How forward thinking of you, Associated Press…


The news has been circulating today that Shepard Fairey is getting sued by the AP for copyright infringement in his iconic “Hope” portrait of President Obama. The image above left is the original photograph in question taken by a freelance photographer working for the AP at the time. Fast Company has an excellent take on the situation here.  Fairey lawyered up with the quickness, and got the top experts in the fields of fair use and copyright law in his corner.

Although I give the AP credit for waiting until after the election (they could have easily filed the suit while Obama was still on the campaign trail) I feel they have little to gain and much to lose in terms of their image by appearing backwards and petty. If they have financial goals in mind, they should probably go after Obama and the campaign team (good luck), rather than Fairey himself. Fairey donated the artwork to the campaign and didn’t make any direct profit from the poster.

However, needless to say he has benefitted greatly in terms of fame and notoriety. He went from the artist behind a subcultural phenomenon with the “Obey” sticker experiment, to the man behind what will be one of the most important images in American history. And like any artist once given the chance, Fairey turned his talents to making corporate bucks. Check out his revolutionary style as applied to Saks Fifth Avenue spring collection (…scoff, scoff…). But you can’t knock the guy for cashing in. One can argue that Obama’s campaign might have turned out much differently had it not been for the “Hope” portrait and the way it inspired the country.



~ by Joel on February 5, 2009.

2 Responses to “How forward thinking of you, Associated Press…”

  1. This is a toughie. The AP isn’t going after money, it’s about intellectual property rights. You must subscribe to the AP in order to use their content (much like newspapers, Google, Yahoo, etc do), and they need to make a statement.

    If they let this guy slide, then it sets a dangerous precedent that anyone can use AP stuff free of charge, which sets forth a slippery slope of people using and abusing AP stuff without paying.

    That money from subscribers is what keeps AP going. And lets face it, right now, especially with newspapers axing employees, the country NEEDS the AP to survive, in order for us to get our news somehow.

  2. I wouldn’t disagree had it been a traditional media outlet that relies on AP stories for its own content. However, check the story I linked to… It’s a unique circumstance because it’s an artist.

    “Creative Commons, the movement that encourages creators to modify copyright terms in order to “increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons”—the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.” It actually encourages building on someone else’s creative work.”

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