George Bush's paintings, some of which long ago found their way into the public eye through a leak from the hacker Guccifer, were put on display earlier this week at the George W. Bush presidential center.
Aesthetically, the paintings are an easy target. They're the publicly exhibited work of an amateur, and that amateur happens to be a politician who evokes very strong feelings. But what I found myself more interested in is a question posed yesterday by my colleague PJ Vogt: since it seems clear that these paintings were mostly done from pictures Bush found high up in Google Image Search results, could he be sued by the copyright holders for those pictures?
This would seem like a dumb question were it not for the lawsuit against Shepard Fairey for the Obama "HOPE" poster.
Fairey painted the picture from an AP photo by freelance photographer Mannie Garcia. While Fairey argued that his painting is fair use (because it was transformative), he eventually conceded used the image without license and settled out of court with the AP.
Now, former President Bush hasn't made any attempt to sell these paintings, but at least a couple of them fall under copyright. So were he to try and sell them, he would be open to the same type of lawsuit Fairey was subject to. So I guess this article ends with an anti-climactic non-answer. Could he be sued? Yes, probably, but that's only a concern for you if you're interested in buying one.