The Legality of Pixelation

I'm fascinated by the legal intricacies of Fair Use, and I love me my photography, so when I first heard about the battle over Andy Baio's pixelated rendition of Jay Maisel's iconic Miles Davis photograph (seen above), I was intrigued. The short version is that Maisel took a great photo, Baio repurposed it --creating a pixelated version that he believed was covered under Fair Use -- and Maisel sued his ass off. People on the internets got pretty upset because they thought that Maisel was stifling art and generally being a dick. This internet mob had real-life consequences for Maisel, who found himself as the unfortunate target of harassment and online character assassination.

Was it justified? Jeremy Nicholl has weighed in with an in-depth assessment, and he's not kind to Baio, nor one of his defenders, Thomas Hawk:

Andy Baio, a man with a history of breaking and encouraging others to break intellectual property laws, made a considerable amount of money selling his intellectual property to Yahoo [...] His account of his dispute with Jay Maisel provided an ammunition dump for those who wished to attack the photographer for defending his work under the same laws that allowed Baio to profit. And Andrew Peterson / Thomas Hawk has gleefully raided that dump to conduct a campaign of defamation and vilification against Maisel, neglecting to disclose his own recent history of being caught out for copyright infringement and libel.

See Andy Baio's response to Nicholl by clicking here. For further reading, check out Baio's original post on the topic, as well as Copyhype's deconstruction of Baio's Fair Use argument.

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