Hope Poster © Shepard Fairey/Mannie Garcia/Associated Press
The "Hope" posters served as a rallying call for a change of government during the last US elections, and were seen plastered all over the country. The posters were designed by artist Shepard Fairey, but were based on an image the Associated Press owned.
Following a long legal battle, the AP was able to prove that Fairey had used, without authorisation the image. Now, the artist has pled guilty to one count of criminal contempt "for destroying documents, manufacturing evidence, and other misconduct in civil litigation against the Associated Press."
In a statement, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara says: "As he admitted today, Shepard Fairey, an artist associated with an iconic image from the 2008 presidential campaign, went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantage in his civil litigation, creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process. The justice system - civil and criminal - depends on the integrity of lawyers and non-lawyers alike to follow the rules. Those who break the rules risk sanctions, including, in certain cases, criminal prosecution."
During his case against the AP, Fairey claimed that he had not used the AP's image to create the Hope poster, insisting, instead, that he had used another image that featured both Obama and actor George Clooney. "In order to cover up the fact that his complaint was not true, Fairey created multiple false and fraudulent documents, attempting to show that he had used the photograph of then Senator Obama with George Clooney in it as his reference," reads a court report. "Fairey also attempted to delete multiple electronically stored documents that demonstrated that he had, in fact, used the tightly cropped image of then-Senator Obama as the reference. The false and fraudulent documents were produced to the AP during discovery, and the documents that FAIREY attempted to delete were not initially produced to the AP."
Fairey could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $5000. He will be sentenced on 16 July at 10am.
"Mr. Fairey started this case by suing the AP over copyright fair use issues," says AP President and CEO Tom Curley. "The AP never expected the case to take the turn that it did. The AP hopes that some good may come of this, by alerting judges and parties to the possibility that spoliation may exist."
The news comes one year after the AP and Fairey agreed "in principle to settle their pending copyright infringement lawsuit over rights in the Obama Hope poster and related merchandise."
While Fairey argued that his use of the image fell under Fair Use, Associated Press said that the artist needed a license to use its image. "In settling the lawsuit, the AP and Mr. Fairey have agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law," said the agency.
In addition, Fairey had agreed that he would not use another Associated Press photo in his work without obtaining a license from the agency. "The two sides have also agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image," said the Associated Press.
For more details, read BJP's previous coverage.
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