Shepard Fairey–AP Obama Lawsuit Settled [Updated]

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Shepard Fairey
Shepard Fairey Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein dropped claims in the copyright lawsuit between "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" artist Shepard Fairey and the Associated Press because there was a "suggestion of settlement" between the two parties. At issue: whether Fairey had the right to use an AP photo of then–Senator Barack Obama to create his now-iconic "Hope" silk-screened posters.

In February 2009, the AP filed a lawsuit against Fairey, claiming that he violated copyright laws by reproducing the Obama photo as a silkscreen, and that his artwork was a "near verbatim copy." Fairey had pre-emptively sued then countersued the AP, claiming his poster was produced under "fair use" laws.

It gets muckier: In October 2009, Fairey admitted that he knowingly submitted false images to the AP's counsel, in an attempt to prove that the photo used was not the AP's.

While the charges between the two warring sides were thrown out, the AP is still trying to eke some money out of Obama's "Hope." In March, the courts will hear a case between the AP and several of the companies that sold merchandise with the "Hope" likeness.

Update: The AP and Fairey have settled, and decided on an interesting arrangement:

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.

Judge drops claims in Obama ‘HOPE’ artist vs. AP [NYP]