Flickr Joker Parody Takedown: Censorship or Infringement?


I’m late to this story, via TechCrunch:

Flickr really stepped in it this time. And they’ve sparked a free speech and copyright fascism debate that is unlikely to cool down any time soon.

Sometime last week they took down a photoshopped image of President Obama that makes him look like the Heath Ledger (Joker) character from The Dark Knight. The image was created and uploaded to Flickr by 20 year old college student Firas Alkhateeb while “bored over winter school break.” It was also later altered yet again by someone else and used to create anti-obama posters that went up in Los Angeles.

Thomas Hawk has a good overview of some of the other details, but the short version is the image was removed by Flickr sometime last week due to “due to copyright-infringement concerns.” People are angry over the takedown. There are lots of pictures mocking President Bush on a Time Magazine cover on Flickr that haven’t been removed. And of the Heath Ledger Joker character.

The DMCA Excuse

Yesterday Yahoo fired back at everyone who complained, saying that they were required to remove the image pursuant to a DMCA takedown notice. Flickr’s director of community Heather Champ says “In this intance, the Yahoo! Copyright Team here in the US received a complete Notice of Infringement as outlined by the DMCA (Digitial Millenium Copyright Act). Under the DMCA, an individual may choose to file a counterclaim”

She added “We very much value freedom of speech and creativity.”

DMCA abuse is a growing problem on the Internet, and luckily the EFF often comes in to defend people who are unfairly being accused of copyright infringement. And I don’t think there is a lawyer in America who would argue that Alkhateeb isn’t perfectly within his rights to create and distribute this image under fair use and parody defenses.

The politics charge:

In the past Flickr has deleted accounts of users who are critical of President Obama, but as far as I know nothing like this was done to users who were critical of Bush.

CATCH UP… via Memeorandum discussion.

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  • Silhouette

    Those posters weren't created by a bored college student. They were purposefully done and circulated in many cities at the same time frame. The city I went and pulled them down in is nowhere near Los Angeles. I heard they went up all over the country at the same time:. Conclusion, concerted effort of not just one bored college student.

    I Imagine, just speculating here, that if posters went up at the same time people were showing up with guns to Bush's rallies strapped to their sides [as if Bush's secret service would allow that...why again is Obama's allowing it?] of a character people recognized as a villain who has in real life died at the peak of his fame…yeah,

    I think they'd come down all right.

  • Leonidas

    LOL this will just make the picture more common. The move was self defeating if they sought to deflect criticism of the administration.

  • Silhouette

    It will only take on momentum of those hellbent on destroying democracy and our country as a whole. To those who have even a modicum of respect for our democratic process and one iota of patriotism above self-interest, this article will do exactly as it intended, cause reasonable people to understand there is a real enemy beyond Al Qaida threatening the US of A.