Home »


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.



  1. 1 Jasin Boland 8:22 am Jun 26, 2013

    You think it’s cool to steal my photo dump a head on it and give yourself the photo credit?

  2. 2 Scott Troyer 10:25 am Jun 26, 2013

    This Snowden Ultimatum image is a political satire which is covered under U.S. and Australian copyright law as “fair use”/”fair dealing”. I’m not stealing anything, claiming copyright (of the original nor manipulated image), nor profiting from the final work. I do take credit for manipulating the image, but that’s it.

  3. 3 Jasin Boland 9:39 am Jun 26, 2013

    As an artist you should be more mindful of compromising the integrity of my art. Put yourself in the same position. I find it offensive you used my
    Image to promote this person.

  4. 4 Jasin Boland 5:37 pm Jun 26, 2013

    “Perhaps it belongs to Universal Pictures or other digital artists have claims on it as well?” isn’t that something you should check BEFORE you claim credit for images used by mainstream media such as Forbes? The irony of your mash up is that you have used at least 2 images and perhaps 3 that you have procured from the net without crediting the photographers or Studios. The only person you credit is yourself yet without the work of these people we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
    The irony of course is your subjects alleged crime…

  5. 5 Michael P. Shipley 8:37 am Jul 10, 2013

    Like no one knows that the original photo and poster was from a movie. What an ass. People do mashups like this all the time and it hurts no one. Its not like you’re claiming you created any of the original content, your just modifying it for satire which is completely protected under fair use. Copyright Nazis who suppress free speech by threats of suing are the bigger threat to us than Snowden, who is a hero in my book.

  6. 6 Scott Troyer 4:09 pm Jul 22, 2013

    Michael, indeed, many people don’t understand the political dangers of disallowing use of copyrighted materials for the sake of satire and parody. Without that right, we would find it hard to criticize anything, which would effectively squelch our freedom of speech. It seems like a tenuous conclusion, but logically that is exactly what would happen.

    I am a musician/artist/writer, so I end up making things which are protected by copyright. I cherish the rights that granted to me under copyright law. But at times it scares me that anyone can take something of mine and make a satire or parody out of it. Still, I respect and value that freedom too for my own sake.

    And therein lies the paradox of liberty — if we are all free, that means others can do things I may not like. Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t seem to understand that and trades those liberties in order to shut down those they deem as enemies. Sigh…

  7. 7 Scott Troyer » Blog » iLok “The session you were using is no longer valid.” 4:32 pm Mar 25, 2015

    […] me famous/infamous. It is the very same iLok I photographed to use in the satirical movie poster THE SNOWDEN ULTIMATUM, which was featured in Forbes and lots of other places. There’s something strange about that […]

Leave a Reply