Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hey Flickr … why so censorious?

Photo site isn’t talking about 'Jokerized Obama,' and you better not either

The “Jokerized” image of President Barack Obama sat unmolested on Flickr for about two months before it was removed by the staff at the photo-sharing Web site. A couple thousand users viewed the image — Obama’s Time magazine cover superimposed with the iconic “Joker” look from “The Dark Knight" — and many of them commented on it. Sometimes it got heated.

Then the co-opted image was co-opted again; the Time cover replaced with the single word, “SOCIALISM” on anti-Obama posters that started popping up in Los Angeles. Suddenly, the original “Jokerized” Time cover was gone from Flickr. And so were the comments. People noticed. Media noticed too.

Flickr cited copyright concerns over the Time magazine image. It also stated that it couldn’t discuss specifics due to its policy on customer privacy and blah, blah, blah.

The company, it seems, didn’t want its customers talking about it either. Flickr not only deleted the comments that accompanied the image, it shut down threads discussing the removal of both. Why? ‘Cause that’s how Flickr rolls.

Read More


Photo Sharing Website Flickr Takes Down Obama Joker Poster

The popular photo sharing website Flickr has taken down the original version of the now famous Obama Joker poster that's been sweeping the nation.

Apparently, management is concerned about a copyright infringement issue due to the appearance of the Time magazine logo in Firas Alkhateeb's parody that ended up being reprinted with the word "Socialism" at the bottom.

Oddly, a quick search of Flickr identified a number of Bush parodies with Time's logo present (vulgarity alert below the fold).

As such, one has to wonder if Flickr's decision is actually censorship. According to Read Write Web (h/t Ken Shepherd):

In a recent L.A. Times profile on Alkhateeb, it's reported that the photo generated over 20,000 pageviews during the time it was hosted on the photo-sharing website However, as of last Friday, Flickr removed the photo from their site. Why? Alkhateeb says he received an email from the company stating it had to be taken down due to "copyright infringement concerns." (Apparently, TIME magazine wasn't too happy seeing their brand associated with this sort of political commentary.)

But isn't this sort of political commentary, political parody in fact, protected as a form of free speech? Noted photographer and blogger Thomas Hawk thinks it is, citing a precedent for fair use (Folsom v Marsh) which states "if you produce something that is transformative, and not derivative, then it's fair use." Although Hawk isn't a lawyer, he may be right on this one. Says Corynne McSherry, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit that defends digital rights, Alkhateeb has a strong fair use defense if he was ever sued. "You really want to think twice about going after a political commenter," she noted.

Yet, a quick search of Flickr found the following:

And this (pardon the vulgarity):

And this:

Why wasn't Flickr or Time concerned with copyright issues involving these parodies?

Not surprisingly, this isn't the first time Flickr came to Barack Obama's defense:

Hawk also blogged about how the site deleted the account of a user named Shepherd Johnson after he made critical comments about Obama in the Official White House Photostream back in June.

Is Flickr protecting itself from a lawsuit by Time, or censoring free speech it doesn't agree with?

—Noel Sheppard is the Associate Editor of NewsBusters.