Last week, the Associated Press (AP) and artist Shepard Fairey came to a settlement in a copyright battle over the most recognizable, iconic image of the 2008 Presidential election; the subject of the litigation was the image of President Barack Obama in red, white, and blue with the word “hope” across the bottom.
Fairey admits that the photo serving as the basis of the work was taken by an AP photographer and that he didn’t license the photo from the AP in making the famous image; the AP claims this is a violation of its copyright.
Fairey insists, however, that he didn’t use any copyrightable material from the image, and in any event, his depiction falls under the fair use exception to copyright law.
The two sides have come to agreement through which each continues to believe in the correctness of its legal position, but Fairey has agreed to never use another AP photo in his work without prior permission. The artist and the AP have also agreed to work together on future projects regarding the merchandising of the Hope image as well as a series of new images based on other AP photos.
There were also additional financial terms involved in the settlement, but they are confidential.
Still, we may not have seen the last of the legal battle over Hope as according to the press release, “[t]he AP’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Obey Clothing, the marketer of apparel with the Hope image, remains ongoing.”
Do you think Fairey’s use of the image of Obama was fair use? And if you believe it was, does that also mean he should be legally allowed to produce other items for sale like t-shirts and coffee mugs based on it?