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. Amy

    The AP is being ridiculous. He used it as inspiration. It's not as if it was paint by numbers. If all proceeds were given to the Obama campaign is the AP going to file a claim against the campaign funds remaining? The AP looks really petty and slimy because of this ruckus they're raising.

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. Jeff In Ohio

    Don't think so. The AP ought to read up on fair use, then put it's energy into real reporting.

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  3. imagine

    who cares about copyrights? Democrats don't have to pay taxes or obey any other law. After all, we elected Obama so let him rule.

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. Mark C

    *** The paper is the print media version of FAUX (FOX) news ***

    Uh, the AP is not a "paper" brainiac, but thanks for the rant about something you clearly know absolutely about. Those are always so refreshing and informative.

    February 5, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. Emily

    They just... decided?

    It seems kind of frivolous, but I guess those are the rules.

    February 5, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. Roy

    Let's see...billion dollar AP demands settlement with L.S. Street artist......perhaps to be "Fairey"...he should take an AP picture of Rush Limbaugh, superimpose dollar signs and fire behind it...and call it NO HOPE.

    February 5, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. mick

    The artist admitted he copied a photo found online. AP has the copyright to their image. It cannot be copied in part or whole. AP is the not the bad guy here. The artist is on the wrong side of the law. He either knew what he was doing was wrong or he was terribly ignorant.

    As a designer, artist and photographer who generates original ideas everyday, I depend on intellectual property laws to protect my work from the likes of this type of person. Talent is no excuse for what he did. His attorney will help him get through the case. It is simple – he stole AP's image. AP was violated. Let's get it right.

    February 5, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. UberMorlock

    This painting falls under Fair Use doctrine and will the painter will likely be protected from paying out damages because of that. See Wikipedia's entry on "Fair Use", particularly the section on the four tests of whether something is fair use. One of the tests discussed is how much of the original work is included and another is how the value of the original work was impacted. In my opinion, this painting will actually increase the value (not strictly financial value) of the original photo.

    February 5, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Matt

    FYI, everything on the internet is copyrighted, whether it says so or not. That is law and more people need to know that especially those coming into our print shop with materials they did not get permission to use. Filling out the copyright paperwork only increases the effectiveness of your defense of that copyright.

    However I believe an artists interpretation is covered by Fair Use and AP like many are out for a quick buck during these tough economic times.

    February 5, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. Jake

    Not to worry. In four years, he will have such a mess of things, no one will want his picture.

    February 5, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. David

    Most people, in this world, are out to make a buck. This guy, according to the story, didn't make a dime. He donated all of the profits to the Obama campaign. A tax deduction is all I can see this guy might benefit from. Does the AP want some of that?

    February 5, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  12. Dave

    LOL – AP is a Republican operation! LOL – what a bunch of nonsense !!

    It shows a lot of ignorance, if you believe that statemment!

    February 5, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. Mike in Houston

    Give it away. It's an ugly image anyway.

    February 5, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Unshrub


    Duh,, actually it isn't an open and shut case.

    February 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. person

    HEY CRACKPOT CNN, are you even going to discuss the contraversial things that REP. Sessions of Texas said???
    The Sessions Scandal is more interesting than who owns the rights to the HOPE portrait of Obama.

    February 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. there is just a lot of taking liberties

    people assuming with this president

    Ty and Co. naming the dolls and likeness

    This photograph as an obvious interpretation

    pay people for their work, it is no different under this president

    things are the same, well... except thank goodness the nightmare of the last 8 years is gone, now comes the cleanup, this is going to be expensive

    shame on you Bushies

    February 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. kww

    What a joke. The neocon AP is just trying to cause trouble ( again). Newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur and they're trying to fatten their bottom line.

    If some idiot judge thinks this has merit, the AP should sue Andy Warhol's estate for the paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Mao, Jackie O and the rest.

    I hope Shepard Fairey countersues and winds up owning the AP.

    February 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. Limbot

    Leave it to the AP to not even make the effort to confirm that this type of case has already been tested in court and favor fell on the artists (the Shepard Fairy side). See Robert Rauschenberg.

    February 5, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  19. Meh

    Sarah for Prez> Um. In what say is Obama profiting from it? That's just silly. As silly as saying "sarah for Prez.", so I guess I should consider the source!

    February 5, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Chris

    Being a professional photographer myself, I would have to say that if anyone took any image of mine and painted an exact reprodution with some color changes on it and began shopping it around or planned on "giving it away" to any cause of their choice, I'd be pursuing copyright infringement charges as well. Probobly why he "donated" the painting in the first place; he knew he had no rights to sell it.

    This has nothing to do with the AP being short on cash [I highly doubt they are] and I'm sure the statute of limitations is much longer than two to three years on these types of issues. I dont' think that Mr. Fairey deserves to be locked up, but his "art" significantly borrows from another work, much more so than the 'fair-use' clause allows, and that makes the recreated piece unoriginal [at best]. The creator[s] of the copied piece need to be compensated, and Mr. Fairey needs to find other sources for his "artistic" inspiration, end of story.

    February 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. M.R. in L.A.

    I don't think the AP stands a chance of winning this one. If you look at the case of Richard Prince's "Spiritual America" which was simply a re-photographing of Gary Gross' photo of Brooke Shields and the fact that Prince prevailed, I really don't think the AP stands any chance at all. Fairy's level of authorship and re-working of the original far exceeds the efforts of Prince (IMHO).

    February 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. HouseDiva


    February 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  23. person

    to "Sarah for Prez", hope you dont' mean Sarah Palin for prez because she lost and she will never win. She is the biggest laughing stock of the world.

    February 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  24. Boston Irish

    How come it's okay for someone to steal someone else's work off the internet and make a profit, but it's not okay for TY to make two dolls that in no way resemble Sasha and Malia physically but have their names? At least TY didn't copy them from someone else. They just used two names who happen to be the same as Obama's daughters and I don't know, but I don't believe Michelle has the copyright on their names. If you had seen those dolls on a shelf somewhere and you had no idea what their names were, exactly how many of you would have said they were copies of the Obama girls?

    February 5, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  25. Brook Mantia

    Does AP understand that 100% of $0 profits is still $0? They're only making the lawyers rich.

    February 5, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
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