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The $1-Million Official Art For The Pope's U.S. Visit Is In Copyright Trouble

An unholy copyright battle may be brewing.

Originally posted on
Updated on

This is Philadelphia-based pop artist Perry Milou.

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And this is his portrait of Pope Francis, entitled "A Prayer For Peace." His PR team says it's the official licensed portrait for the pontiff's upcoming U.S. visit in September.

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On his website, Milou said his "connection to [his] love of God and life" inspired the work's creation. He says the work is "priceless," but it's listed for sale at $1 million — money the artist says he will donate to an "amazing cause."

Getty is now investigating the Milou artwork for a potential violation of its copyright, a spokeswoman told BuzzFeed News.

"Getty Images takes the protection of intellectual property very seriously," Getty spokeswoman Sarah Lochting said in a statement. "We can confirm that the photograph in question is part of the Getty Images collection, and that we are investigating the matter further."

Virginia-based attorney Kirk Schroder, who represents Milou, did not immediately return a request for comment, but told Philadelphia magazine Getty was yet to make contact.

"The fact that Getty is conducting an internal investigation doesn't mean that there is merit to their investigation," Schroder told the magazine. "But since we have no specifics, we are at a disadvantage in commenting specifically."

Kenneth A. Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told BuzzFeed News the World Meeting of Families had receive no notification of a copyright violation.

"But Perry Milou assured us at the time of the contract that he had the right to contract for the licensed art," Gavin said.

The potential copyright violation is similar to the legal battle over artist Shepard Fairey's iconic "HOPE" poster that was used during President Obama's 2008 run for the White House.

The Associated Press sued Fairey, alleging his work was based on a 2006 photo by AP photographer Manny Garcia. The case was settled out of court in 2011, with the photo agency getting a cut of the "HOPE" merchandise sales.

If Milou did base his work on the Getty photo, any potential copyright claim against the artist will center on whether he "substantially transformed" the original photo under the fair use exemption.

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"'Transformative' uses are more likely to be considered fair," according to the U.S. Copyright Office. "Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work."

  1. So what do you think?

    The Milou picture is NOT based on the Getty image.
    The Milou picture is based on the Getty image, but has been substantially transformed so it's probably fine.
    The Milou picture ripped off the Getty image.

The $1-Million Official Art For The Pope's U.S. Visit Is In Copyright Trouble

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So what do you think?
  1.  
    vote votes
    The Milou picture is NOT based on the Getty image.
  2.  
    vote votes
    The Milou picture is based on the Getty image, but has been substantially transformed so it's probably fine.
  3.  
    vote votes
    The Milou picture ripped off the Getty image.

David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

Contact David Mack at david.mack@buzzfeed.com.

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