Shepard Fairey says AP could “bankrupt” him

May 9th, 2010 | By | 3 Comments »

In an interview of Shepard Fairey by Iggy Pop for Interview Magazine, Fairey addressed his legal issues with the Associated Press. While it was good to hear exactly what Fairey’s argument is for fair use in this case and also his thoughts on copyright law in general (a topic I’m nearly as passionate about as art), the real bombshell is this quote from Fairey:

I think it’s fair use, but the Associated Press thinks it’s copyright infringement, and they’re really going after me. It would bankrupt me entirely if they won, so I’m hoping, for the sake of creative expression and political speech, that that doesn’t happen.

The best of luck to Fairey in his legal battle. The man has worked for two decades and could potentially see so much of what he has built up essentially thrown in the toilet all because American copyright laws are seriously screwed up.

For all those Shepard Fairey haters out there who are just hoping that he loses this case, think about the wider issues here. Here’s another quote from Fairey taken from the same interview:

The problem with copyright enforcement is that when the parameters aren’t incredibly well defined, it means big corporations, who have deeper pockets and better lawyers, can bully people. I don’t want to start making enemies in the corporate world, but there are plenty of cases. For example, there is a tradition of certain fairy tales being reinterpreted, and now, all of a sudden, a big corporation that has a mouse on its logo decides it’s going to copyright these fairy tales, which ends the cycle of these things being reinterpreted. What happens with these big entertainment companies is that they start to get a monopoly on the creation of culture. But I think that the more people participate in the creation of culture, the richer the culture becomes.

This case isn’t just about Fairey and OBEY. If he wins, it would be a real victory for artists and content creators in America. Though if he loses, maybe it will spur a change in the country’s copyright laws. After all, the National Portrait gallery has a HOPE painting as an official portrait of President Obama.

And just because it’s remotely relevant, here’s the song “Talkin All That Jazz” by Stetsasonic:


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  • Marcus

    Breathtaking hypocrisy from Fairey, he’s consistently ripped off other peoples artwork, especially that of poor and unknown artists engaged in social struggles in the developing world, yet when an artist made a parody of the OBEY face they were swiftly sent a threat of legal action. Completely incredible that he now chooses to play the innocent victim.

    Good article about his dubious practices here http://www.justseeds.org/blog/2007/12/a_response_to_obey_plagiarist_1.html which contains the following quote…

    “One important thing to acknowledge is that Fairey is not just appropriating, but also copyrighting images that exist in our common history. Posters and graphics made in the heat of political struggles are often made by anonymous individuals or groups that want to keep the images in the public domain for use in further struggle. It is unfortunate that Fairey is attempting to personally capitalize on the generosity of others and privatize and enclose the visual commons (as seen by the prominent copyright symbols on his website and products).”

    And exposed in more detail here… http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm

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