Monday, October 1, 2012

Political Appropriation, a Tort?

A New Jersey couple who posted their engagement picture on a personal blog were later mortified to learn that their special photo had been altered and used in political attack ads. As reported by ABC news, the gay couple's photo showing them holding hands and kissing with the New York skyline in the background was altered by an advocacy group targeting two Republican candidates in Colorado state legislative races.  Apparently, the candidates had not shown sufficient intolerance for prospective civil union legislation. The background of the photo was altered to show scenes that looked more like Colorado and statements attacking the candidates were affixed. Both targeted candidates lost in the primaries.

The couple has filed suit in US District Court for misappropriation.  The photographer has joined the suit for copyright infringement.  The Southern Poverty Law Center is providing counsel for the couple. While their image was most certainly appropriated, was it done for commercial purposes? What is the privacy expectation when you post an image on the internet?  Is there a political free expression defense?

The engagement photo:

One of the Colorado attack ads:

The other one:

TV news report:

See other posts on Commercial Appropriation involving:
Bette Midler
Vanna White, here and here
Tom Waits
Kim Kardashian
Lindsey Lohan

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