Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Can't I Do This?

The use policy on the White House Flickr photo stream makes a series of demands in the legalese posted next to the images.

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

In this case, I've added some relatively lame Photoshop editorializing that is certainly not my best critical work. But by manipulating the photograph to insert a wounded Iraqi child into the White House Halloween holiday scene, I'm clearly violating the terms that are specified next to the image. But this alteration also makes a political statement and should thereby be protected speech on first amendment grounds.

I also have questions about the rules that limit use to news publication and personal printing by the subjects in the image. If a mother of one of these children prints out the image, is that a violation of the terms of use? What about a pro-Christian anti-Halloween activist who might want to show the image to others at a political gathering that should again seem to be under free speech protection.

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