No Jail Time for Fairey, Artist Punished with Fine and Probation

Shepard Fairey avoided jail time after all. The Obama HOPE poster artist was sentenced today to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine for using an AP photo without permission and then destroying evidence to cover his tracks. The New York Times writes that the entire dispute will be an interesting case study for fair use law:

When the case began in 2009, Mr. Fairey argued that his use of Associated Press imagery constituted fair use under copyright law. But the civil lawsuit was settled before that question was decided, and the two sides agreed to financial terms that were not disclosed. The parties also agreed to share the rights to make posters and merchandise bearing the “Hope” image. Mr. Fairey maintained that he had never personally profited from sales of the image, a contention The A.P. disputed.

[…] Until the settlement between Mr. Fairey and The Associated Press, the case was watched closely as one that might define more clearly the murky issues surrounding the fair-use exceptions to copyright protections. One of the central questions was whether Mr. Fairey’s creation, which became ubiquitous on street corners and T-shirts during and after Mr. Obama’s campaign, constituted a “transformative” use of the photograph, a use that is allowed under the law so that creative expression is not stifled.

In his official statement on the matter, AP CEO Gary Pruitt states, “We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.”

Image credit: Shepard Fairey at the ICA by WBUR

  • Scott Hutchison


    But really, he got off light.

  • CX1

    He made millions and has to pay 25K. wow

  • Alan Dove

    Damn, I was looking forward to some graphic artist putting out a high-contrast print of Fairey being perp-walked to jail, with a “NO HOPE” caption.

  • harumph

    $25k really doesn’t seem like “fair compensation” at this point.

  • Dan Howard

    Quote: “We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.”

    …waits for next story of a photograph being downloaded from flickr, printed in newspaper without consent and the following lawsuit.

    It’s a two way street Mr Pruitt.

  • Adam

    $25K for doing 1% of the work, I’d say the photographer got what he earned. Fairey should have credited the source, yes, but his work was so far removed from the original that you can’t compare them. This is the problem with photographers – they think they’re artists, when most of them are little more than camera pointers. There’s a huge difference between pointing a camera at Obama and taking a technically-correct photo, and then generating an image that captures a mood or spirit of a movement. No one would have given a damn about whoever the original photographer was had Fairey not remixed his picture.

  • gregorylent

    i still think AP is the loser here .. they are stuck in an old-paradigm mindset that will destroy their business, sooner rather than later