Associated Press Targets George Zimmerman's Painting

George Zimmerman Trial - H 2013
Getty Images

George Zimmerman Trial - H 2013

George Zimmerman, who is suing NBC for defamation over its coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing, is now caught up in an unusual copyright mess.

The Associated Press has sent a warning over Zimmerman's painting of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, who originally charged Zimmerman with murder.

Zimmerman's painting, which his brother, Robert, posted on Twitter, is red and orange, but the AP traces the image's origin to its own photo of Corey.

"George Zimmerman clearly directly copied an AP photo to create his painting of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey," says Paul Colford, the AP's spokesperson. "The AP has sent a cease-and-desist letter asserting its copyright in the photo to the lawyer who recently represented Mr. Zimmerman. That lawyer has responded, and though she no longer represents Mr. Zimmerman, she will be forwarding the letter to him today."

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The AP has brought similar litigation in the past. Most famously, the news wire service went after artist Shepard Fairey for taking one of its photos to create the Barack Obama "Hope" poster during the 2008 election. That case was eventually settled for $1.6 million, but Fairey was hounded by the government for destroying evidence during a copyright lawsuit.

The AP's latest target is Zimmerman, who, after being acquitted for second-degree murder, has dabbled as a painter. He is reported to have sold one painting on eBay for $100,099.99.

The painting of Corey features her thumb to her index finger and text that reads, "I have this much respect for the American judicial system."

Zimmerman himself has been using the judicial system to pursue NBC for allegedly manipulating a 911 call and distorting facts to make Martin's killing appear racially motivated.

If the AP does sue, the case figures to provoke an interesting fair use discussion, particularly over the purpose and character prong.

Twitter: @eriqgardner