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

AP charges copyright infringement on famous Obama image

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/05/art.fairey.gi.jpg caption="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. Eva

    That is a frivolous stupid claim. He hasn't used the photo you dumb dumbs. He used the image on the photograph, and President Obama IS the image.
    leave the guy alone and make an honest living – know how to?

    February 5, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. b

    By AP's logic, Obama should sue the Ap for using HIS likeness.

    Its called FAIR USE.

    February 5, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. John G

    As a photographer I have to side with the AP on this one.

    Fairey may not be making any money per se from this painting but he has received non monetary benefits as a direct result of it. The notoriety alone of a street artist getting a painting in the national portrait gallery is huge, especially when you factor in the fact that the painting is of a very popular president.

    I once took a picture that anyone can take if they stand in the correct spot at the correct time of day. One of my coworkers was an artist and asked if she could paint the photo since it was so beautiful. I agreed, provided her a high quality digital copy and then bought the painting from her (it's really very nice). Had she simply taken my photo, painted it and sold it I would have been quite angry.

    February 5, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. Frank

    Has the associated press compensated Obama for the photographs?

    February 5, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Jim

    Is the AP close to bankrupcy or something? Can't think of why else they'd be doing this. Maybe Obama should sue them, it is his image that they took. Shouldn't he have ownership of his own image?

    February 5, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. Californian

    What a cheat Fairey is! He simply used a wrestling poster he created for Andre the Giant in the 80's which had the same portrait style except "OBEY!" on the bottom. Perhaps that is the hidden truth of Obama. Hope is just a thin veil for obey!

    Get a real job Fairey and quit ripping off the AP.

    From Hope to Hype to OBEY!

    February 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Kitty

    I say "let's go away with all Obama pictures"!!!!

    February 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Mickie

    I don't hear about the AP offering any $$ to those they use photos of when they do a news story. The big corporations are just so used to the Bush/Cheney era where they were the only ones with rights. Get over it AP.

    February 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. bush be gone®

    When's Obama going to get his paychecks from the AP? He owns his face, right?

    February 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. thomas

    Totally rediculous. AP must really be hurting if they have to pursue a case this weak. Or maybe they have too many attorneys with nothing to do.

    February 5, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Dexter in Houston TX

    My Lord, everyone wants their name in lights. AP your photo was nothing until Mr. Fairey's creatively enhanced it. You should thank him instead of suing him.

    He captured something AP failed to do and made it his own.

    February 5, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. playlist

    AP you're a little late to the party since this image has been around for over 3 years now.....GREED....

    Keep GOP in EXILE!!

    February 5, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. Dan

    The AP can copyright a photograph, but not a pose. Whether the art is based on the photograph or not, there is no use of the photo in the artwork. The AP does not own Obama's likeness. He needs to defend this in court. He will win. Whoever's advising the AP on this needs to be fired, it's just plain foolish.

    February 5, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. AndyL

    The corruption now being unveiled around the Democratic party and anything associated with it is astounding. Are there any democrats that are not tax cheats or thieves?

    February 5, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  15. Ken


    February 5, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. mj

    February 5th, 2009 2:57 pm ET

    I hope Michelle gets a painting also. It would be very cool. She is so cool. I think it would all help us feel better about ourselves. Wow, what I just said was cool. Michelle for Pres in 2024. Cool.

    Matthew Detroit – maybe that makes you feel better about yourself. What a sad person you must be if a painting of michelle obama helps you feel better. Personally, I take responsibility for my own happiness. Get a grip. These people are not saints or saviours. (unless of course you are one of the fortunate ones to get your mortgage and gasoline paid)

    February 5, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  17. Peggy

    The AP should be ashamed. Two syllables: GREE-DY.

    February 5, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. AndyL

    @ Adam. It does not look like a picture for the Kremlin, but rather like a picture used by some 3rd world country dictator. Which the new USSA (United Socialist States of America) is quickly becoming

    February 5, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  19. rena

    Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!! LOL

    To Lauren the Designer – I agree with you Theresa is seriously in need of some meds.

    Theresa – He doesn't condon abortions he just feel that it is the woman decision and not the government or man. Get over yourself, making it sound grusome doesn't make a person change their view on it. Abortions will stop; when we take the responsiblity of closing our legs to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Make sure you stress this to your daughters, nieces, and any other female you think maybe out there serving up free sex. Prevention is the key to us putting a stop to not only abortions but starving babies and homeless babies.

    February 5, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  20. Eamonn O'Brien

    This is crap! Sure there is the whole thing of intellectual property and what not, but the person who took the picture got paid for their work. The AP got paid for their work. Someone saw the picture, and created their own thing "based" on the premise/idea/image. It is not the AP's thing to own. If we can no longer base ideas on other things, nothing can ever be improved and virtually all creation will cease.

    February 5, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. bill

    Hey Californian – Shepard has paid Andre the Giant to use his image – he is not a political figure. Political figures are pretty much owned by the public. So go eat some fiber and relax. Shepard Fairy is amazing – a generous and nice man – given more to charities than anybody on here I guarantee it.

    February 5, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. sinless stone thrower

    That poster doesn't look like a photograph to me.

    I've got to go with the poster who has figured out that AP stands for Absolutely Pathetic. And let's take their argument further. Come on AP, photographers. It's time reimburse the individuals whose photos you take in the name of news and then sell.

    February 5, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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