have approved of his image being used to flog vodka, for that matter.
posted by salmacis at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2003


Stopping the vodka add makes sense, and the photographer's explanation of it seems quite reasonable to me. But, while I was initially astounded that the daughter would sue to stop RwB from using it, salmacis makes a valid point in the argument that using Che in an anti-Castro ad is equally illogical.

So, the question becomes...who will be the first of the MeFi's to dig up the image...
posted by dejah420 at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2003


Aw, how cute -- Korda's daughter and her buddy Castro playing patty-cake. They deserve each other.
Let's embrace the obvious and acknowledge that the Che photo is in the public domain. Maybe it's not technically, in some countries, but c'mon, we know the image belongs to all of us, which is to say none of us, least of all the photographer's daughter.
I wonder if her case would have any merit in the States. In the case of a political statement targeting a dictator who imprisons journalists and anyone else who dares to criticize him, the Che photo might be considered fair use.
What Korda's daughter is doing might be legal in some countries. But it's immoral. She is providing aid and comfort to Fidel Castro.
posted by Holden at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2003


So apparently "social justice" does not include freedom of the press...

Freedom of the press allows for copyright violation, now? I mean, that's fine by me, but I think it's a pretty fringe point of view. Information wants to be free, etc.

Under current copyright law, Smirnoff vodka will be free to use that image in 2071, since Korda died back in 2001. That's all the "freedom of the press" that they're allowed under the current international intellectual property regime; a regime which Fidel Castro had no role in crafting.

I wonder if her case would have any merit in the States.

If we're going to have laws, the standards of justice, fairness, and democracy demand that we enforce those laws evenhandedly. Otherwise, our government is no better than that of Cuba.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:56 AM on July 16, 2003


For those interested: a previous thread about the marketing of Che.
posted by gwint at 11:13 AM on July 16, 2003


If we're going to have laws, the standards of justice, fairness, and democracy demand that we enforce those laws evenhandedly.

of course, those standards don't apply at the time the laws are actually being purchased.
posted by quonsar at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2003


Steve, if she is to defend the copyright she has to do so against all comers. If this group had approached her beforehand she may have allowed such use but as they used it without her express permission she is obligated by law to defend the copyright lest it become public domain.

This is SOP for IP matters.
posted by filchyboy at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2003


Wow, this is the strongest support of current copyright law I've ever seen on MeFi.

I agree that the copyright holder is within rights. But frankly, I am sick of the romaticization of Che into some kind of swell guy. So I hope the Reporters without Borders people find another way of making the same point.
posted by obfusciatrist at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2003


Steve, if she is to defend the copyright she has to do so against all comers.
...she is obligated by law to defend the copyright lest it become public domain


That's trademark. It's possible to pick and choose your battles when you're defending a copyright. Or a patent, for that matter (see the GIF patent fiasco for an example).

There are other differences between copyright and trademark: copyright covers all creative works, whereas trademark is specific to commercial marks. Trademarks can be renewed indefinitely, but copyrights are ephemeral--expiring after the brief period of (in this case) 110 years.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:20 PM on July 16, 2003


I'll say it. It might not be popular, but I'll say it anyway:

Copyright in photography is stupid.

I can't copyright what I see, why should I be able to copyright what I see and simply record, using a mechanical or electronic device to capture light waves/particles on a medium.

Pointing a lens and pressing a button, and printing the image, shouldn't result in a copyrightable thing.
posted by Blue Stone at 1:05 PM on July 16, 2003


The photograph was the copyright of Korda. Why shouldn't his daughter be able to stop the photograph being used in this manner?

Because she didn't take the picture, so why should she have anything to do with it? I never understood the idea of intellectual property being passed down by accident of birth. The original artist, fine, handle it however you like. One they're gone, what's the deal?
posted by majcher at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2003


C'mon, majcher, how can you expect people to survive if they can't live off of the works of their ancestors? I only wish that I'd been born a Disney. *sigh*
posted by graventy at 1:15 PM on July 16, 2003


I can't copyright what I see, why should I be able to copyright what I see and simply record....Pointing a lens and pressing a button, and printing the image, shouldn't result in a copyrightable thing.

Every word on this page is in the public domain, and yet "All posts are © their original authors." It's an outrage! How can anyone copyright a string of words that anyone can use?! Hey, everything ever written uses words! We should abandon copyright altogether!!!

You're drunk, Blue Stone, aren't you?
posted by me3dia at 1:28 PM on July 16, 2003


Previous MeFi coverage of Reporters Without Borders, incidentally.
posted by me3dia at 1:37 PM on July 16, 2003


Holden: Let's embrace the obvious and acknowledge that the Che photo is in the public domain

Er, no it's not. As both Absolut and Reporters Without Borders found out. I make no comment about either Che or Korda's politics here. Only that it seems self-evident that this is a story about nothing.
posted by salmacis at 4:51 PM on July 16, 2003


I'd have to actually be able to read some of those articles to comment, so I won't.

Comment, that is.

Really.

Promise.
posted by Samizdata at 5:27 PM on July 16, 2003


Me3dia... no, I'm not.
Writing involves expression and creativity. Photography of a naturally occurring object/being is just recording.

Perhaps you could answer this: if I draw a picture and someone photographs it, and perfectly captures the image, should the photographer have copyright over what is essentially a facsimilie of my work?

Photography = just copying images.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:35 PM on July 16, 2003


In U.S. copyright law, at least, a photograph of an existing work is a derivative work. The creator of the original work holds the copyright on the derivative work.

This has nothing to do with whether photography is an art form, because the same applies to a novel written from a screenplay, or a song derived from a poem, and I don't think you want to go down the road of claiming that novels and songs are not artistic forms.

Photography is analogous to sculpture. You look at the world and whittle away the bits you don't want to show. Selection is necessarily creative and thus photography is art. Claiming that photography is not art because the photographer did not make the things he's photographing is like claiming that "David" is not art because Michaelangelo did not make the stone it's carved from.
posted by kindall at 6:00 PM on July 16, 2003


...if michaelangelo had sculpted david by finding a pretty boy and standing him in front of an automated rock cutting machine that duplicated his image.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:41 PM on July 16, 2003


Blue Stone
"Photography of a naturally occurring object/being is just recording."

Photography is never just a recording. If an angry man is yelling at a dog half a block away from a little girl he can be a comical figure, a distant point of interest or an immediate threat to the little girl all depending on how I make use of focal length, focus and depth of field. A photograph is real only in the sense the photographer wants it to be.
posted by arse_hat at 9:43 PM on July 16, 2003


How can anyone copyright a string of words that anyone can use?! Hey, everything ever written uses words! We should abandon copyright altogether!!!

Not only that, but every string of letters or words can be encoded as a series of numbers, or even just one big number! So can images, or audio recordings, or video! Sure, it'd be a really big number, but a plain old integer like any other, nevertheless! What kind of ridiculous crap do they think they're trying to pull, trying to copyright numbers? I got dibs on 23!
posted by majcher at 1:20 AM on July 17, 2003



posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:22 PM on July 18, 2003


« Older The annual Bulwer-Lytton contest...  |  Bob Cringely thinks the govern... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments