Shepard Fairey, the artist who made the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster -- you know, the one that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery and more than any other image encapsulates the historic presidential race of 2008 -- is getting sued by the Associated Press in what appears to be a calculated move on the wire service's part to look as pig-headed and awful as possible.
Last year, Shepard Fairey made a poster and became the most famous and influential graphic artist in the world. The Obama poster did not change the presidential race, of course, but it also didn't hurt the candidate to have this incredibly vivid, arresting, stylish poster plastered everywhere for most of the year. It was a branding triumph, and imitations abounded.
Not until well after the election did anybody figure out the poster was based on an Associated Press photo, or rather, the mirror image of a photograph taken by a temporary AP staffer who never signed a contract with the company. Fairey had found this photo on Google Images and used it without paying the AP or asking for permission, which was of course not a very smart thing to do.
But when this all came to light, anybody with half a brain would have advised the AP to say, "Water under the bridge, friend! We are happy to have played some small part in the creation of one of the important pieces of political art this young century has seen."
Shepard Fairey is a very well-known street artist who says he made exactly zero dollars off the creation of the Obama poster. Fairey also has a very good lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law and fair use.
Anyhow, the AP decided to make the most image-wrecking move they could and accuse Shepard Fairey of copyright infringement, which is sort of like accusing Santa Claus of breaking and entering. Good luck with that, folks!