Monday Shepard Fairey’s attorneys–the Stanford’s Fair Use Project and a San Francisco law firm–wasted no time, filing suit against the Associated Press over the artitst’s re-purposing of a photograph taken by Mannie Garcia while on assignment for the news agency. Garcia has said:
I would see the artwork, I would photograph it, and think what is with this image? But it didn’t snap. It never occurred to me it was my picture. I thought, ‘that’s familiar.’ …
The San Jose Mercury New reports that Garcia says he never signed an explicit photography contract with the AP and that they hired him for just one month. He adds:
I feel very proud that I made the photograph. I never would have imagined that it became what it is, and it’s pretty cool. The AP is being very aggressive with Fairey, and I don’t want to be a part of that. My last conversation with the AP was that I own the copyright, and that’s what I’m maintaining.
Last week the Associated Press issued a statement saying they had determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission.
The news agency sought credit and compensation (duh) for the use of the image. Hundreds of thousands of the “Hope” version were given away for free by Fairey’s studio as part of grassroots campaigning, while other versions became official Presidential Inaugural Committee merchandise and fine art prints. A different version of Fairey’s image was used on the cover of TIME magazine and a large print hangs in the National Gallery. Fairey received a thank you letter from Barack Obama during the campaign.
Fairey’s suit seeks a declaration stating that Fairey’s artwork does not infringe any copyrights and is protected by the Fair Use Doctrine.
Additionally the suit says the artist transformed the photograph into a stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that creates powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message.
Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford and the lead of Fairey’s legal team said:
There should be no doubt about the legality of Fairey’s work. He used the photograph for a purpose
entirely different than the original, and transformed it dramatically.
Monday Paul Colford, a spokesman for the Associated Press said in an emailed statement:
The photograph used in the poster is an AP photo, and its use required permission from AP. AP believes it is crucial to protect photographers, who are creators and artists. Their work should not be
misappropriated by others.
Colford said that the agency was disappointed by the surprise filing by Shepard Fairey and his company and by Mr. Fairey’s failure to recognize the rights of photographers in their works.
According to the complaint, the AP threatened to sue Fairey by tomorrow. The Associated Press’ Colford says that The Associated Press was in the middle of settlement discussions with Mr. Fairey’s attorney last week in order to resolve this amicably and made it clear that a settlement would benefit the AP Emergency Relief Fund, a charitable fund that supports AP journalists around the world who suffer personal loss from natural disasters and conflicts.
Sounds like the AP were using the charity card to make Fairey pay up, but the artist–who was arrested last weekend outside his opening Boston at the Institute for Contemporary Art on two outstanding warrants for counts of damage to property–appears to have seen the larger artistic issues at play.