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Come On, Shepard!

October 18, 2009

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The drama with Shepard Fairey continues…While the position that some of the Justseeds’ members take on the work of Fairey is public knowledge (see Mark Vallan’s 2007 essay, written with Josh MacPhee, Favianna Rodriguez, and Lincoln Cushing or see Favianna’s blog or Liam O’Donoghue’s article), recent news stories continue to look bad for any “progressive” street artist-turned capitalist entrepeneur.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Fairey admitted to using Mannie Garcia’s photo of President Obama as the source for his famous HOPE poster. While Fairey has greatly benefitted from this poster, Garcia has received little. Today’s LAT states:
“Shepard Fairey admits to wrongdoing in Associated Press lawsuit”


In a strange twist to an already complicated legal situation, artist Shepard Fairey admitted today to legal wrongdoing in his ongoing battle with the Associated Press.
Fairey said in a statement issued late Friday that he knowingly submitted false images and deleted others in the legal proceedings, in an attempt to conceal the fact that the AP had correctly identified the photo that Fairey had used as a reference for his “Hope” poster of then-Sen. Barack Obama.
“Throughout the case, there has been a question as to which Mannie Garcia photo I used as a reference to design the HOPE image,” Fairey said. “The AP claimed it was one photo, and I claimed it was another.”
New filings to the court, he said, “state for the record that the AP is correct about which photo I used…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.”
In February, the AP claimed that Fairey violated copyright laws when he used one of their images as the basis for the poster. In response, the artist filed a lawsuit against the AP, claiming that he was protected under fair use. Fairey also claimed that he used a different photo as the inspiration for his poster.
After Fairey’s admission, a spokesman for the Associated Press issued a statement saying that Fairey “sued the AP under false pretenses by lying about which AP photograph he used.”
Fairey said that his lawyers have taken the steps to amend his court pleadings to reflect the fact that “the AP is correct about which photo I used as a reference and that I was mistaken.”
The artist expressed his remorse in his statement, saying that he is taking “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. ”
He added: “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.”
Fairey’s statement said he regretted that his actions would distract from the issue of fair use for artists. “Regardless of which of the two images was used, the fair use issue should be the same,” he said.
Keep checking back with Culture Monster as this story develops.
— David Ng

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