Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty Over Obama ‘Hope’ Image

Posted filed underCopyright, Law, Street Art.

“The street artist Shepard Fairey, whose “Hope” campaign poster of Barack Obama became an enduring symbol of his last presidential campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to a charge stemming from his misconduct in trying to bolster claims in a lawsuit over which photograph had been used as a basis for the poster.”

The New York Times reports: “Mr. Fairey, 42, sued The Associated Press in 2009 after it contended he had infringed on the copyright of one of its photographs in creating the poster. Mr. Fairey had claimed in his suit that he had used a different photograph of Mr. Obama, but later admitted that he had been mistaken and had tried to conceal his mistake, by destroying documents and fabricating others.

“I was ashamed that I had done these things, and I knew I should have corrected my actions,” he said on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The legal dispute between Mr. Fairey and The A.P. has been settled.

Mr. Fairey, of Los Angeles, pleaded to one count of criminal contempt and could face up to six months in prison. A prosecutor, Daniel W. Levy, told the magistrate judge, Frank Maas, that the government was likely to seek some term of imprisonment for Mr. Fairey, who will be sentenced on July 16.

His lawyer, Daniel M. Gitner, said later that his client had “cooperated fully” with the government and took “full responsibility” for his actions.

Tom Curley, the president and chief executive of The A.P., issued a statement noting that Mr. Fairey had started the case with his lawsuit over copyright fair use issues, and added, “The A.P. hopes that some good may come of this, by alerting judges and parties to the possibility that fake evidence may exist.”

Photo above: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The press release from the US Attorney’s Office quotes Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara saying:

“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.”

Hyperallergic says: “The case is based on a series of event in 2009, when Fairey initiated litigation against the AP in an attempt to prove his use of an AP photograph was protected by fair use. Fairey alleged that he had used a 2006 AP photograph of Obama and actor George Clooney (see below). It turns out Fairey was lying as he had used another AP image from the same event. In order to justify his claim, the artist created multiple false and fraudulent documents and attempted to delete multiple electronic files, which were later discovered.

With the latest guilty plea, Fairey faces a maximum term of six months in prison and a maximum term of supervised release of one year. ”