"Hope" in Dispute - Copyright vs. Fair Use


Street artist Shepard Fairey who created the famous Hope image of Barack Obama sued The Associated Press, claiming his use of an AP photo in creating the poster did not violate copyright law, because he has dramatically changed the nature of the image and therefore, is protected under the so-called "Fair Use" provisions.

The AP said it is owed credit and compensation for the artist's rendition of the original photo taken by Mannie Garcia who was on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club. (Read the whole story).

Just today, Mannie Garcia discussed on NPR his own legal battle with the AP, claiming the photo was taken while he was working as a freelance photojournalist.

Maybe reading Elizabeth T. Russell’s Art Law Conversations : a surprisingly readable guide for visual artists (2005) might help clear up the muddle? But I doubt it.

BTW...signed originals of both the Hope poster and the Garcia photo have been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.



I'm pretty fond of these interesting remixes of the Fairey image.

Thanks for mentioning my book, but I have to agree: it's probably not going to clear up this muddle. I'm working on a second edition that will more fully discuss fair use. But the Fairey case isn't just about fair use. A threshhold issue is whether the underlying photograph was copyrightable at all. That is to say: did it contain sufficiently original expression that was fixed by the photographer? I don't know the answer, and nobody other than a judge or jury can decide for sure. But it's very possible that the answer is "no."