February 5th, 2009
03:10 PM ET
5 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. D-MI

    Should have served them with a cease & desist order a year ago.
    Now, it seems a bit opportunistic and petty, and frankly, silly.

    @ Sarah for PREZ:

    IT'S THE AP. THEIR PHOTOS END UP EVERYWHERE, DUMBBELL.

    February 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Limbot

    Listen to all these stupid peope, knowing nothing aobut the fair use law, but shooting their ignorant mouths off anyway, (in favor ot the AP). America is too stupid to be governed.

    February 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. Todd

    Andy Warhol's Iconic Campbell's Soup Can Painting did not get flack as much as this guy is getting for his artistic rendition, I don't see what the problem is. Sounds like greed to me by another corporate entity that doesn't know how to use their money appropriately for the greater good.

    February 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Salt

    The painting is an artist's rendering of something that was found in a public domain. It's not like he traced it or copied it exactly...he used it as a jumping off point. If he had stolen the photo and blown it up and then tacked "HOPE" on the bottom, it would be one thing. But the end result is so stylized that it could have come from anywhere...and the concept/color scheme/wording was Fairey's alone. The AP needs to back off and chill out with that foolishness. If they had such a huge issue with anything about it besides the money, they should have said something ages ago when the painting first went public and could be seen all over downtown LA.

    February 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Salt

    The painting is an artist's rendering of something that was found in a public domain. It's not like he traced it or copied it exactly...he used it as a jumping off point. If he had stolen the photo and blown it up and then tacked "HOPE" on the bottom, it would be one thing. But the end result is so stylized that it could have come from anywhere...and the concept/color scheme/wording was Fairey's alone.

    The AP needs to back off and chill out with that foolishness. If they had such a huge issue with anything about it besides the money, they should have said something ages ago when the painting first went public and could be seen all over downtown LA.

    February 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Diane from Ohio

    It is interesting to me how similar the Obama image is to the famous 1960 photograph of Che Guevara by Alberto Korda which has been reproduced on posters and t-shirts. Who was this AP photographer, and was he influenced by Korda? The images are both iconic.

    February 5, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. Jack - DSM, Iowa

    The AP has been on hard times lately as newspapers across the country drop them as a news source. I think this is just a shameless attempt to make some money off of someone else's work and talent. Perhaps if the AP had maintained their journalistic integrity and not started editorializing their "news" reports they wouldn't have to stoop to such things as this.

    February 5, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. APples and oranges

    so i have a question.... if a street artist paints a picture of a woman eating and apple on a park bench and decides to sell it and then the picture gains fame does that woman have the right to demand a portion of the profit..... where does the line get drawn.... do i have to ask the homeowner permission to paint a picture his victorian style house...... the the AP is trying to make a quick buck through a settlement but guess what there hasnt been one i say they get half of the proceeds (50% of 0=0) so theyll actually lose money after paying a lawyer...

    February 5, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  9. james

    I hope the artist wins, but some of the arguments about taking an image from the internet being OK are just not true. A copyrighted image is copyrighted, regardless of whether it is online or in print. The real question is whether AP holds copyrights to that picture.

    February 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Lauren the Designer

    Someone forgot to give Teresa her meds today.

    February 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  11. colorblind

    Red, white and Blue???? Mine looked like it was red, yellow & blue. Maybe there's 2 paintings!

    February 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  12. Calvin W

    I guess AP is looking for a Bailout package of their own...come guys, just do good stories, going the legal route for revenue is a very bad idea...

    February 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Since Obama is a brand name, maybe merchandise of him should be in the stock market. That's one way to stimulate the economy. If "Yes We Will" shirts went on sale today, I bet half of the country will have one by the end of the day.

    February 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  14. Bill

    Good Lord what a bunch of nutjobs on this blog! Forget the picture we have bigger problems to solve.

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. Noah

    I find it entirely impossible to believe thatthis starving artist has not profitted from this painting. That is impossible. He is only saying that in an effort to get the AP to back down. That painting has sold hundreds of thousands of t shirts, posters, mugs, and on and on. No way did he donate all of the proceeds to the Obama campaign. Even if he did, the campaign has been over since November and he is still selling t shirts so where is that money!? What a liar

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. Mississippi Mike

    Making him look like a third-world socialist dictator on the poster infringes on my right to not think about my president as a third-world socialist dictator. He is acting like a socialist dictator in his first couple of weeks in office but we all "hope" that will "change."

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Boston Irish

    Hey, if he didn't make a profit, then he donated nothing!! Oh, but he admitted he donated his work to the Obama campaign. Is he saying his work is worthless?? Check his tax return, bet he's going to get a BIG deduction on the donation line.

    February 5, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  18. Noah

    Isn't this just like a Liberal to steal someone else's property and claim it for their own?? They do that with my paycheck every week

    February 5, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. Proud American in a Big Western City

    Amazing how everyone wants a slice of the pie they didn't bake.

    February 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  20. gina

    test

    February 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. Matthew Detroit

    barak you look clueless. 66% and dropping. honeymoon is over my naive friend.

    February 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. watcher

    Theft is theft. News agencies pay a lot to use AP photos. Just because the photo depicted a public figure and was on public display doesn't make it public domain. Street painters have just as much obligation to check for any licensing or copyright as do publishers or broadcasters.

    February 5, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. Mike, Syracuse NY

    @Pete, yes it's true. It's all part of the Council of Twelve's grand world conquest plan. Now that you know, you must be assimilated. Resistance is futile! Assimilate! Assimilate!

    February 5, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. Bob in Pa

    Whoever created should be taken before the foreign leftist leader that its basic design was stolen from in the first place. Maybe there they would find true justice !!

    Whoever said the AP was neocon really has a lot of learning to do.

    February 5, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. dianatheinsane

    This is a load of horse manure. The original photo is just Obama's face at an angle in front of an American flag. To say that Fairey must ask permission to use that particular head tilt is ludicrous. Obama's image has been produced and reproduced so many times in the public domain – how can the AP say they own it? Fairey drew his own image, colored it, superimposed hope, etc. made it into a piece of art rather than simply a photo of Obama. I think he's put enough work into the piece that it's clearly his. He could have based it on ANY photo of Obama and it would still be unique because of how he did it. The AP needs to get over it.

    February 5, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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