Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Audacity of Stealing

The Asoociated Press has reached out to Los Angeles-based artist Shepard Fairey, alleging Fairey used an AP image without consent. The AP alleges it owns the copyright to Fairey’s now-famous Obama image, adding that they want credit and compensation. Fairey vows to battle this allegation.

“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.”

The damages could be substantial, leading us to believe Fairey will settle with the AP. Assuming the AP registered the photo with the copyright office before Fairey’s appropriation, if Fairey loses he’s looking at statutory damages (and per infringement).

A New York Times book on the election, just published by Penguin Group (USA), includes the image. A Vermont-based publisher, Chelsea Green, also used it — credited solely to Fairey_ as the cover for Robert Kuttner’s “Obama’s Challenge,” an economic manifesto released in September. Chelsea Green President Margo Baldwin said that Fairey did not ask for money, only that the publisher make a donation to the National Endowment for the Arts.

If he’s smart he’ll settle for partial accreditation rights to the derivative work, along with a few pennies. Don’t set a bad precedent by litigating this one. Fair use or not, the AP has a very strong derivative-right claim here. Settle this Fairey, and for whatever the AP gives you.


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