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Shepard Fairey comes out swinging

February 9, 2009 |  9:14 pm

Obama

Whose Obama is it anyway?

Shepard Fairey is fighting back and suing the Associated Press, which had accused the Los Angeles street artist of violating its copyright when he used an AP photo (left) to create the "Hope" poster of candidate Barack Obama (right).

Fairey's lawsuit says he and his company, Obey Giant Art Inc., used the photograph “as a visual reference for a highly transformative purpose. Fairey altered the original with new meaning, new expression and new messages.”

Bloomberg News reports that according to Fairey's complaint, his work is protected by the Fair Use statute, which allows limited use of copyrighted material to make original works of art.

But an AP spokesman said in a statement: “The photograph used in the poster is an AP photo, and its use required permission from AP."

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Fairey's arrest Friday on tagging charges in Boston over a 2000 incident -- which Fairey and his lawyer are saying was suspiciously timed to his arrival at an event in his honor at the Institute for Contemporary Art.

“It’s very unlikely they would’ve done that if it was someone else,” attorney Jeff Wiesner said of the arrest Friday, as reported by metrobosontonnews.com.

As Culture Monster has previously reported, this controversy comes on the heels of attention of a different kind. Fairey's Obama poster was just added the walls of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

--Sherry Stern

Photo credits: Associated Press, left, and Shepard Fairey.

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