Sunday, February 1, 2009

Selling Obama

According to, President Obama has directed White House attorneys to construct a plan to prevent the unauthorized usage of his image. Such a plan could encounter difficulties under a First Amendment analysis, as public figures receive less protection of their privacy and images.

The plan could also prove difficult from a cultural standpoint. Obama ran his campaign as the tech-savvy candidate. He made tremendous usage of the Internet to raise money and to spread his name and image around the world. Youthful supporters from Wil.I.Am. to Obama Girl invoked his name and image to his (and their own) benefit. Now, as president, Obama delivers weekly Youtube addresses, has reworked WhiteHouse.Gov to fit his own style, and apparently cannot relinquish possession of his Blackberry, despite the possibility that the public might have the right to access his communications.

The print and broadcast media have shamelessly marketed Obama. Virtually every magazine has displayed him or some other person of his immediate family on their covers multiple times. And many of the major newspapers sold "special" inaugural editions to rake in the dough (no - they were not being sentimental).

Big industry does not have a monopoly over Obamericalism. Local and independent vendors have marketed Obama t-shirts, posters, and other products.

With so many Obama-related products already available for public consumption and with Obama marketing himself as a global icon, White House lawyers will likely have a difficult time reining in the unauthorized usage of the president's likeness, even if they can devise a constitutional plan. And given the extent to which the proliferation of Obama's image helped his candidacy, the proposal to control its use seems inconsistent with past practice.

Question: After Obama authorized the DNC to put his smiling face on "commemorative coffee mugs" in order to raise money, why stop now?


Infidel753 said...

Good grief. Didn't Obama see the way Bush's image was used for outright mockery over the last eight years and realize that a President has no control over the use of his image at all?

And if he's concerned about this kind of thing, why didn't he speak up when the yes-on-8 campaign in California was using his words to support a position he (somewhat convolutedly) disagrees with?

As for the use of his image for commercial purposes, that problem will go away on its own once his popularity declines to more normal levels -- as it inevitably will, now that he has to make actual decisions and thus alienate some groups.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

I cannot wait to see this policy. So far, the constitutional law community has not said much. Perhaps other professors are taking a break this weekend.....

Bob W. said...

Perhaps Obama should talk to Gene Simmons about the dangers of brand dilution. . .

Anonymous said...

Dumb dumb dumb...the grass-roots open-source campaign got him he's slapping them down.

Guess he wants to prevent the 8-year Bush HateFest from happening to him if he flubs it. (and fyi I voted for him...but I hate to see this kind of control-freakiness)

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