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George Bush Art Adorns Website's Products; Can They Do That?

Image: George Bush Art Adorns Website's Products; Can They Do That?

Friday, 25 Apr 2014 01:23 PM

By Clyde Hughes

The artwork of President George W. Bush adorns all kinds of household merchandise being sold online, but it's not clear if the sellers are allowed to profit from the former president's artistry.

Bush's portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, former Great Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, and his father President George H.W. Bush are being featured on household items along with the president's own self portrait on the website Society6, according to Mashable.

The site offers the work in prints, frames, canvasses and even throw pillows, tote bags, wall clocks. Prices run from $22 for a Putin tote bag, $30 for a Karzai wall clock, $20 for a Blair throw pillow up to $85 for a stretched canvass photo.

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"Appropriating Bush's art without permission is illegal (it's unclear whether the Society6 artist obtained permission)," wrote Larry Vitto of Mashable.com. "Due to the unclear nature of art appropriation laws, however, the artist behind this project could potentially argue that printing these images on household items qualifies as creating 'new' art.

"In April 2013, a ruling in Cariou v. Prince stated that artist Richard Prince's pieces made fair use of photographs taken by Patrick Cariou. The ruling overturned an earlier court decision that determined Prince infringed on Cariou's copyrighted work," Vitto continued.

Bush's paintings were put on display earlier this month at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Southern Methodist University campus, according to The New York Times. Thirty of the president's paintings comprise "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" exhibit which will run until June 3.

The  Times said Bush worked from photos of the leaders, which included King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Angela Merkel of Germany and Ehud Olmert of Israel.

"The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy will explore the relationships that President George W. Bush forged with world leaders to shape international policy and advance American interests abroad," said a statement on the Bush library's website.

"The exhibit will feature more than two dozen never-before-exhibited portraits painted by President Bush. Portraits will be accompanied by artifacts, photographs, and personal reflections to help illustrate the stories of relationships formed on the world stage."

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