Shepard Fairey May Serve Jail Time for Destroying Obama Hope Photo Evidence

Shepard Fairey has spent the past few years fighting a messy legal battle with photographer Mannie Garcia and the Associated Press over his use of a portrait of Obama his iconic HOPE poster. He has raked in a significant amount of dough from the artwork, but may now face jail time for foolishly attempting to destroy evidence when the copyright infringement investigation began. The Smoking Gun reports,

[…] the Department of Justice has filed a memorandum arguing that a prison term for the 42-year-old artist would be “appropriate.” However, prosecutors did not specify how long Fairey should be incarcerated (though, statutorily, his punishment would not exceed six months). Additionally, government lawyers have contended that Judge Frank Maas could fine Fairey up to $3.2 million.

[…] Levy stated that Fairey reaped significant reputational and financial benefits from the Obama “Hope” image, which was created in early-2008. The prosecutor specifically cited the escalating combined profits of three Fairey companies, which grossed $2.93 million in 2007, $4.59 million in 2008, and $6.08 million in 2009.

Fairey has already admitted that he deleted digital files and created fake ones in an effort to avoid the copyright infringement case that was being brought against him. Fairey agreed to pay a settlement to the AP in early 2011, but continues to maintain that his appropriation of the photo was fair use.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Being an Obama supporter should be jail-worthy enough, but he should really serve time for creating bad art.

  • rtfe

    fairey is a hack. those in the “art” world know this all too well. he has been blatantly copying old war propaganda art for most of his work. many times doing the exact same work as found in the older art. he is not stealing, but copying. fairey’s “obey” has come to mean a consumer/cliche term in the world of art. you can find his stuff in walmart,kmart,and target next to ed hardy t-shirts and flip-flops. fairey is comprised of pseudo-war propaganda/street art to sell a chintzy product. no one really takes him to be an artist of any caliber, merely a consumerists’ fast-food culture pimple.

  • harumph

    I agree that Fairey is a hack and a ripoff artist (doesn’t anyone remember Barbara Kruger? Fairey even ripped her font and color palette), but jail time seems a little ridiculous considering the crime. A few million $ in fines seems appropriate.

  • jan uwe

    send him to jail!!!!
    students who copy a few MP3 songs for themselfs get a 600000$ fine but this guy who makes millions with other peoples work walks free?
    that´s justice in america.. as long as you can pay a good lawyer… it´s sick.

  • Susan

    The trouble isn’t that he was for or against Obama. This is not a political issue, despite all the garbage I am reading below. This is a *copyright* issue, pure and simple. Fairey used an Associated Press photo, without the permission of the Associated Press, to make his poster. Had he gotten permission from the AP he would not be in any trouble today. . . except, of course, with DumbA$$ Republicans, who love to misconstrue anything that isn’t on their narrow and ridiculously favor-the-wealthy agenda, into some kind of political bash-attack on anything and anybody who even looks like they make less than $100,000 per year.

  • brob

    what if he had used the photo as a reference and had done the original artwork as a hand drawing? is it copyright infringement then? I kinda feel like all he ‘took’ from this photo was the pose. This is a fine line.

  • Steve

    I have always disliked Shepard. He made a crap load of money selling hope and change. Shepard preaches anti war and amnesty for illegals through his art and Obey Apparel. He has a huge love-fest with Obama. Seems to ignore that Obama has deported more immigrants than Bush and started a War in Libya. Not to mention military actions in Pakistan without their approval. I hope Shepard goes to jail for a long time!

  • BirdLegs

    I LOL’d at your rant.
    Look at the DumbA$$ Democrat kool-aid drinker that is potentially facing prison time and made big bucks off of his “work,” yet you seem to miss the point. How is he any different, he’s sort of wealthy now and wants to keep “his” money. You need to get a life, real job and stop expecting others to carry your water for you, take responsibility for your life and don’t expect the government to support you.

  • CJ

    The case you cite is actually an example of a commercial transformative use.

  • seventhseal

    I’ll probably get creamed for this, but..

    I don’t think he violated the copyrights of the photographer or bureau.. Although, I think he was surreptitious in his methods, and should have credited the photo.. (but not necessarily the photographer or the bureau.)

    My argument:

    First of all, he obviously took the original image and transformed it liberally – *POSTERIZNG* it – every part of that original info is unknown in the final product – and I doubt if a reasonable image analyst could prove any “copy” of anything in the original image to the final poster. Transforming a huge depth color digital photograph into line block three color, with no part “copied”…

    Anyway, the HOPE POSTER has much more to it in spirit and artistic magnitude than the original image, and will live long after some lucky shot bureau (*lawyered pro capitalist scum*) extinct themselves.

    He is reported to have tried to make as much money as possible off this – “reported” – *and* – add the fact that I don’t like how everyone is so opinionated about this..

    I’ve seen it before as trolls picking poo on global warming threads. Sounds like the mega-corp mindless trying to curb creators.

    All just a bunch of grubbing morons, IMHO.

    The end result *is* the HOPE POSTER – now that’s eternal..

    (Printing it out wall sized right now.)

    Let’s legislate to burn all copies of it, Romney-ites. That seems “fair” to both the bureau and the photographer, right?

  • seventhseal

    The law seems to favor the poster creator, as I read it.. I guess he didn’t have a fact twisting lawyer like you to help him out.

  • seventhseal


    A word that was not in the original photograph.. A word that was philosophical and transforming of the original intent of the original image. Hmm..

    F**K R**M**Y. say cheese.

  • pogomcl

    no possible way for “fair use”. abs none. taking a photo off a copyrighted and clearly marked agency such as AP is theft and Fairey could have easily pid a license for the image or hunted for one in public domain. He has no legal argument and then made it worse by obstructing legal due process so actually he should get called on obstruction and destruction of evidence which is really sort of criminal.

    If Ap and every agency clearly marks their images as copyrighted, he has zit argument for “fair use” since it is not fair at all. He is stealing somebody else’s work to fill his pocket. Fair use means that the work is intended for nonprofit, educational use..for noncommercial purpose. Is bs argument.

  • OmniMode

    I would have just cut a deal with the photographer – give them the royalties and credit due them for the source image, and Fairey gets his cut for what he created from the image. Simple. Everybody wins.

  • blickblocks

    Why would we send a non-violent person to a prison? That doesn’t make any sense. Have him pay money he owes and fees for lying.

  • Michael L Wueschinski

    It isn’t that he copied this picture but lied under oath! Any citizen would go to jail and talk about lying? He sells limited edition prints not just in America but in all the Countries of the world! If you think you got 1 out of 450, laugh because at V1 GALLERY he sold about 100 prints from 09 to 2010 that were his limited edition’s! I am thinking of sending the PDF file to a lawyer and see what I can do for what is suppose to be never made again screen prints (which arn’t hand pulled) and has people thinking that they got something special, in fact so all the other Countries he does business in! SHAME KFRANK! HE EVEN LIES ABOUT HIS NAME! FRANK SHEPARD FAKEY! I THINK FRANK ISN’T COOL ENOUGH FOR A SKATEBOARD GEEK! WHAT A MONEY HUGRY LIAR!

  • Cathy Farr Fothergill

    Come in from your “Occupy” protest and get a job.

  • theearthplanet

    put him in with the pedophiles, he’s just as bad

  • Michael Wueschinski

    Shepard is great guy and he made mistake. I might have said something in past but I was wrong and I am sorry! Shepard is the best person I have met on the net and looked out for a Disabled Veteran! For me that is good enough and he sparked an idea with all the art I have of his to help vets with a NON-PROFIT!

  • Michael Lee Wueschinski

    who wrote this ,post because it wasn’t the person you named………………