A federal judge has ruled that street artist Shepard Fairey can change lawyers in his ongoing legal battle with the Associated Press (AP). The AP argues that the artist owes licensing fees for his use of one of their photographs in his iconic Obama “HOPE” poster, an appropriation that Fairey maintains should be exempt from such fees under “fair use” provisions of federal copyright law.
Last month, Fairey admitted to lying in court documents about the original source for his Obama poster but has continued to argue that he should not have to pay the AP licensing fees. In the wake of his admission, he filed a motion to change his legal representation, which opposing lawyers fought.
Taking up Fairey's defense will be Geoffrey Stewart of the Jones Day law firm and William Fisher III, director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Fisher is representing the artist in a personal capacity with no connection to Harvard Law School.
Despite the good news it contained for Fairey, the judge’s ruling was not a complete victory for his side. The statement judgment released by the court also grants permission to the AP’s lawyers to conduct depositions with the street artist and his lawyers about his previous misstatements regarding his original source image. In addition, legal experts say that the court is likely to sanction Fairey for his conduct in the near future.