A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Associated Press, artist settle copyright infringement claims over Obama 'Hope' image

The Associated Press (AP) [official website] and artist Shepard Fairey on Wednesday reached a settlement agreement [AP press release] on their opposing copyright infringement claims stemming from Fairey's unauthorized use of an AP photo of incumbent US President Barack Obama [official website]. Fairey's iconic red, white and blue artistic rendering of the AP photo was used on campaign materials during the 2008 presidential election that were captioned with the word "HOPE." According to the agreement, "[n]either side surrenders its view of the legal issues surrounding the dispute." The AP and Fairey have agreed to share the profits of posters and merchandise bearing the "HOPE" image and will collaborate on future projects. However, Fairey is prohibited from using another AP photo without permission from the company. Fairey released a statement saying:

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 agreement also includes a financial settlement, but the details of this were not released.

In February 2009 Fairey filed a lawsuit against AP [NYT report] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] seeking a declaration that he did not violate AP's copyright through the use of the AP photo as the basis for an artistic rendering of Obama. AP subsequently filed a countersuit [AP press release] alleging that in fact Fairey had violated its copyrights. According to the AP, the posters and other merchandise based on the AP photo "copy all the distinctive and unequivocally recognizable elements of the [photo] in their entire detail, retaining the heart and essence of [the AP photo], including but not limited to its patriotic theme." In October 2009 Fairey released a statement [text, PDF] in which he admitted taking steps to conceal which photo he used at the basis for his "HOPE" Obama artwork.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.