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. MaryJo Bruce Surprise, Ariz

    When in doubt, always ask PERIOD

    February 5, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. Yoshi99

    Oh, please. This is like Campbell's Soup complaining about Andy Warhol's paintings. It isn't like he was selling the AP photo. The theory AP is advancing would basically prevent anyone from ever painting or drawing something from a picture. Besides, I think they've waived their rights for waiting so long to raise the issue when it's been underneath their noses for a year now.

    February 5, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  3. Cleaning up after W

    If this is a crime, it shouldn't be. He's not photo shopping the original pic. It's his own interpretation of the photo, and he didn't sell it.

    February 5, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  4. Katie

    Wow – that's pathetic. Shepard Fairey is an amazing artist and has done portraits of literally HUNDREDS of pop culture and political figures. You can't tell me none of those were taken from a real photo, and nobody has ever come after him before.

    He also runs the "Obey" clothing line. His art started with the Andre the Giant "Obey Giant Posse" propaganda. He wanted to see who would buy things just because of their logo without knowing what it even stood for. He would put huge murals up or have people put his stickers everywhere just to peak people's curiosity and have them wanting to buy this brand, not knowing what it is. He is an artistic and cultural genius. LEAVE HIM ALONE AP!!!!!!

    February 5, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. nom deplume, esq.

    Reminds me of a lot of the art from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, that was used by our WW2 ally on the eastern front in Europe. Good for rallying the comrades to the nation's cause and crush the bourgeoise.

    February 5, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. Dobting Thomas

    I agree. If the law is not protecting me from others then I should be able to ignore it when it is protecting others from me. That is the 'fairness doctrine'. I cry 'not fair' when someone does it to me but it is fair and OK when I do it to another because I always have a good reason or I can just say rotten things about the party I offended.

    That's cool. I look forward to our future living together.

    This has a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 5.7 My best yet! 🙂

    February 5, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Truth

    It is so far from the original photo that their claim is baseless. The image is now an artistic representation and not someone else's work.

    February 5, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Soldier 4 OBAMA

    AP is a Republican hack. An artistic design has not basic for been a copy right. He could have draw the art from any number of photos. AP will loose this one and they deserve to. The paper is the print media version of FAUX (FOX) news and it is sad, as a military officer AP was good reporting until like 3 years ago and most certainly in the last year!

    February 5, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Deanna, KS

    Much ado about nothing. The Associated Press isn't crying foul over other photos, just the one that has a famous painting behind it. Sounds like greed to me.

    February 5, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. David

    The AP case is wholly without legal merit under copyright law fair use provisions and case law (e.g., Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music). Of this, Mr. Colford is surely well-aware. Rather, AP is only using the threat of legal action to extort licensing fees to which it is not legally entitled, and that is as unconscionable as it is despicable.

    Randy: fair use is evaluated under §107 on four separate factors. Fairey's painting was not of an overtly commercial nature; the AP photograph was one of many of this widely-photographed public figure; Mr. Fairey's painting was a derivative work rather than a manifest copy; the commercial value of the AP photograph was not diminished by Mr. Fairey's painting.

    February 5, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. David in Houston

    AP = Absolutely Pathetic

    February 5, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. Travis

    @randy: um, no.

    If Fairly used the image as his work and just painted over the og image, it is infringing–however from what has been said, he only took inspiration from the photo, and if you look at the line work it is obviously not a line for line copy, it is an interpretation of the og image.

    February 5, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  13. Karen

    I say let them try to get the money. If they do, maybe they can actually hire some staff writers for the VIrginia AP outlet. You hear that, Virginia AP? You suck donkey balls, particularly your sports section. Hire some staff!

    February 5, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. thinkaboutit

    What a joke! If it was such a problem, why didn't they scream when it was first introduced? I mean, wouldn't the original photographer have recognized his/her own work? Hey AP, you're supposed to write the story – not BE the story!

    February 5, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. Richard

    Just ban all photographs of Obama

    February 5, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. Karen

    Oh, and what is up with all the people saying that AP is Republican controlled? Don't we constantly here crap from Republicans saying how incredibly biased and liberal the media is? And isn't AP the largest media outlet? You know, CNN and AOL and many newspapers draw a lot of their material from the AP. So you can't have it both ways. Either the AP is an evil liberal biased hack, or it's a money-hungry Republican hack.

    God, the public is so stupid.

    February 5, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. Jenn

    My opinion of the AP just plummeted as will many others if the pursue this.

    February 5, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Bipartisan

    Hey, Soldier 4 Obama-

    I was gonna ask what country you are from. Now I wonder what planet. The fact is no matter what your politics are copyright laws stand.

    Partisans from the left and the right suck.

    America is for Americans. NOT Democrats or Republicans.

    February 5, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. Dave, Laguna Niguel, CA

    Greedy Scumbags

    February 5, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. Terry

    I don't think AP contributed much to that image. The artist could have easily used any one of 10,000 other photos that float around on the web without attribution. I think that the court should award AP $100 and tell them to find something serious to do.

    February 5, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. Mark C

    *** AP will loose this one and they deserve to. ***

    Actually, as a photographer I know the law on this, and it is crystal clear. It is a derivative artwork based on a photo to which the AP owns the copyright, and the AP is 100% correct legally speaking.

    February 5, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. donna

    The AP is probably more upset that his rendering has garned more fame than their "original" picture...I am sure they saw this when it first surfaced during the campaign..they should have asked him to stop using it THEN instead of after the fact...sounds like they are just bitter...

    February 5, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  23. teresa

    I dont understand, obama giving power to the people to murder a helpless unborn baby, A Christian knows, do not murder is one of the ten commandments.there is no reason to kill, unless someone is trying to kill you. rape, incest, etc is bad, but not enough to kill over. If he was smart he would have kept his signature off of that ban, now it is on every murdered baby in the future. he is as guilty as the parent of the baby. everyone in America should have to see the murder of an unborn baby. maybe they would change their minds how horrible it is.How their brains are suked out & how the head is crushed so it can come out of the mom, & to hear that the baby does feel the pain of their death. they WILL HAVE TO ACCOUNT ONE DAY FOR IT to GOD

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  24. Looking for Truth

    Several of us down here in MS are running short of tissue in the outhouse, can we get a few of those.

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |

    Let the games begin!!

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
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