AP wants credit for iconic Obama poster

Associated Press

On buttons, posters and websites, the image was everywhere during last year’s presidential campaign: A pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white and blue and captioned “HOPE.”

The image, designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers. It has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on EBay.

The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington. The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees.


“The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission,” AP’s director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement. “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.”

“We believe fair use protects Shepard’s right to do what he did here,” said Fairey’s lawyer, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to comment beyond that at this time because we are in discussions about this with the AP.”

Fair use is a legal concept that allows exceptions to copyright law, based on several factors, including how much of the original is used and what the new work is used for.