Settling "Hope" Lawsuit, Shepard Fairey Enters Commercial Partnership With the AP

Settling "Hope" Lawsuit, Shepard Fairey Enters Commercial Partnership With the AP
The Associated Press's long-running legal battle with Shepard Fairey over his use of one of the news agency's Barack Obama photographs for the artist's iconic "Hope" poster has ended in a tentative settlement — one proposing a new artistic collaboration between Fairey and the AP. In effect, it appears that the two parties will take their wrangling out of the courtroom and into the boardroom, collaborating on a line of AP-Fairey branded merchandise.

As a result of the development, the judge presiding over the lawsuit has terminated the copyright case. In a statement released today, the AP declared that it and Fairey have "agreed in principle" to settle the convoluted case, which has been riddled with counterclaims and accusations of evidence tampering since its commencement in February 2009.

The grueling and convoluted battle over the poster, which was based on a picture taken for the AP by photographer Mannie Garcia, began in February 2009 when Fairey filed a federal suit seeking a declaratory judgment finding that his appropriation of the image was protected under the United States' "fair use" statute, which allows for the limited use of copywritten material for creative purposes. The AP countersued, and Fairey later admitted that he had provided the court with faked evidence to suggest that his source for the poster was a different AP photograph than the one he actually used. However, he maintained that his "Hope" artwork was legitimate under fair use.

In settling the case, according to the news agency's statement, "the AP and Mr. Fairey have agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law," and have forged a partnership that could capitalize on the success of the "Hope" poster. The tentative settlement, the AP states, holds that the parties have "agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs." Fairey has said that his use of the image was not intended for monetary gain but as an artistic political statement, but since the poster caught fire during Obama's campaign it has become a lucrative merchandising source.

"I often collaborate with photographers in my work," Fairey said in the AP statement, "and I look forward to working with photos provided by the AP’s talented photographers.”

The statement continues: "The parties have agreed to additional financial terms that will remain confidential."