The Obama “Hope” Poster & The New Copyright Controversy

obamaposter-198x300By now, everyone knows the famous Obama "Hope" poster produced by Shepard Fairey. Recently, Fairey has acknowledged that the poster was originally inspired by a photograph belonging to the AP Press, and now the AP is claiming that Fairey has infringed on its copyright and wants "payment for the use of the photo and a portion of any money he makes from it." (see article in the New York Times). In response, Fairey has filed a preemptive lawsuit, claiming that he used the AP photo as a mere starting point and then transformed it into a “stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that created powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message.” If you put the two images side by side (see here), it's pretty instantly clear that Fairey took an admittedly well done news photo and did something quite transformative with it, which makes things fair game. That's obvious to almost anyone (including hopefully judges), and it's a shame to see the AP, which lives by its First Amendment rights, looking to use the copyright clause to limit freedom of expression. Bad move guys.

As a quick side note, Fairey is being represented in court by The Fair Use Project at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society (to which I have zero connection.)

Related Content:

The Story Behind the Iconic Obama Campaign Poster


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  • lister says:

    I’m more interested (actually I’m not, I know the answer :) why the title changed from PROGRESS to HOPE.

    Please, someone think of the childr.. I mean the ethics in politics. :-D

  • joseba says:

    They should donate the photo rights to some fair cause. The photo already belongs to the history so I don’t care about who will make money with it

  • Dan Colman says:

    Good thought Joseba. I am with you on that.

  • C. Corum says:

    The word “Hope,” should have a red line drawn through it, and the work “NOPE”inscribed in letters twice as large. Obama has turned out to be a HUGE disappointment. 30 years ago he would have been considered a moderate Republican.

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