The iconic poster featuring an image of President Obama looking into the distance pensively, his face splashed in red, white and blue has become emblematic of the politician’s successful campaign. Most people remember the image with a caption at the bottom saying, Hope, Change or Progress. The image can be found on thousands of items from coffee mugs to buttons to T-shirts.
But now, Los Angeles-based street artist Shepard Fairey, who created the image, is being sued by the Associated Press for copyright infringement. Fairey has acknowledged that the image he created is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Manny Garcia while on assignment at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
"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. "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, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University and Fairey's lawyer says, "We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here."
The legal concept of "fair use" refers to specific exceptions to copyright law, determined depending on how much of the original is used, how the new art is used and how the original is affected by the new art.
Fairey created the image in early 2008, and had no idea it would catch on and come to represent a movement. He said he found the picture on Google images and used it as a basis for his art. Once he had created the new image, he uploaded it onto his website. Later he made thousands of street posters using the new image he had created.
Fairey has said that he did not receive any of the money raised by the various groups who used his image to raise funds.