By 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.)