I Support FAIR USE

Featuring examples of really cool art that benefit from the protection of Fair Use.

Support fair use, the section of copyright law that allows artists to create new work from existing imagery or ideas, provided the new work "...adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning or message."
Have a question about Fair Use (I'm not a lawyer)

Magical Geographic — Julien Pacaud, 2011

French artist and illustrator Julien Pacaud creates each of his pieces in the digital realm, mixing vintage imagery with photographs and computer generated textures and effects to create surreal visions that could only exist in the artist’s imagination. Here, the black and white magician in the background has been snipped from another source, and (of course) that image is copyrighted by the photographer, book/magazine/showbill from which it originated. To scan, duplicate, and — gasp! — sell this image alone would be an infringement of the original copyright. However, by combining the image with other elements — the hoop, the three dimensional landscape, the rectangular water and land — the artist has created an entirely new and unique work of art, wherein the copyrighted image is repurposed within a broad narrative apart from its original use and intent. As such, Pacaud has transformed the original, creating something entirely new, unique, and unanticipated by the copyright holder.

Muerto Mouse — Lalo Alcaraz, 2013

In the wake of reports that Disney had intended to trademark the phrase Dia de los Muerto for an upcoming animated feature, illustrator and cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz created this incredibly great poster of a “dia de los” Mickey Mouse ravaging its immense corporate power a la Godzilla through the streets of Everytown, USA. Alcaraz gets it right from the saucer shaped ears right down to the button-like gaps through Muerto Mouse’s hip bone.

The illustration works under the protections of fair use on all kinds of fronts:

  • Disney’s original image has been substantially changed.
  • It’s transformative, as Disney has never depicted Mickey as a giant, skeletal monster.
  • It is parody.
  • It is commentary on a real world news item.

¡Muy bueno, señor Alcaraz!

Jack — Ben Durham, 2012

Ben Durham's recent solo show at New York's Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery featured a series of very large graphite drawings, each photo realistically rendered on handmade paper. Nothing very out of the ordinary about that, right? There are tons of people who have mastered the art of graphite portraiture. But these portraits were just a little bit… different.

The source of Durham’s portraits were mugshots. Mugshots of former classmates.

Mugshots, of course, are easily obtained as public records, which is how Durham located his source material, merely searching arrest records and finding booking photos of childhood friends and acquaintances from which he could base his drawings. Moreover, fair use provides for the reproduction of copyrighted material (i.e. the mugshot photo) for purposes of “news reporting” and since all arrests are in the public domain… Durham’s drawings are, effectively, reporting the news.

Ah! But the story does not simply end there!

Close inspection of Durham’s work reveals a bit more than simple lines on paper. Each portrait is actually drawn by the rendering of word, statements, and memories that the artist recalls about knowing that particular person, overlaying words atop words until they can barely be discerned, giving depth, light, and shading to each face.

Jack (detailed view)

Mona — Modern Eden Gallery, July 20 - August 9, 2013

Past postings to I Support FAIR USE have featured a couple of Mona Lisa inspired paintings (by Mark Bryan and Marcel Duchamp, respectively). And while Da Vinci’s original image of Mona Lisa is not protected by copyright law, work inspired by Leonardo’s painting is. With that in mind, today we bring you…

An entire exhibition devoted to Mona Lisa reboots!

On display now through August 9th in San Francisco at Modern Eden you’ll find two dozen Monas patiently gazing down from the walls. There are Frida Monas, clown Monas, a Conehead Mona and so much more! None, in any way shape or form test the murky waters of Fair Use, but I though I’d share nonetheless.

Buona visione!

Agency Appropriates Eric White Painting For Target Commercial 

1961 Ford Galaxie 500 Sunliner (Pierrot Le Fou) — Eric White, 2010

It’s not often that I reblog posts in I Support FAIR USE, preferring, instead, peferring to add my own spin on examples of fair use I find on the internet. Today, however, is an exception, having just learned of this rather bold and unwarranted appropriation of a great Eric White painting for a Target commercial on the Supertouch art blog.

In any case, this is a good example of what I would term a “fair use fail”, wherein an artist (in this case, an advertising agency) has used a piece of art — uncredited — as the compositional basis for their own work, in manner that would not be protected by any definition of fair use. The use is especially negligent insofar as it copies White’s unique artistic vision of composition and color — effectively taking the essence of a great piece and reproducing it in a way that does not bring new meaning to the original. And that is not fair use.

Bad, bad, bad, Target!

Read all about it in the provided link!

click on over to the above link and read all about 

Snow White — Herr Nilsson, 2013

Hiding on the streets of Stockholm, artist Herr Nilsson has secreted a collection of colorful Disney princesses, daintily posed and brandishing deadly weapons for anyone who might cross their technicolor path. Each of these characters is, of course, copyrighted by The Walt Disney Company, but as we’ve witnessed repeatedly in the pages of I Support FAIR USE, to merely reproduce the likeness of a copyrighted character is not necessarily a violation of the owner’s exclusive rights. Copyright and trademark law protects rights holders from things like knockoff pillows and sheets which would otherwise confuse the public and actually take money out of the hands of the rightful owners. Copyright law does not, however, prevent an artist from using the likeness of a well-known character in ways that do not compete or confuse. Here, for example, Nilsson choose characters for his street art that have very well known and understood values of “Disney goodness” — no one would look upon his image of Snow White (recognizable though she may be) going all Diry Harry with a revolver, and assume that it is a Disney sanctioned design. It’s art; the unique creative vision of an artist.

The Disneyland Memorial Orgy — Wally Wood, 1967

This unattributed centerfold of The Realist caused a bit of a stir in the late 1960’s for its panorama of wholesome Disney icons engaged in all kinds of debauchery. Today, attribution for the drawing is universally credited to Wally Wood who created stunning illustration throughout the 1950’s through 80’s for comics and Mad magazine.

The image was widely pirated throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s, but Disney never sued either Wood or the original publisher — perhaps because Wood never claimed authorship, or perhaps because Disney did not want to become embroiled in a legal battle with a counterculture periodical. More likely, Disney may have chosen to ignore the issue (today clearly protected by fair use as a wicked example of parody) because The Realist was not attempting to sell copies of the image, and tracking down the many bootleggers was a very slippery task!

In any case, you may want to keep this one from the kiddies…

Belinda and friends bear witness to the Second Coming — John Purlia, 2010

I Support FAIR USE was launched in October, 2012, in response to unfair and restrictive content management by Zazzle. I’d opened my Zazzle shop a few weeks earlier with the intention of selling a wide variety of products featuring my photos of toys, records, and various other found objects engaged in conceptually staged scenes. Basically, the same images I show in galleries and sell to collectors and prints. Cool, huh?

At the time Zazzle pulled a couple of dozen of my product designs claiming that my art “infringed on the intellectual property” of other rights holders — Elvis, the Beatles, and — yes — kewpie dolls. Counter arguments and proper legal actions (I filed a Takedown Counter Notice with Zazzle’s representative Content Agent that went unanswered) were ignored, so I created and offered for sale a host of censored versions of my art under the moniker of I Support Fair Use. I also started this Tumblr to bring attention to all the incredible art out there that benefits from the protections of the fair use section of U.S. copyright law.

I’m sad to report that Zazzle is at it today.  As I sit here in my office on the 4th of July (a national holiday here in the U.S. where every tech company — including Zazzle, as I called their offices — have a day off) I’m watching a stream of Zazzle content review emails streaming into my in box notifying me that one product or another has been removed from their site for copyright violations. So far, each of the products has featured the above photograph, and each has actually been available for sale in the Zazzle marketplace for many months.

I find it interesting that these notices are arriving on a U.S. holiday… which leads me to believe that those making the determination of whether or not a given image does or does not infringe on an existing copyright (and therefore making determinations with regards to fair use) are not actually doing so from within the U.S..


Yes, the notice does claim that Zazzle is issuing the takedown notice as the result of being contacted by the copyright holder (here, the entity that licenses kewpie as a brand), but I have reason to doubt this claim as Zazzle has in the past failed to properly (and as they are legally obligated) share with me specific notifications from rights holders, as is required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).


I’ve also, in the past, exchanged email with members of Zazzle’s content review team who claim that they’ve been told that they must reject all submitted images with certain content (Elvis, etc), which would be another violation of the DMCA (i.e. there is no such thing as a “blanket takedown”).


You can read more about by past travails with Zazzle in a couple of posts I made on my main blog, here and here, which goes into a fair amount of depth on copyright, fair use, and what the legal responsibilities are for web site that host content.

In the meantime, Zazzle is clearly NOT a friend of fair use!!

Kenneth Tin Kin-Hung

So… I’ve spent the past several days trying to determine the title and year of creation for this digitally created piece from Kenneth Tin Kin-Hung, but details elude me.

In any case… wow! Pretty cool example of fair use, wouldn’t you agree? The target is, of course the, McDonald’s Corporation, with Hung’s use of the McDonald’s logo, colors, and even the striped suit of Ronald McDonald all protected. How? In this case, as both criticism (explicitly called out in copyright law) and parody, as defined by the Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music.

I’d love more information about this piece if it rings a visual bell with anyone!

erikdenbreejen said: Hi there! Thanks for posting one of my Smile paintings awhile back. I just wanted to clarify one detail, it was only Van Dyke Parks (who was never an official Beach Boy) who threatened to sue, not the Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson promoted my Smile show on his Facebook page. In any case, no formal resolve was ever met. I had my lawyer write a letter which was never responded to, so I'm moving forward. Did you see my new David Bowie mural? Best, Erik

Thanks for the correction, Erik, and it’s really cool that Brian Wilson was so supportive of your work. I haven’t seen the Bowie mural as of yet, but I’ll definitely check it out. 

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