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Shepard Fairey: A Case of Fair Use

In mid-August, my colleagues and I completed a MOOC on Copyright for Librarians & Educators.  The course was presented by Duke University. A topic widely discussed and debated in both the lectures and forums was the issue of fair use. Fair use (in US copyright law) is, “the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.” (source)

One of the most intriguing cases of fair use for me is the one of street artist, Shepard Fairey, who battled in court from 2009 to 2012 with the Associated Press and photographer Mannie Garcia, over his transformation of the photograph that was used to create the Obama Hope print. Ultimately, he won on the issue of fair use, but lost on the issue of perjury (he initially lied about which photo he had used as inspiration for his work). Many know Fairey as the artist behind the OBEY GIANT imagery.

Fairey’s thoughts on the issue were eloquently detailed in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology’sReflections on the Hope Poster Case“. In it, he states that his argument for his work falling under fair use is that he used pieces of the photo as raw material to create a heroic and inspirational political portrait, the aesthetic of which was fundamentally different from the original photo. Of his use of appropriation, he said, “The cultures that inspire me creatively — punk rock, skateboarding, and streetwear (graphics-heavy casual fashion) — all rely heavily on appropriation art, both because they are irreverent cultures, questioning the status quo, and because they are cultures with a rapid metabolism and throw-away mentality.”

As to why he did not obtain a license, Fairey said: “I intended no disrespect to photographer Mannie Garcia, but I did not think I needed permission to make an art piece using a reference photo. From the beginning, I openly acknowledged that my illustration of Obama was based on a reference photograph.  But the photograph is just a starting point. The illustration transforms it aesthetically in its stylization and idealization, and the poster has an altogether different purpose than the photograph does.” (source) So what do you think? Does Fairey’s work fall under fair use, or does he owe royalty money to the Associated Press and Mannie Garcia?  For more of Fairey’s thoughts on appropriation, take a look at the Reflections article here.

Welcome Back, From DPS!


Image courtesy of Tulane University’s Public Relations Department. Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Students and faculty are starting to arrive at campus for the upcoming academic year and we at DPS thought it would be nice to provide a re-introduction of what we do and a summary of what we’ve been up to the past few months.

Digital Publishing Services offers services and consultations for members of the Providence College community in a wide range of subjects: digitization; publishing and copyright; multimedia; and emerging library/publishing technologies. Come by our DPS Lab located in L111 of the Phillips Memorial Library and we would be happy to discuss our services and facilities with you further!

Over the summer, we’ve been involved in several projects. Earlier in June, we released 30 more text-encoded letters for the Dorr Letters Project. This new collection focuses on correspondence to and from John Brown Francis, the former governor and state senator of Rhode Island during Dorr’s time. We’ve also added more entries in the “ography” pop-ups – so now summaries appear for more important people, places and organizations when you hover your mouse over them!

We’ve also been involved in planning a statewide digital repository initiative. One potential facet of this has been digitizing our Special Collections’ material on the Army Service Training Program (ASTP) which was held at Providence College in World War II. In addition to scanning, OCR-ing, and transcribing the material, we’ve also begun research on Omeka as a platform for publishing exhibits on the ASTP collection. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the year!

And as a final reminder, we now loan multimedia equipment (camcorders, portable audio recorders, and more) through the MediaHub! So, if you have a project you’d like to enhance with media, feel free to stop by DPS to inquire about our equipment or visit http://www.providence.edu/library/Pages/media-hub.aspx.

From DPS – we hope you all have a wonderful academic year!


New Media Hub Tutorials!

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Digital Publishing Services has been working hard this summer creating new Media Hub video tutorials.  These tutorials emphasize equipment that is available for use in the library, or can be loaned out via the circulation desk.  Three tutorials have … [Continue reading]

Dorr Rebellion Lesson Plans

dorr lesson plans

Did you know that in addition to the documentary, the gallery, and the letters, the Dorr Rebellion Project web site also contains five lesson plans for use in the high school or post-secondary classroom? The plans can be used independently or … [Continue reading]

Digital Commons at Providence College Nearing One Million Downloads


The Phillips Memorial Library at Providence College is part of a consortium of higher education and special libraries (i.e., Higher Education Library and Information Network / HELIN Consortium). In 2005, the HELIN Central Office, supported by the … [Continue reading]

Copyright for Educators & Librarians


Beginning this week, three colleagues and myself will be participating in an online workshop run through Duke University by Kevin Smith (M.L.S., J.D.), Lisa A. Macklin (J.D., M.L.S.), and Anne Gilliland (J.D., M.L.S.). All three instructors began … [Continue reading]

Club Phil Megamix Video

http://youtu.be/dF3SCJcmN_s During this spring and summer break, members of DPS have been experimenting with the MediaHub loanable equipment to get a fuller sense of what possibilities it offers to our patrons. We're happy to say that they are … [Continue reading]

New GA in Special Collections/DPS Lab!


The DPS Lab and Special Collections would like to take this moment to welcome our new GA (Graduate Assistant), Andrew Lavoie, to the library! Andrew graduated in May 2014 from PC with a B.A. in History and a minor in Classics.  He is from … [Continue reading]

30 more letters! Working facets! It’s another Dorr Letters site update!


    Hello everyone! I've got some great news for those who have been following the Dorr Letters site project. We've just finalized the encoding for 30 more letters, uploaded them to the Dorr Letters site, and updated some of the … [Continue reading]

Ithaka S+R’s “Sustaining the Digital Humanities”


On June 18, 2014, Ithaka’s strategic consulting and research service, Ithaka S+R, published “Sustaining the Digital Humanities: Host Institution Support beyond the Start-Up Phase,” which assesses the role that higher education institutions are … [Continue reading]

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