February 5th, 2009
03:10 PM ET
9 years ago

AP charges copyright infringement on famous Obama image

Fairey stands next to his famous depiction of Obama at the National Portrait Gallery.

Fairey stands next to his famous depiction of Obama at the National Portrait Gallery.

(CNN) - The Associated Press is claiming ownership of the most famous image of the presidential campaign: Shepard Fairey's “Hope” depiction of President Obama in red, white and blue.

The image itself, which now has a home in the National Portrait Gallery, is based on a 2006 AP photograph — and the news service says it deserves credit, and a share of the massive profits Fairey's depiction has generated.

“The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission," the AP's director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement released Wednesday. "AP safeguards its assets and looks at these events on a case-by-case basis. We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution."

Anthony Falzone, Fairey's attorney, says fair use protects his client's rights from using the photograph as a basis for his image. The concept of fair use allows breaches of copyright law based on the degree to which the original image is used, among other factors.

Fairey, a Los Angeles street artist, has said he found the image online and created his now-famous depiction in early 2008. He says he has not profited at all from the work, which he donated to the Obama campaign.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. Patty in the CA mountains

    How American is that.....always gotta be someone wanting to get in on the profits.....

    February 5, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. Bigun

    Right, it's all about copyrights- which apparently weren't infringed until the picture made enough MONEY to get AP's attention, else they would have had their lawyers on the job a long time ago instead of waiting until now.

    February 5, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. Jackie in Dallas

    CNN, I'm going to continue posting this until it gets on the blog...

    How different is it for the Associated Press to take a picture of a grieving mother in Gaza without her knowledge, permission, or paying her a thin dime, and use it to sell papers here?

    February 5, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. 1/20/13

    I have the same poster but mine says "Dope"

    February 5, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Rache from Bowie

    Obama should hold the rights and get the money.

    February 5, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Shanique Jackson

    He is a thief if it is not his original depiction

    February 5, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. Nick

    So what if it was based on a picture, Fairey should get the credit. Doesn't the AP make enough money making "something" out of "nothing"? It was a great painting, if the photo was so important to the AP then they should have expressed that earlier!

    February 5, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. kaw

    Pete, give it a rest! Not everything is a "vast right wing conspiracy". There are laws in this country that protect the creators of images, music, lyrics, books, etc. People sue over infringements like this all the time.

    February 5, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Wow

    WHY is this news?? Please report what's really going on. Thank you.

    February 5, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Patricia in Las Vegas

    Shepard Fairey is an awesome artist and an interesting character. Did campbells soup sue Andy Warhol? AP is full of it.

    February 5, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Deborah Kirchner

    WE THE PEOPLE.........

    Yes the picture is nice, however, we have more important issues at hand.

    This litigation / allegation is Stupid.....DON'T YOU HAE SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT TO DO?

    February 5, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. MsRotten

    If, indeed, this is an AP image (100's of photo's have beed taken of B-Rock in this exact pose though) then why all the fuss NOW??? This particular image has been used through out the Campain, especially by MoveOn.org. WHY NOW is this a problem?

    February 5, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. JA/TN

    AP, should stick their head back in the sand

    February 5, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Rob

    NOW THEY COMPLAIN? they missed the boat on this one a LONG time ago. Seriously, they're only bringing it up now cause they think alot of money has been made, truth be told everyone's been using it for free by finding it online and just printing it out for their own uses. Fairey used a picture he found online and just made it into an outline version, it's definitly not a new style of art, and like he says, he gave the image away, thus not making a profit. the AP needs to take a good look at themselves for being such doorknobs.

    February 5, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. randy

    My understanding from years in the ad business is that you can't take someone's photo and use it for your art without getting permission first. I see copyright infringement here (unfortunately).

    Love the final art but it is based on someone's original art/photo.

    February 5, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Chauncey Grizzly

    Come on Shep, Obey!

    February 5, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Ray Fisher, Albuquerque, NM

    AP should make that image and copywrite a gift to the nation and the proceeds could go to the national treasury. Somehow, somewhere we must have pride in our nation and instead of constantly taking we should give back. At present everyone is offering some type of Obama stuff hence we should have an official Obama image which belongs to the nation and benefits the nation.

    February 5, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. randy

    Oh yeah! Fairey is getting a lot from this art.

    He may have donated the proceeds to the campaign, but he is now a nationally known name and hence the prices for all his art are now much higher.

    February 5, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. LMR from Texas

    Was the AP photo colored like this? Did the photo have Hope under it? Was it broken down to several value plains? Did it have Pres. Obama's logo on the photo? If all these were added and manipulated by the artist, then AP doesn't have a leg to stand on. Nothing is original, not even AP's photo. Did AP copy Pres. Obama's pose from another artist? Too many questions, throw the lawyers a bone and tell them to go home.

    February 5, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. Steve in the Cities

    It would appear that the Associated Press is hurting for cash. The Fair Use Doctrine clearly protects the artist in this instance. Andy Worhol went through something similar with his paintings of Campbell Soup Cans. This will only serve to damage AP's reputation.

    February 5, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. TCM

    reminds me of 3rd world antics.....

    February 5, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  22. hes got his own lawyers

    dont put him on any pedestal. the artist also has a team of lawyers enforcing his own images copyrights. Hes an industry himself and is no better than the ap who is suing him.

    February 5, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  23. Dylan Kilgore

    This art is protected by fair use. This case may be similar to the famous Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photo by Joseph John Rosenthal. During that time period many individuals got creative with the image. They still do to this day. Sometimes organizations need to learn how to call off the dogs in order to stay relevant.

    February 5, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Legend in his own mind

    Thou shalt make no graven images...

    February 5, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  25. BKrause

    Surely the AP has other, much more important fish to fry.

    February 5, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
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