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Where does Bourne end and Snowden begin? Where’s the line between truth and fiction? What’s the difference between copyright infringement and fair use parody for the sake of satire?


After thinking about the scandalous NSA manhunt for Edward Snowden, I realized there are a lot of similarities between the news right now and the Bourne trilogy movies. I tweeted this a couple of days ago.


The next day I thought it might be fun to photoshop Snowden’s face onto a Bourne movie poster. The Bourne Ultimatum promotional image seemed like the best for trying to match up with the photos I could find of our dear whistleblower. (Shout out to the original artists of The Bourne Ultimatum image! See update below.)

The gun in Matt Damon’s hand didn’t really fit the Snowden plot line, so I replaced it with my own hand holding a USB drive (actually an iLok 2). It was a fun little project that only took a few

The day after I posted the image to Twitter, Andy Greenberg, a tech reporter for Forbes, saw it and asked if he could use it for an article he was working on. I was a bit surprised. Here’s the great article he wrote: Take a Break From the Snowden Drama For a Reminder of What He’s Revealed So Far

I wish Forbes wouldn’t have cropped the image, because I think the USB stick really makes the image. But oh well. It’s entertaining to see something I made get spread around a little. And hopefully the image gets people thinking about why nearly everyone considers the fictional Bourne identity a hero, but so many view the very real Snowden otherwise.

Let me know if you see the image out there in the wild. 😉

Update 2013-06-26 11:44am: As you can see in the comments section below, a guy named Jasin Boland, who appears to be the photographer of the original image, has contacted me. I’ve emailed him with some questions. Whether he is the sole owner of the copyright or not is still unclear. Perhaps it belongs to Universal Pictures or other digital artists have claims on it as well? Regardless of original ownership, my manipulations of the image for the sake of satire are considered “fair use” under copyright law. Furthermore, I claim no ownership or copyright of my manipulated image and have received no compensation for its usage anywhere.

Update 2013-06-26 12:35pm: I contacted Andy Greenberg at Forbes about the situation. This is his reply:

…I checked with our editorial lawyer, who says that it’s “quintessential parody use. There is no actionable claim for infringement.”

She says she’s even planning to use it as an example in a law school class she’s teaching next semester.