The Associated Press & Shepard Fairey Settle Their Lawsuit

In an interesting bit of news for the art world today, it looks like The Associated Press and Shepard Fairey have settled their current lawsuit involving Fairey’s unlicensed use of source material for the Obama campaign.  This is really probably the best solution for everyone (an AP win could have set a pretty bad precedent for artists everywhere), but the grey area of fair-use continues.  Here’s the official press release:

The Associated Press, Shepard Fairey, and Mr. Fairey’s companies Obey Giant Art, Inc., Obey Giant LLC, and Studio Number One, Inc., have agreed in principle to settle their pending copyright infringement lawsuit over rights in the Obama Hope poster and related merchandise.

Mr. Fairey used an AP portrait photograph of Mr. Obama in making the Hope poster. Mr. Fairey did not license the photograph from the AP before using it. The AP contended that Mr. Fairey copied all of the original, creative expression in the AP’s photograph without crediting or compensating the AP, and that Mr. Fairey’s unlicensed use of the photograph was not a fair use.. Mr. Fairey claimed that he did not appropriate any copyrightable material from the AP’s photo, and that, in any event, his use of the photograph constituted a fair use under copyright law.

In settling the lawsuit, the AP and Mr. Fairey have agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law. Mr. Fairey has agreed that he will not use another AP photo in his work without obtaining a license from the AP. The two sides have also agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs. The parties have agreed to additional financial terms that will remain confidential.

“The Associated Press is pleased to have reached resolution of its lawsuit with Mr. Fairey,” said Tom Curley, president and CEO. “AP will continue to celebrate the outstanding work of its award-winning photographers and use revenue from the licensing of those photos to support its mission as the essential provider of news and photography from around the world. The AP will continue to vigilantly protect its copyrighted photographs against wholesale copying and commercialization where there is no legitimate basis for asserting fair use.”

“I am pleased to have resolved the dispute with the Associated Press,” said Mr. Fairey. “I respect the work of photographers, as well as recognize the need to preserve opportunities for other artists to make fair use of photographic images. I often collaborate with photographers in my work, and I look forward to working with photos provided by the AP’s talented photographers.”

The AP’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Obey Clothing, the marketer of apparel with the Hope image, remains ongoing.

– January 12, 2011

10 Responses to “The Associated Press & Shepard Fairey Settle Their Lawsuit”

  1. As an artist, Shep was wrong to use someone elses property without permission but AP should have acknowledged early on that this image was created for a good purpose and should have shown some flexibility.

    Seems they have reached that now but has just how drawn out has this whole affair. Did Barack never step in as ultimately he is the copyright owner?

  2. For a good purpose? It inevitably was used for finanical gain for Fairey.

    Sure, Obama was elected. But not because of this poster.

  3. Every single time I use the silk screen method, that someone else invented, and take ink to paper (both hard-won products of another’s research, efforts and failures) to make a print (yet another fruit of centuries of experimentation and creative endeavours) while wearing my pants that I did not make and speaking in a language learned, I start to think that maybe appropriation and imitation are more the essence of how we maintain civilization than the plagiarist act of stealing that people make it out to be. Bruce Mau: “Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.”

  4. The worst part about this… even though the AP is there to “will continue to celebrate the outstanding work of its award-winning photographers…” I would be willing to bet that the actual photographer who took that picture will not see a dime of that settlement.

  5. Stupidtool you are not living up to your namesake at all there 🙂 Well said (and quoted). We can joke on Shep for making hands look like sausages and John Lennon look like a retarded cat but this whole perversion of “intellectual property” is completely backward and does nothing but serve the interests of big money. The fair use provision was written into copyright law for a reason and Shep’s case is a perfect example of that. Shame this one didn’t go the distance.

  6. “I often collaborate with photographers in my work”

    “And sometimes, I just steal that shit”

  7. I think Glen Friedman said some good things here:

    ” And, that said, bringing it to the next level for this particular show, and our collaborations, the guy is articulate—he’s a craftsman, he is a real artist—fuck all those haters.

    I don’t give a shit what they say. I’ve seen a lot more than most of them, and you know what? Fucking Shepard is good at what he does, and just because he got fucking caught out there with this Obama shit, hey man, that was his political belief. He fucking did a lot more than any other motherfucker we know in this world with his art, whether you agree with what he did or not, he did it and fuck that photo! That photo was worthless! It was a dime a dozen, bullshit press photo and even the photographer who took it knows it. There was no fucking art involved; Shepard Fairey made that image something very important with his talent—not just fucking Photoshop—he did something, and he deserves credit for that, for better or for worse, depending on your political beliefs. But either way, it was inspiring. I thought it was incredible, and Shepard has a way of doing that with images, and me and him have worked together on several images that were inspiring to him that were already iconic images but he wanted to do his graphic representation of them. Or I thought it would be nice to see his graphic representation of my work, and expose it to more people and inspire more people, and it’s been great. It’s been totally great, man.

    And again, I wouldn’t do it with any fucking idiot, I’m doing it with him (Shepard Fairey) because he’s fucking smart and he knows what he’s talking about, and Shepard has a great understanding of my work. He’s grown up with my work, he’s been inspired by my work, and that’s great. Who else would you want to work with, other than someone who has been inspired by and understands what the fuck you do? Know what I’m saying? ”

  8. And some Glen Friedman real talk?! The comments kinda rule today.

  9. I wish the AP threw the Hammer down on Shepard Fairey…his minions would go shithouse and regret they ever made a peep! Would be fun to follow

  10. and in strolls Kalm with the maturity these comments so sorely lacked. *high five*

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