Shepard Fairey to settle ‘Hope’ poster case with Associated Press

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Artist Shepard Fairey and the Associated Press confirmed Wednesday that they are settling out of court their legal case that involves Fairey’s ‘Hope’ poster depicting then-Sen. Barack Obama. But a lawyer for the AP added that the news organization is still pursuing its case against Obey Clothing, in which Fairey is a partner and that has reproduced the image on various items of clothing.

Fairey’s poster of Obama was inspired by a photograph taken by an AP freelancer in 2006. The AP subsequently accused the Los Angeles artist of copyright infringement, with Fairey maintaining that it falls under fair-use laws.


A settlement means that the March trial between Fairey and the AP in New York will not take place. As part of their settlement, Fairey has agreed he will not use another AP photo in his work without obtaining a license from the news organization.

The two sides also have agreed to share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the ‘Hope’ image. In addition, Fairey and the AP have agreed to additional financial terms that are confidential.

‘I am pleased to have resolved the dispute with the Associated Press,’ Fairey said in a statement. ‘I respect the work of photographers, as well as recognize the need to preserve opportunities for other artists to make fair use of photographic images. I often collaborate with photographers in my work, and I look forward to working with photos provided by the AP’s talented photographers.’

A spokesman for Fairey said the artist did not have any further comment beyond his prepared statement. However, the spokesman said that the criminal investigation into Fairey, which involves the artist’s admission that he knowingly submitted false images and deleted others as part of the case, is still ongoing. An assistant at Fairey’s L.A. studio said the artist was out of town on Wednesday and could not be immediately reached.

The AP’s case against Obey Clothing has not been resolved, according to a lawyer for the AP. In the past, Obey has reproduced the ‘Hope’ image on various items of clothing that are available for sale to the public.

‘We believe that what Obey Clothing has done, which is to make lots of commercial use of the design, is quintessentially not fair-use,’ said Dale Cendali, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in New York, who serves as the AP’s lead counsel on this case. ‘But it is something that the AP would happily license.’


Cendali declined to comment further on the Fairey or Obey cases.


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Video: Fairey talks about his ‘Hope’ poster


-- David Ng