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Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Shepard Fairey Exhibit Opens Amidst New Legal Controversy

(All Images via Obey Clothing)

After a hugely successful run at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, Shepard Fairey’s museum retrospective opened today at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The exhibit premiers just as new and disheartening information surfaces about the artist’s ongoing legal battle with the Associated Press.

Read on for the full story
Fairey sued the non-profit news organization in February, after being accused of stealing one of their photos for his hugely popular Obama Hope image. He has insisted he did not violate copyright laws, and that his appropriation of the photo falls within the guidelines of fair use because the original image, which featured Obama next to actor George Clooney, had been significantly altered. In March The AP countersued, arguing that Fairey has in fact committed copyright infringement by not properly crediting or compensating them. In addition, AP says Fairey did not use the Obama/Clooney photo he claims, but rather one of the future president sitting alone. The question over which photo was used is significant, as it is largely the basis for Fairey’s assertion that he “significantly” altered his source material.

Now the artist has come forward, admitting “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. I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment and I take 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.” See the artist’s full statement here via Fairey’s PR agency, Sunshine and Sachs, which also represents The Jackson family, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Justin Timberlake to name a few.

In response, Fairey’s attorneys at the Fair Use Project at Stanford University have withdrawn from the case. Papers filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan indicate that Fairey misled his legal council, stating “After the original complaint was filed, Mr. Fairey realized his mistake. Instead of acknowledging that mistake, Mr. Fairey attempted to delete the electronic files he had used in creating the illustration at issue. He also created, and delivered to his counsel for production, new documents to make it appear as though he had used the Clooney photograph as his reference.”

In his statement, Fairey stands his ground while downplaying his actions, saying “I am also sorry because my actions may distract from what should be the real focus of my case – the right to fair use so that all artists can create freely. Regardless of which of the two images was used, the fair use issue should be the same.”

On a more positive note, take a look below at some pictures of Shepard’s outdoor mural installations around Pittsburgh, and find their locations here on Google Maps.




Posted by ATARMS | Filed in Artist Talk, Exhibition, Graffiti, Legal, Museums, Uncategorized

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