Shepard Fairey Points Out That The AP Used His Image Without A License

from the getting-down-and-dirty dept

In the latest skirmish between the Associated Press and Shepard Fairey over copyright concerning his iconic poster of Barack Obama, Fairey has filed new counterclaims against the AP, including that the AP used the photo of Fairey’s poster without getting a license. He also lists out a number of other images of artwork that the AP did not get a license to use, but which it uses within photos, and then states:

The doctrine of unclean hands and basic principles of equity prohibit The AP from contending that Counterclaim Defendants’ Obama Works infringe The AP’s copyrights when The AP itself exploits the copyrighted work of Fairey and other artists without permission and in a manner that is far less transformative than the Obama Works, as illustrated but not limited to, the photographs listed above.

It seems this battle is getting nasty. Of course, while making these claims may feel good, it’s hard to believe that they’ll be all that compelling. The AP will clearly claim that its photos of these pieces of artwork were fair use, as part of news commentary. But, that’s probably part of the point being raised by Fairey’s legal team. It’s unlikely to believe that the AP really abused Fairey’s copyright or the copyrights of these other artists, but if it can get the AP defending its acts on fair use principles, then they can easily use the AP’s words against it, in explaining why Fairey’s image is also covered by fair use.

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Comments on “Shepard Fairey Points Out That The AP Used His Image Without A License”

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Paul Colford (user link) says:

Fairey and AP

Statement from The Associated Press:

The Associated Press is still in the process of reviewing Shepard Fairey’s response to its Counterclaims, but it is very revealing that rather than present any evidence to justify his own obvious misappropriation of the AP’s copyrighted work, he instead focuses on making collateral attacks on the AP, one of the oldest and largest news organizations in the world, regarding standard newsgathering activities.

Even more disappointing is the fact that Mr. Fairey appears to have deliberately omitted from his filing information regarding the newsgathering context in which the various images were generated and in which they are used.

We note that Mr. Fairey admits that he engaged in the hypocritical conduct discussed in the AP’s Counterclaims, including using the work of others without obtaining a license while at the same time threatening others for using his own works.

RD says:


The vultures are eating each other, this is great! Oh, the irony! He took an AP photo to begin with, modified it into a new thing, then the AP used THAT image and both are suing each other for the same breach! BRILLIANT!

You have to wonder at the sheer greed and stupidity of humanity. Only the lawyers will make out in this, everyone else loses. Idiots.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hahahaa

Except that he didn’t ‘modify’ it. That suggests that he took the photo and used software to transform the photo, itself, into the poster. That just isn’t the case. If you follow backwards, you’ll find links in the previous article on this story where he shows just how he made that poster. Still, this IS a transformative work, and surely covered by fair use.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Shepard Fairey’s attorney’s argument should not have been: “the AP used our pictures, thus they have unclean hands.” The unclean hands doctrine is used against equitable claims. Copyright law is statutory. There simply is no unclean hands argument here.

The attorney could and should have argued: “Much in the same way that the AP’s use was fair use, so was Shepard Fairey’s use.”

C.T. says:

Not really

“but if it can get the AP defending its acts on fair use principles, then they can easily use the AP’s words against it, in explaining why Fairey’s image is also covered by fair use.”

The counterclaim is a tactical move that will have little bearing, if any, on the outcome of this case. Fairey’s fair use defense is going to be extremely interesting to watch develop. However, the AP’s fair use claim will not be relevant to Fairey’s… the reasoning underlying the arguments will not be similar, nor will they rely on the same authorities (precedents).

af (user link) says:

Statement by Shepard Fairey's lawyer in response to AP statement

AP Issues Statement About Fairey’s Answer, Misses Point Entirely
by Anthony Falzone, posted on April 16, 2009 – 9:12am

In the answer to The AP’s counterclaims we filed yesterday, we included a dozen examples of AP photographs The AP sells, which consist almost entirely of the copyrighted artwork of Fairey and other artists.

Today, The AP issued a statement accusing Fairey of “making attacks” on The AP and “deliberately omitt[ing]” the “newsgathering context in which the various images were generated and in which they are used.”

The funny part about this is Fairey doesn’t allege The AP’s photos are illegal or infringing, much less “attack” The AP. The point is very simple: The AP applies an obvious double-standard. It is happy to sell, through its image licensing database, photographs that are really just bare copies of artists’ work, yet it condemns Fairey for using an AP photograph in a far more creative, transformative, expressive and defensible way. Fairey’s allegations don’t say the AP shouldn’t be allowed to do what it does. These allegations — and the AP’s response — just demonstrate The AP demands wide leeway for its use of other artists’ work, but insists that others, like Fairey, are entitled to much less leeway.

As for “newsgathering,” The AP misses the point again. While the photographs may have originally been taken for the purpose of newsgathering, they are presently for sale on The AP’s image licensing database as a commercial product for “professional photo buyers.”

So let’s get this straight: We’re not alleging The AP’s photographs infringe anyone’s rights, or demanding The AP stop doing the excellent work it does. We simply contend The AP should have to play by a consistent set of rules. We contend fair use should apply broadly — for everyone. If The AP’s bare copies of other artists’ work are protected by fair use, then Fairey’s significantly more transformative and expressive work has to be, too.

Bob (user link) says:

Fair Use Only Goes So Far

Sure, if AP used the Photo’s in a news story and that was it, then I agree it’s Fair Use. If AP though uses it on say its’ website as a header photo/image for decorative purposes, then no, it’s not Fair Use.

While it is getting nasty, let’s be perfectly honest, AP doesn’t have a great track record themselves with Photo Journalist and Artists. AP started this fight, now it looks like someone is willing to pull the cover off some of the dirty laundry AP has lying around….I love a good fight!

sloppyright says:

I dont get it - AP has nothing

As I understand it, Fairey created the item in dispute with his own hands. No copy, no tracing, all by hand. Is this not correct? If this is correct, how is it a copyright violation when there is no copy. The picture and the poster are not identical, the pose is even slightly different. This is silly, AP need to get real – what a bunch of whiners.

PinballLes says:

This case is the reason why the general population considers lawyers to a pack of idiots and big business to be a pack greedy arseholes.

There is a fundamental problem with the law when it’s so complicated that no one really knows who is in the right and who is in the wrong, because it all comes down to interpretation. It’s stupid.

As far as I’m aware this Shepard Fairey dude created the poster with no intention of creating money from it, rather created it as an creative endeavor, so where’s the problem. I don’t think he copied the photo, at best he probably used a low resolution version of the photo as inspiration for his poster.

PBW says:

wants his cake and eat it too.

Do you need permission in a news story? Not sure. But at least AP gave credit that the poster was his, more so than fairey gave credit to the photographer, “inspiratio”n or not. Another expample of fairey wanting his cake and eating it too. read further to see how fairey picks on the little guy:

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Fairey and AP

You are missing the point: the Doctrine of Unclean Hands says that if you are contributing to the problem, in this case, doing the same thing yourself, you can be estopped from suing someone else for the same thing.
With the Doctrine, fair use is not an issue; the only issue is whether you are blameless yourself for the act complained of – it is an estoppel issue, not a rebuttal issue.

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