The AP Goes After George Zimmerman for Copying a Photo for One of His Paintings


For the second time in one week, the Associated Press is making headlines of its own. Earlier in the week, the agency was praised by some and condemned by others when it decided to let a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer go over an edited photo, and now the AP is going after George Zimmerman over a painting he was selling.

George Zimmerman is, of course, the man who was charged and ultimately acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, and since his acquittal he has taken up painting. The issue is that one of his recent paintings seems to be a very Shepard Fairey-esque copy of an AP photo.

Both the painting and the picture — which was taken by AP freelancer Rick Wilson — depict Jacksonville-based prosecutor Angela Corey on the day she announced that Zimmerman would be charged with second degree murder. Here’s a closer look at both the picture and the painting:



The painting came to light when Zimmerman’s brother tweeted about it, saying that they were in negotiations with a buyer. That’s when the AP decided to act. The AP sent a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that no sale be made or, if a sale is made, that the agency be paid damages. Considering Zimmerman’s last painting sold on eBay for over $100K, damages could be substantial.

Since the letter, the back and forth has gotten… shall we say… less than civil. “George Zimmerman clearly directly copied an AP photo to create his painting of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey,” AP spokesman Paul Colford said in a statement. To which Zimmerman’s responded (via Twitter) with the following:

No worries AP, I’ll just take whatever U sue me for off your tab when I’m done suing you :-) Or… I could put out how much U offered me 2…

Colford says he has no idea what Zimmerman is referring to.

The entire situation seems very similar to the case between the AP and Shepard Fairey, which ultimately resulted in a $1.6 million dollar settlement, plus a $25,000 penalty because Fairey destroyed evidence in the case. Perhaps the AP is hoping to head off a costly legal battle… or win a similar verdict if they can’t.

(via Ledger-Enquirer)


    Care to explain the grounds they would sue on?


    If it does infringe, they may try going through the transformative fair use route.

  • BurgerMountain

    His gun backfiring would not be a satisfying way for him to be off this earth. Rotting in jail would be better imo.

    On the copyright issue, Efff that! AP can go Eff themselves! If it wasn’t this clown I would say they were blood sucking parasites for pursuing this. Only on a technicality do I support them suing this jerk.

  • PeterPan

    Zimmerman pursued and shot a guy who was unarmed. He had a history of violent behaviour before the incident, and was clearly mentally unstable. The common mistake the media made was referring to him as white, to turn this into a Black vs White case and imply that he racially profiled Martin. This was a misconception, he was a paranoid person who was harassing a stranger in his neighbourhood, regardless of colour. Zimmerman is Hispanic, not that it matters, but the misinformation in the media went further than that, feeding the lies connected to the case. Calling Zimmerman a victim is more than misguided.

    And to BrokenHelix79, being pro gun is the first sign that you don’t have any regard for the statistics(Murders plummeted in Australia after gun laws were tightened 15 years ago), or you are a paranoid fool who can’t feel safe without a gun to protect yourself(which you wouldn’t feel like you needed if your country had tougher gun laws).

  • Dover

    Copyright infringement. Duh. He is copying a copyrighted image without permission. This will be an easy case for the lawyers.

  • Dover

    A model release is needed for an image used in advertising but not an editorial stock image. And he is not just depicting a public official in a public place, he is clearly copying another copyrighted image.

  • Dover

    Of course he did. If you can see the striking similarity in his painting and the photo, so can a judge or jury. And if you can’t see the similarity, you shouldn’t be here. He will lose this case.

  • ISO640

    The question really comes down to this: Could Zimmerman create this without the use of the AP photo? At least that’s what the question was in Rogers v. Koons and since they found that Koons could have created his sculpture without the photographers image, that is WASN’T fair use.

    I think the same could be said here (except I don’t think Zimmerman has the artistic talent to create his “art” without the use of the AP image or any other), Zimmerman could have created this without using the AP’s photograph, so ipso facto, not fair use.

  • Mike

    That’s pretty darn cool.

  • sean lancaster

    This is almost identical to the Obama Hope poster . . . the AP won that case as well.

  • Rob Elliott

    Zimmerman (part of the neighbourhood watch) saw a person in his community he didn’t recognize. The person ignored him, and refused to communicate with him. He called the police and let them know. The police pressed him for a racial description. (Even though the media reported otherwise, even doctoring a 911 call to make it sound otherwise) He continued to follow the young man at a distance (police never told him not to even though media try to make it sound like they did)

    Martin according to his girlfriend and parents was on the phone with his girlfriend. Martin indicated that he was going to confront the “creepy ass cracker” (racial slur)

    Residents saw a person matching Martin’s description bashing the head of someone matching Zimmerman description into the pavement.

    Zimmerman had wounds the support this on his head (even though the media reported that he was uninjured)

    In a break in the fighting Zimmerman exercising his rights under Florida law shot Martin. (A law I disagree with)

    Martin was in the neighbourhood staying with his father after being suspended from school on drug charges, he confronted Zimmerman after refusing to communicate with him. Martin then confronted the “cracker” and the situation escalated until Zimmerman exercising his rights under Florida law, having being over powered, shot Zimmerman.

    The Media then painted Zimmerman as a evil unstable man who followed and shot a young teen with a promising future, Inciting the Black Community in the US to action, even though the facts were being high distorted in the media.

    It took me 4 hours when I first heard about this case to get to the early reports before the media started distorting it.

    Worse had Martin not been a racist and just talked the man quickly politely, saying “Hi how are you tonight? me? oh no I don’t normally live here I’m staying with my dad at such and such address” The whole thing would have been avoided.

    I speak this way because I have been in almost identical circumstance at about the same age. Neighbourhood watch saw me, I’m looking more like Rambo from First Blood, in a community of Mercs and BMWs. And I just say my dad and I are visiting a friend over at such and such and address, I’m Rob.

    Not a big surprise when I saw him the next day he asked how I liked the area, and we had a nice conversation.

    Neither party is at fault here, but Martin isn’t an innocent in this and Zimmerman was vilified in the media and by the black community with people calling for his murder.

    So ya I feel for the guy.

  • Alan Klughammer

    Regardless of the politics of the situation, I hope AP loses, otherwise it could become illegal to create art. It could become illegal to paint something like the New York skyline because some photographer some where will claim copyright.
    The copyright is for the photo, not the scene depicted in it.

  • bob cooley

    Agreed Kevin. I’m no fan of Zimmerman, and those who know my postings know I’m often on the conservative side of copyright. Fair Use and ignorance is misused all too often.

    But in this case, the work is clearly transformative – it meets the criteria by being an analog translation from one medium to another (photo interpreted into a painting). It’s clearly not a tracing or a digital graphic rendering from the photographic source (like Fairey’s piece that’s been brought up in discussion).

    Another distinction is that this is the sale of a single painting, which falls under different criteria in terms of the use of the subject’s likeness.

    If Zimmerman were to produce posters, it would a different matter on both counts (we wander into the realm of publishing at that point), but a single painting, especially in this vein, likely falls under Fair Use both in the transformative nature and in that in the poor artistry/representation he can claim it’s a parody of the photo (which correct use of parody for Fair Use purposes). Though its also a parody of the subject, which doesn’t in itself fall under Fair Use/Parody.

  • bob cooley

    Different issue – Fairey made a digital copy of the image and altered it into a digital graphic design – it doesn’t pass the litmus test for “transformative” under Fair Use. Creating an interpretation in a completely different medium (hand painting of a photo) is a transformative use. It’s not good manners, but not illegal, either

  • bob cooley

    If you are going to call ‘the courts’ into it, it would be good to back that up with actual case-law. For example, a case that would at face seem to support your claim would be “Friedman v. Guetta”, but a determining factor in that case was that the final piece was created from a tracing of the original photo, not a freehand interpretation….

  • BrokenHelix79

    I’m well aware of the statistics, thanks, and I’m not a “cling to my guns” kind of person. I don’t even own a gun.

    I do, however, believe a gun is nothing more than a tool, and it requires a mentally stable, moral, and thoughtful person to use it. I don’t blame guns any more than I blame cars when someone drinks and gets behind the wheel. Your statistic about Australia is meaningless when discussed with all the other factors that play a role. Canada, for example, is also a gun-owning, gun-loving country. It also happens to have a miniscule murder rate.

    The real problem for the United States is our CULTURE, not guns. The same culture that promotes George Zimmerman as some sort of hero. The same culture that worships celebrity and fame and violence.

  • bob cooley

    Unfortunately, no. In the case of Fairey’s poster (and in friedman vs. guetta) the images were direct digital tracings of the originals. The painting is transformative.

    I don’t particularly agree, but that’s what the courts have upheld so far.

  • Myamar_SL

    So message Zimmerman is trying to convey in his painting is that he too has little respect in the American Judicial system because he knew he got away with murder which he shouldn’t have–that the system is indeed broken?

  • bob cooley

    You keep throwing out that phrase – where did you get yours?

    Many pro photographers and professional artists have a better understanding of IP law than many general counsels. It’s an important part of how we make our living.

  • Kam Chana

    The sad thing with all of this is, regardless of how you feel about this guy or what he did, he’s just been given a load of free publicity for a picture that look’s like something you could pick up from Ikea, it’s what i would term as a “paint-over”, it’s not art, it’s a copy of a picture with some text slapped on it, he’s cashing in on what few minutes of fame he has.

  • nikonian

    As Much as I hate Zimmerman this is fair use

  • bob cooley

    I don’t entirely disagree with that, but if I were his attorney, I’d go that route – It’s also argue that it’s a transformative work. One or the other might work.

  • bob cooley

    Modest it being kind :)

  • harumph

    I think you have some more editing to do. It looks like you got your version of the narrative directly from Sean Hannity.

  • slvrscoobie

    Thats why Weird AL is a millionaire.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Zimmerman’s painting instructor taught him to paint by projecting an image onto canvas. I’m not sure where that kind of tracing crosses the line, but the whole image was possibly not done freehand by Zimmerman.

  • Rob Elliott

    sadly that is what happened. Based on all the evidence. NBC and ABC both had to issue apologies and retractions for things they did. The Phone conversation that the family described shows that Martin made a racial slur and indicated he would confront him.

    The Eye Witness reports indicated that Martin beat him, hospital records support that. The Gun shot happened after this.

    Florida police after interviewing witness and Zimmerman, did not want to press charges because the facts showed that he did not break the law as it was in Florida. People got up set for racist reasons not rational ones. The Media then jumped on the ban wagon and sensationalized the story. When I first heard about it a few weeks after it happened, things seems off, so I started going back until I could find early reports and more fact based information. Those are the facts.

    I know people don’t like hearing it.. but that is what happened. If the facts had shown Zimmerman to be exactly what the Media reported I would hold no sympathy for him. And his behaviour since has not be great. But because of what happened I do feel for him.

  • harumph

    You are asserting a number of things as fact that were never proven. I really don’t have time to go point by point through your whole Hannity fantasy, but for starters, the tired right wing talking point about Zimmerman having his “head bashed into the pavement” was never proven. Zimmerman defenders love to say this, but the first officer on the scene testified that the confrontation took place on the wet grass. No pavement. Defenders love to say his head was bashed into the pavement, but it simply didn’t happen. Zimmerman himself said in his first police interview that he was on top of Martin when he shot him (this video is on YouTube). He later contradicted himself. The court never came to any conclusion on these points, so you can’t keep reciting your version as fact simply because it fits your agenda. Attempting to amplify the confrontation by pretending it took place on the pavement is just dishonest.

    He followed and killed an unarmed teenager. That is a fact. Trayvon calling Zimmerman a “creepy ass cracker” has nothing to do with it. The last thing Trayvon can be heard saying on the phone call seconds before he was shot was, “Why are you following me for?” This phone call was heard in court and placed in the timeline without any opposition from the defense. But it’s another fact that doesn’t fit into your scenario.

  • Rob Elliott

    First I’m not right wing I care about the truth I’m often called Left Wing, though I’m a centrist.

    I didn’t indicate what position Zimmerman was in when he shot because it was unknown. Eye Witness reports indicated a man dressed in black was on top of a man in red.

    Zimmerman suffered black eyes, a nose injuries and head injuries those are facts they can not be disputed.You generally don’t get lacerations on the back of your head from grass.

    Martin’s injuries were negligible outside of the Gunshot wound, if I recall correctly there were hand injuries in line with him hitting a person.

    Martin was a racists punk kid, refused to be polite and respectful in a neighbourhood he didn’t live in. Referred to Zimmerman as a “Creepy Ass Cracker” and then confronted him in a hostile manner.

    The situation between the two men escalated resulting in Zimmerman taking a beating, during a lull in the fighting Zimmerman got a hold of his gun and fired. Which under Florida law was totally legal.

    and I reference that phone call. in my comments.

    I’m going to confront this creepy ass cracker. that phone call was the most damning evidence against Martin. That was the thing that convinced me that Martin wasn’t the kid the media and his parents tried to paint him as.

    He was a hooligan. He refused to communicate with a someone he thought was white, and then decided he was going to confront him. The confrontation became violent, with martin punching Zimmerman several time, knocking him down, breaking his nose and bashing his head into the ground (likely pavement)

    Zimmerman at some point got a chance to fire his gun legally under Florida Law. This is the reason he was not convicted of any crime, and wasn’t initially even going to be charged until the Black community pushed for his arrest a community that went so far as to actually call for Zimmerman’s Murder.

    Martin’s racism is at the heart of the whole case, his dislike of white people was the reason he confront Zimmerman the way he did, the reason he picked a fight, and the reason he got shot.

    I don’t like the law that allowed it, and Zimmerman isn’t faultless by any stretch but Martin death, though tragic was not criminal under Florida law.

  • Alan Dove

    At least they’re not doing this to someone who becomes irrational and violent when he feels threatened. Oh, wait.

  • pvbella

    Read the article and click the link on the Fairey case.

  • harumph

    You are not “recalling correctly.” Martin did not in fact have “hand injuries in line with him a hitting a person.” He had a small scratch on his pinky finger that was never determined to have occurred on the night he was killed. Also, and again, the confrontation took place on the wet grass, not the pavement. The officers on the scene confirmed this, and they also noted that the clothes on Zimmerman’s back were not wet, but Martin’s back was. It’s amazing that this lie still perseveres.

    Zimmerman did not have “lacerations” on the back of his head. As his medical examiner testified, he had “superficial scratches” with a complete lack of bruising on the back of his head.

    You also claim that Zimmerman’s nose was broken. This also isn’t true. Even if it were broken, Zimmerman refused medical attention on the night of the incident, so there’s no way for anyone to know. He also refused x-rays when he finally did go to the doctor after talking to a lawyer. He knew that he should leave doubt about the extent of his injuries. Nobody has ever said that Zimmerman’s nose was broken except Zimmerman.

    And I’m not even going to address your despicable tactic of attempting to paint Martin as a “racist hooligan.” Don’t pose like you’re interested in the truth when everything that comes out of your mouth is a biased lie.

  • bob cooley

    I did, and I already knew the case: Fairey made a digital copy of the image and altered it into a digital
    graphic design – it doesn’t pass the litmus test for “transformative” under Fair Use. Creating an interpretation in a completely different medium (hand painting of a photo) is a transformative use. It’s not good manners, but not illegal, either.

    Also, see Friedman v. Guetta. One of the major determining factors in whether the piece was transformative was that the new piece was created from a tracing of the original, it wasn’t merely an interpretation of the original in another medium.

  • Brian Pratt

    Getting your head bashed on pavement is more than being threatened. Be smarter please.

  • Brian Pratt

    Can I smash your head repeatedly on the pavement. Remember if you fight back it’s attempted murder by you.

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    Ikea’s pictures are way better than this.

  • harumph

    That didn’t happen. Read the court transcripts please.

  • Lika564

    Harumph, You’re my Hero! It’s so sad that Gmurder got away with murder despite his own written and oral testimony. And, so he gets to mush his insanity in everyone’s face. If he is criticized, it’s only proof that he is being targeted. Forget that he keeps poking “the bears” until they react. His target is now AC. I would not be a bit surprised if he did one of Trayvon (or an obvious likeness) in the near future.

  • Max Hodges

    the Supreme Court ruled that Fair Use gives artists broad rights under the law to use prior works of art in the creation of new works of art.