According to https://www.cjr.org/covering_trump/viral-nancy-pelosi-photo-clap.php, one photographer from The New York Times was given exclusive photography privileges for this federal government event:

...New York Times White House photographer Doug Mills was appointed pool photographer for the State of the Union—a designation that meant he would be the only photographer allowed on the House floor during the event...

That would incline me to think it should be a government record, but since it was taken by a photographer for a private news organization, I'm left uncertain.

So, to rehash: Is the Pelosi-Trump "f-you clap" State of the Union photo in the public domain? If copyrighted, would modifying it into a form of satire allow one to skirt the copyright restrictions?


I don't think it's in the public domain.

It is true that "works of the United States Government" cannot be copyrighted (17 USC 105). However, "work of the United States Government" is defined as

a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties. (17 USC 101)

The pool photographer isn't an officer or employee of the United States Government; he works for the New York Times.

The satire question is separate and I don't know the answer to that.

  • 1
    There are probably rules governing the use of press pool photographs, however. At least the other press organizations participating in the pool will have a right to use the photograph, but perhaps the terms allowing them to use it also allow others to do so.
    – phoog
    Feb 9 '19 at 18:40
  • Thanks to both of you. I may ask about the satire issue as a separate question. Feb 12 '19 at 7:58

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