This blog belongs to Patricia Atkinson and was created as part of the Education Media Design and Technology program at Full Sail University.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Week 1 Post 4: General Reflection on Copyright: Shepard Fairey

Since there is not a specific project this week, I have decided to reflect a little bit about my work with students about Shepard Fairey. I did him for my Artist of the Week presentation, which usually entails a PowerPoint, video(s), or website that goes over the body of work and life of the artist. Students take a few notes and then we have a class discussion. The students reacted a lot to his work and the story about the lawsuit. Some students loved his work, the boldness and modern "graphic-y" look. They recognized some images from popular culture such as the Obey campaign, and of course, the Obama poster, as well as one of the other images of the guns and roses, which apparently, one of my students has as a tattoo (which brought up a whole new conversation about copyright and tattoos--one student mentioning that Hangover2 is getting sued over a Mike Tyson tattoo?). Some students thought his work was repetitive, narrow, and didn't take as much talent because it was made on a computer.

The issue of the lawsuit inspired quite a debate, varying greatly between my sections but always 2-sided. Some students said that he should have given the photographer credit. Some said if its on the internet, its easy to get, and therefore up for grabs. Some said he changed it so much that it shouldn't matter. Some said he didn't have any other choice 'cause he doesn't have a press pass to get a photograph. Some said Obama is such a figure-head, and in a political campaign, so his photographs should be fair use. Most agreed that Shepard should have at least given Garcia credit. I really enjoyed getting the kids talking about the issue and broadening their minds to the idea of credit and fair use. The more they realize the details of both sides, the more they will understand how these same issues effect their own lives.

Image Attribute:
By Shepard_Fairey.jpg: Cliff from I now live in Arlington, VA (Outside Washington DC), USA
derivative work: Davidowenmorgan (Shepard_Fairey.jpg) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Link to this image on Wikimedia Commons


  1. Tricia, First of all, I commend you for covering this topic with your students. Spending the last, almost a year, working side by side with you in the EMDT program has really opened my eyes and redefined my vision of education in America today. I took art in middle school because it was required, but never took it up again. I do love looking and I have a few small pieces that I have collected, but my perspective on art in education was antiquated and narrow. Now when I hear people talking about possible budget cuts and eliminating some of the elective courses such as art, I find myself extremely animated in my defense of the arts.

    The issues regarding copyright and fair use are all around us. Truth be known, the application of art in our society is probably far more significant to our young people than the applications of the quadratic equation that I covered with my students today. Students should be made aware of the implications of "borrowing" someone else's work or even someone else's ideas. It isn't right. I remember a few years ago, when I was working in real estate, I had my own "Shepard Fairey" moment. I may not be the budding artist, but when it came to photographing a home, I had it down to an art. Way ahead of other Realtors, I used wide-angle digital photography and enhanced my photos in Photoshop, using captions. Occasionally, despite my best efforts, one of my listings did not sell and the owner listed with another agent. Imagine how angry I was, when I found my pictures in the new listing. If I had known then, what I know now.

    Good work Tricia; keep up the good work.

  2. The tattoo issue I was unfamiliar with until you mentioned it. Looks interesting. Along the same lines I have been curious through the years about people that paint their own version of a Disney, cartoon, or recognizable characters on the walls of their bedrooms, fences, and personal t-shirts. Technically I know the standing of this practice, but the reality of policing and following up on individual infractions is not fiscally feasible practice. The only time that there is good reason to follow up is in the case of commercial use that I call “the industrial” variety. Something that creates a great deal of money, like for instance a movie, specifically the tattoo you mentioned is a good example. Because of the movie being in national market the amount of revenue potential does make it financially beneficial to pursue. My question is due to the parody/comic nature of the film can they get a pass because of that.

    Another similar dispute is with the rock tune Whiter Shade of Pale. The organist on the original Procol Harum recording has recently successfully sued for rights to royalties for his contribution on the recording and has gained standing to collect royalties starting in 2005. He did not write the song but has been deemed to have significantly contributed to the songs success. Again this is another case where revenues generated from an international market really can add up.

  3. Tricia,
    This is such an awesome idea to take this time out to discuss Shepherd’s Fairey concept with your students. I definitely need to do the same lesson with my students so they will be more aware. Like I said in my Week 1 Reading Creative Common Post how I am trying to teach them more appropriate ways to use technology in the classroom whether it is a math project or project-based activities. The more we make our own students more aware by communicating to them about copy right laws they would think twice would be our goal for them.

  4. Tricia
    I think that deciding to share your work with your students about Shepard Fairey is a great idea. I know that you work very hard and this subject is extremely important.I was not aware of the Mike Tyson Tattoo situation/lawsuit.It also sounds like you have a great group to work with as well. Awesome work Tricia as usual!

  5. Tattoo copyright law-- didn't think I'd be reading up on that!

    It seems the tattoo artist is the one claiming copyright infringement. It might be a tough case to try since the shape of the head and face changes from person to person, but we will see. Very interesting!