George Zimmerman, acquitted in the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, could find himself back in court — this time for copyright violation. The Associated Press has sent Zimmerman a cease and desist letter for his painting showing Florida State Attorney Angela Corey on the grounds that the painting is a virtual copy of its photo. And so has the photographer who took the picture.
This is a double legal whammy for Zimmerman, who latest venture is to try and use his notoriety to sell paintings with his name on them via Ebay. There’s always a market for items owned or created by (in)famous people. But now he’s entering into the perilous area of copyright infringement and it can’t be argued as “fair use” which allows Internet sites to reproduce copy and some images that aren’t marked as copyrighted.
The statements issued by the AP and by the photographer aren’t the statements of happy campers who’ll allow this sale to go through without (more) legal problems for Zimmerman — who’ll probably need to be reincarnated several times to pay all his legal bills racked up so far.
The AP statement via Politico:
“George Zimmerman clearly directly copied an AP photo to create his painting of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey,” Colford said. “The AP has sent a cease-and-desist letter asserting its copyright in the photo to the lawyer who recently represented Mr. Zimmerman. That lawyer has responded, and though she no longer represents Mr. Zimmerman, she will be forwarding the letter to him today.”
The photo was taken in 2012 during a press conference, when Corey announced Zimmerman would face a second-degree murder charge for the death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted. Zimmerman’s brother Robert tweeted a photo of the painting on Wednesday, announcing that it would be for sale.
And here, via the Orlando Sentinel, are the comments of Jacksonville attorney John Phillips who represents Rick Wilson. He warns of legal action if Zimmerman keeps using the photo:
“You just can’t do that,” Phillips said. “You just can’t take somebody else’s work and make it your own.
Zimmerman’s brother unveiled the painting Wednesday on Twitter: An red-and-orange image of Corey, who charged Zimmerman with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The image of Corey appears to be an altered reproduction of a photo Wilson took April 11, 2012, when Corey announced Zimmerman would face a second-degree murder charge.
Wilson said he took the photograph as a freelancer for The Associated Press, and he said AP owns its copyright.
Zimmerman’s use of his photo for profit “to me crosses a line,” Wilson said. “He’s trying to profit and pass off, basically, a photograph as his own original artwork.”
Phillips compared the Zimmerman painting to the famous Barack Obama “Hope” posters from the 2008 election season, which sparked a copyright controversy between the artist, Shepard Fairey, and The Associated Press.
That matter was settled out of court.
Zimmerman put a previous painting up for auction on eBay. The winning bid was $100,099.99, though it remains unconfirmed whether he was paid that sum.
“I was shocked it didn’t sell for a million dollars,” said Sonksen, Zimmerman’s art teacher.
Zimmerman reportedly does a lot of legal research, so perhaps now he’s searching law books to see if Florida has a Stand Your Easel law.
If Zimmerman keeps popping up in the news as much as he has for minor legal problems since the shooting of the Skittles-armed Martin, news organizations may soon have to assign reporters to a special George Zimmerman beat.
Here’s the AP photo, shown here in this TMV post so readers can make the comparison themselves. Do you see a slight resemblance?
— H Maria Perry (@hmariaperry) January 25, 2014
— MSN (@MSN) January 25, 2014
Geo. Zimmerman murdered unarmed black kid + got away w/it. Now he's committed © infringem't so he's in big trouble. http://t.co/caskVRMQsd
— Christopher Sprigman (@CJSprigman) January 24, 2014
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