A Rip-off Photo? Obama’s Memoir Already in Dire Straits And it Hasn’t Hit The Bookshelves Yet!

Published September 24th, 2020 - 07:36 GMT
Barack Obama’s first presidential memoir, ‘A Promised Land,’  (Twitter)
Barack Obama’s first presidential memoir, ‘A Promised Land,’ (Twitter)
Penguin Random House deny they have done anything wrong with the cover picture. 

Barack Obama's presidential memoir is wrapped in controversy two months before it even hits bookstores.

Photographer Anna Wilding is planning to sue publishers Penguin Random House, claiming the image they have chosen for the cover of 'A Promised Land' is a rip-off of her work.

Now New Zealand-born Wilding wants at least $50,000 for the picture — even though she didn't take it.

'Photo copyright is a complex issue and infringement includes derivative works,' Wilding told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview from her adopted hometown of Los Angeles.

'My work of Obama is considered iconic and unique. Someone saw my work and said let's do it like that. No-one else has ever used this particular angle with Obama and shot it in black and white,' she said.

'Why did they not just do a forward-facing photo like they usually do of him?' she added. 'It's an infringement on my rights, my work, my style — my black and white style.'

Wilding went further in a post on her LinkedIn page, calling the book cover 'stolen, copied, manipulated, reproduced without permission.'

Penguin Random House deny they have done anything wrong with the cover picture. 

'The portrait of President Obama on the cover of A Promised Land is an original photograph taken by Pari Dukovic,' executive publicist Carisa Hays told DailyMail.com.

'We are confident our cover photograph does not infringe any copyrights.'

Wilding worked for two years in the Obama White House as a photographer and correspondent and received critical acclaim for the way she photographed the first black president. 

She published a coffee table book of Obama pictures called Celebrate Hope in 2019. That book was based on an exhibition of her work that ran for months in California.

Now though the exhibition has had to be canceled due to COVID restrictions. 'I am struggling, like many photographers and filmmakers to pay rent,' she told DailyMail.com. 'I need to be paid for my work and any infringements.

'I have a legitimate and provable claim and it is upsetting when photographers unique and original works are diminished. This is my iconic and published work from my well-known exhibit,' she added. 

Obama's memoir is due to be published on November 17. 

The blurb for the book, published by Crown, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, says it is 'extraordinarily intimate and introspective. — the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage.'

Wilding covered Obama from 2015 to 2017. She was one of a handful of photographers working full-time at the White House. 

She says her work is different to the others as they were mainly news photographers, while she considers her work more artistic.

And Wilding said she would have been honored to provide a picture for the cover as she has nothing but respect for the 44th president.

But instead, she claimed, the publishers took her style of work and ran with it — and now they should pay. 

'I shoot the moments in between,' she said. 'We all put up a barrier and I like to strip that away and bring out the humanity of the subject.'

She likened her lawsuit to one brought against Netflix and the producers of the hit show Stranger Things.

Part of that lawsuit claimed the show used 'copyrighted concept art' from another screenplay. That case is currently before a federal court in California.

Wilding says she hopes Penguin will see the merit of her case and settle with her before she has to take it to court.

'Copyright covers derivative work,' said Wilding. 'I believe there is clear copyright infringement and I am working with a specialist lawyer on that goal.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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