Last week, Shepard Fairey, the visual artist who created the iconic Obama HOPE image, was sentenced to probation and fined $25,000 for tampering with evidence in a copyright dispute with the Associated Press. The sentence brought an end to a three-year-long legal battle.
In 2009, Fairey sued the AP arguing that his artistic transformation of an image by photojournalist Mannie Garcia was protected under the doctrine of fair use. The AP sued Fairey arguing that he misappropriated its rights to the image when he created and sold posters and other merchandise with the likeness. In February 2012, Fairey admitted that he had destroyed documents and lied about the source of the image.
I have used the case study in my journalism courses to explore the issues of copyright and fair use and have written about it on this blog.
In April, my lesson plan, The Obama “Hope” Poster: A Case Study in Copyright and Fair Use, was published on the J/I Educator website, a collection journalism and communications teaching resources. In the exercise, students learn the background of the image, listen to audio interviews with the plaintiffs, examine court documents, and debate the merits of the case.