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.
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…
Mr. Fairey, of Los Angeles, pleaded to one count of criminal contempt and could face up to six months in prison.
Note that this possible jail time isn’t for creating the poster, but for lying to the court in a lawsuit he filed. The Daily Telegraph has more details:
Fairey “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,” US Attorney [Preet] Bharara said in a statement…
Fairey sued AP in 2009, seeking a ruling that his poster didn’t infringe the copyright because his use of the photograph was protected by “fair use.” The news organisation countersued.
In his complaint, Fairey claimed he used as a visual reference an AP photograph of then-Senator Obama and actor George Clooney taken at an April 2006 National Press Club event, according to Bharara. In fact, Fairey used another image from the same event — a tightly cropped image of Obama gazing up, which was also an AP photograph, Mr Bharara said.
To cover up his false complaint, Fairey created multiple false and fraudulent documents attempting to show that he had used the photograph of Obama and Clooney, and tried to delete electronically stored documents that demonstrated that he had used the tightly cropped image, Mr Bharara said.
Fairey’s ego was threatened, and he didn’t think the rules that apply to everybody else should apply to him. So he hit back hard and lied outrageously in the process.
What a perfect symbol of the Obama era.
A few years back, Paste Magazine put up a page allowing visitors to create “Obamicons,” using existing photographs to create similar images. Maybe they thought they were celebrating Fairey’s “talent,” but they only proved that literally anyone can do the same thing. Even me: