AP fights back, sues Shepard Fairey

The Associated Press (AP) has countersued Shepard Fairey over its claim that Fairey breached AP’s copyright in his famous Obama Hope image.

The copyright dispute first emerged in early February, when AP issued a statement claiming that it was seeking compensation from Fairey for the use of the image, but was willing to negotiate a settlement and hoped for an out-of-court “amicable solution.” Fairey upped the ante less than a week later, by suing AP in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. That suit claimed that Fairey did not violate the copyright of the April 2006 AP photograph used as the base for the poster, because he dramatically changed the nature of the image.

According to AP’s suit filed today, Fairey knowingly “misappropriated the AP’s rights in that image.” The suit asks the court to award AP profits made off the image and damages.

While it may now be a muskets at dawn show down between the two parties, copyright protection from Fairey seems to be a when it suits him affair, with attendees at an exhibition of his works being prevented from taking pictures.

What ever the outcome, the precedent will have strong implications for fair and artistic use under copyright law in the United States.