PetaPixel

Obama “Hope” Artist Faces Criminal Investigation Over Use of Photo

A judge announced this past Tuesday that artist Shepard Fairey is under criminal investigation for the improper use of Obama’s photograph in his iconic “Hope” poster. Fairey has spent months locked in a legal battle with the AP and photographer Mannie Garcia, who captured the original photograph. The AP demanded credit and compensation for the photograph, while Fairey believes his poster fits the definition of fair use.

The legal battle is actually a pretty complicated story. Fairey fired the opening shot by filing a lawsuit against the AP last February, asking for a ruling that his use of the photograph did not violate copyrights. Within a month the AP filed a suit of its own, claiming a violation of copyright.

The original photographer, Mannie Garcia, believes the copyright to the photograph is his own and not the APs, and was actually quoted saying,

If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it’s had.

However, in July 2009, Garcia joined in the legal battle, siding with the AP in claiming copyright infringement, while accusing the AP of wrongfully claiming copyright to the photograph he shot.

Fairey’s downfall came in October 2009, when he admitted that he had destroyed and falsified evidence in the case, writing on his website,

In an attempt to conceal my mistake I submitted false images and deleted other images. I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment and I take full responsibility for my actions which were mine alone,

As a result of this revelation, his lawyers announced that they would no longer represent him in this case, and Tuesday’s announcement is simply the latest installment of this long, complicated, and ugly case.

The moral of the story? Get permission folks!


 
  • http://twitter.com/tidmarshm tidmarsh major

    Moral of the story? Don't destroy and falsify evidence.

  • wiesel_99

    How can you change your story so many times and be credible Mr. Fairey?

  • AndyMac

    As a graphic designer, I have to say that there was no copyright infringement here. The graphic treatment of the photo creates an entirely unique specimen. The style is the design; however, the designer should sue everyone who has ripped off his signature style, because that IS his legally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kimberly.MyPets Kimberly Morris Gauthier

    Interesting story. I've actually started taking my own pictures for my blog posts to avoid stepping over the line. It would suck to end up in court for enjoying my hobby.

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  • jackmackenna

    What are you talking about? Using somebody's 'style' is not copyright infringement. Tracing a photo is.

  • JessicaLum

    Supposedly, Fairey freehanded that and hand drew each line. He's a fantastic artist, IMHO, but definitely could and should have made a more distinct image.

    He gets sued all the time for his urban art, though, so though this particular preceding is long, it's probably routine for him.

  • JessicaLum

    Supposedly, Fairey freehanded that and hand drew each line. He's a fantastic artist, IMHO, but definitely could and should have made a more distinct image.

    He gets sued all the time for his urban art, though, so though this particular preceding is long, it's probably routine for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=573866160 facebook-573866160

    Can someone explain to me what the “AP” is please?

  • Jessica

    AP is the Associated Press, a news agency.

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Oops. Sorry about that.

    http://www.ap.org/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Lawrence-Simmons-Jr/100000190317278 Robert Lawrence Simmons Jr

    Not copyright infringement. He shouldn't have panicked and lied. Artists have sculpted/drawn/painted from others images forever and will continue to do so.

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  • Jen

    For all of you with Photoshop – you can overlay the hope poster on the original photo and tell that there was NO way Fairey freehanded that drawing – it aligns EXACTLY. He simply traced the photo and then colorized it. This is one of the clearest instances I've ever seen of copyright violation. This also is not the first time Fairey has ripped off other artists – check it out: http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm

  • JessicaLum

    Interesting, thanks for sharing the link.

  • Guest

    yes, it's sO “graphicly unique” that its a tracing of another person's work .. As a graphic designer, you certainly do have a unnique and totally incorrect concept of artists' rights!!

  • Anonymous

    This is a joke. If I were Obama, I would sue both of them for making my photo look bad:))

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  • guest

    Copyright infringement ?
    Another way to feed the over population of attorneys.