Has Shepard Fairey Learned That He's Been Hypocritical When It Comes To Others Appropriating His Works?

from the one-might-hope dept

Shepard Fairey, the well-known appropriation artist who created the famous Obama "Hope" poster is in a well-publicized legal dispute over the image of that poster, with both the Associated Press and the photographer who took the original photo. It's a fascinating fair use/copyright lawsuit, but it's made a lot more complex (and not in a good way) by the fact that Fairey has been his own worst enemy, in multiple ways, throughout the lawsuit. The biggest -- and most ridiculous -- was the fact that he flat out lied and destroyed evidence. It's hard to think of anything more stupid, frankly. He had an incredibly strong fair use claim just based on using the photo that everyone knew he used -- and rather than focus on that, he clouded up the whole thing by pretending it was a different photo and destroying evidence. Those moves completely muck up the case and make it that much harder to judge it on the merits.

But there's another part of Fairey's actions that has been equally troubling: he's been known to aggressively go after others for copying his work, despite the fact that the entire basis of his work is appropriation art. Fairey has used his lawyers in a manner not unlike the recent case we wrote about involving the estate of appropriation artist Roy Lichtenstein threatening a band for using an image that was copied not from Lichtenstein's painting, but from the same original source material.

However, it looks like Fairey's rather abrupt lesson in copyright law may be changing his views somewhat -- though we'll have to see if they really stick. Jay Matteo alerts us to a blog post by Fairey, responding to some questions about a poster used in the movie Iron Man 2 that is stylistically similar to Fairey's "Hope" poster, and Fairey says:
I have received several inquiries about whether or not I was involved in a piece of art seen in Iron Man 2. I'm friends with the Iron Man movie's production designer Michael Riva who, along with his wife Wendy, was a big Obama supporter. He asked if I'd mind a HOPE poster spoof in Iron Man and I said "of course not". I did not personally design the image, nor was I paid for it. All of the Obama HOPE spoofs, positive or negative, are a reminder of the power and importance of grassroots activism to affect things. Additionally, neither is it possible to copyright a style, nor would I want to restrict visual dialog by discouraging others from paying tribute to styles I have used.
That last sentence is interesting, given that he seems to have done exactly that many times over in the past -- especially when it came to his "OBEY" campaign. If he's really changed his mind, at the very least, he should admit that he was wrong in the past and now he realizes that. Otherwise, his statement rings pretty hollow.


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