Shepard Fairey Statement on Associated Press Fair Use Case

Shepard Fairey has released a statement and updated his filing in his fair use case with the AP. He writes:


“Throughout the case, there has been a question as to which Mannie Garcia photo I used as a reference to design the HOPE image. The AP claimed it was one photo, and I claimed it was another.

The new filings state for the record that the AP is correct about which photo I used as a reference and that I was mistaken. While I initially believed that the photo I referenced was a different one, I discovered early on in the case that I was wrong.

In an attempt to conceal my mistake I submitted false images and deleted other images. I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment and I take full responsibility for my actions which were mine alone. I am taking every step to correct the information and I regret I did not come forward sooner.

I am very sorry to have hurt and disappointed colleagues, friends, and family who have supported me in this difficult case and trying time in my life.”

There is more to the statement which he has posted on his site.

It’s no secret that Shepard is a personal friend of mine and I’ve been very vocal about my support him and this case. My support has not been based on the fact that we are friends, but because I really do believe in the principals and importance of fair use, and feel this issue strikes at the heart of it. I think it’s in the financial interest of the AP to limit fair use, and I think it’s in the best interest of creatives, both professional and amateur alike, for fair use to upheld. I say that as a career publisher who has worked with and for musicians, visual artists, photographers and writers for the last 16 years. This statement by Shepard is obviously shocking and disappointing, but what will be more disappointing is if this takes focus away from the real issues the case brings up. I’ve always felt that the question of which photo was used was a footnote and I fear this now threatens to overshadow the much larger, and much more important discussion.

16 thoughts on “Shepard Fairey Statement on Associated Press Fair Use Case”

  1. I have always felt that Fairey’s poster design fell well within the “Fair Use” clause, as it is such a transformative work from the original photograph.

    However, Fairey admitting obstruction of justice, perjury, and destruction of evidence will take the public’s eye away from the fair use argument.

    Transforming images is okay. Perjuring yourself and destroying evidence is not. He did some very, very stupid things and now he should be taken to task for it.

  2. Maybe I’m being cynical, but the timing of SF’s statement is perfect. His Supply & Demand exhibit opens tomorrow at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

  3. What makes this disturbing to me is that I called bullshit on his original argument from day one, and was told by multiple people I was essentially talking out of my ass because of statements made by Shepard and his lawyers.

    And I do think this is a strike against the fair use argument. Simply put, if Shepard and his lawyers truly believed in that argument, why lie and, worse, fabricate evidence? (and as a result, have countless others unwittingly spread the lie?)

  4. How colossally stupid. The issue of which photo Fairey used as source material, either a larger shot with George Clooney or a tighter shot of just Barack Obama, which has occupied so much discussion here, only ever related to 1 of 4 factors the court considers in a “fair use” copyright case. So instead of Fairey having what many thought was and still is a strong case of “fair use” (and thus no infringement of copyright) in using a run of the mill news photo to create an iconic image with a political message, now the case will likely be overshadowed by the image of Fairey as a liar and a criminal. Not surprisingly, AP is doing its best to assist with the overshadowing.

  5. According to the NY Times, his lawyers have withdrawn from the case because he misled them “by fabricating information and destroying other material.”

    I guess it’s a nice gesture that he apologizes for disappointing “colleagues, friends and family,” but considering how he embraced being attached to Obama’s rise, I wonder if he thought, at any point, about how his actions would reflect on Obama.

    The comments on the LA Times post about his statement show how some on the right are seeing a political opportunity. I can’t say I wouldn’t be doing the same thing if the party-affiliation tables were turned.

  6. Sigh. It is the unenviable fate of the famous to fuck up loudly & embarrassingly in public.

    Given the fact that Fairey’s the first and only artist ever to become embroiled in controversy and exposed as less than unimpeachable in conduct, I am sure the longevity of his artwork will be severely damaged, and he himself will inevitably fall into obscurity.


  7. It’s a shame because I thought this could be a good (and successful) test of fair use. There’s no question that this disclosure is damaging to Fairey’s credibility and brings his intentions into question. Any court would likely be biased against him. Hopefully Garcia takes a more active role in protecting the copyright – which he claims to control, not AP – and adds more wrinkleage to the case, enabling further and broader discussion of fair use and the need to reform copyright laws.

  8. I strongly support the issues and questions that Fairey raises in his art. It’s just a shame that he’s the person that gets the most attention thanks to his self-promotion. Through actions like this, and seeming very hypocritical by threatening other artists with legal action and putting anti-spray paint coating on his office building, he makes it so easy for opponents to belittle the whole message.

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