George W. Bush’s solo art show “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy” has just opened at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas. Moving on from paintings of dogs and bath time, the exhibit features 30 oil-on-board paintings of world leaders. It appears as if they are all lazy reproductions of some of the first Google image search results.
That’s from the startling exposé “George W. Bush Sourced All His Paintings from Google,” by someone named Marina Galperina at something called Animal New York. And when you look at the evidence she presents, the ugly truth is inescapable: George W. Bush did indeed source all his paintings from Google. Well, at least some of his paintings.
It’s easy to Google. It’s easy to trace too. Unlike Shepard Fairey, Bush didn’t even throw an all caps slogan over his painterly slop. So where does this stand, legally speaking? …
Will George W. Bush get sued by the AP, like Shepard Fairey?
It’s also easy to compare things that are superficially alike, even if the comparison falls apart under the merest scrutiny.
You can argue the merits of the AP’s case against Fairey, but it wasn’t Fair Use that got him into real trouble. He countersued them, manufactured evidence, and lied under oath. If he was so confident he was in the right, why did he need to make stuff up? He might’ve been okay if he’d just been honest. Surprisingly, “fake but accurate” didn’t cut it with the court.
Is slapping a filter on a photograph the same thing as painting something by hand based on it? Is selling other people’s work for profit without crediting or paying them (as Fairey does) the same thing as doing it for fun, and then allowing a museum to display it? I’m no expert on art or copyright law, but just at first glance, it seems like there might be a few minor differences between the two examples.
But hey, if the copyright holders of those photos want to sue a former POTUS for doodling around with their property just for the heck of it, they should do that. And let the paint chips fall where they may.
(Hat tip: the great Taylor Bigler)