Shepard Fairey, AP Settle Copyright Lawsuit

by David Walker

The Associated Press has settled its copyright infringement claim against artist Shepard Fairey on amicable terms, the wire service announced today. The settlement ends a nearly two-year court battle over Fairey's unauthorized use of an AP photo to create the iconic Obama Hope poster.

AP says Fairey has agreed to share with AP the rights to make posters and merchandise from the Hope image. That means some of the future revenues generated by the image will flow to AP.

The two sides have also agreed to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs, the AP says. And, the wire service adds, "The parties have agreed to additional financial terms that will remain confidential."

As part of the agreement, neither side is giving up its legal position regarding the Obama Hope image. AP charged Fairey with copyright infringement for unauthorized use of the photograph, which was shot by AP photographer Mannie Garcia.

"The AP contended that Mr. Fairey copied all of the original, creative expression in the AP's photograph without crediting or compensating AP," the wire service said in its press release.

Fairey has asserted that he didn't appropriate copyrightable material from the AP's photo, and that even if he did, his use of the image was allowable as a fair use under copyright law.

Fairey's defense suffered a setback when he admitted in late 2009 that he had falsified evidence about which AP image he had appropriated. He said he had made a mistake about which image he had actually used, and tried to cover up that mistake.

In reaching their settlement, both sides stuck to their legal positions, and issued face-saving statements. AP president and CEO Tom Curley said, "AP will continue to vigilantly protect its copyrighted photographs against wholesale copying and commercialization where there is no legitimate basis for asserting fair use.”

For his part, Fairey said, "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."

He added, "I look forward to working with photos provided by the AP's talented photographers." And, the AP press release notes, he has agreed not to use another AP photo in his work without permission.

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