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Judge Dismisses Shepard Fairey/AP Copyright Claims, Settlement Includes Collaborative Project

Hope springs eternal for Shepard Fairey, who has been locked in a two-year battle with the Associated Press over his use of AP photographer Mannie Garcia‘s portrait of (then Senator) Barack Obama for his iconic HOPE poster. Was it “fair use” under copyright law? You’ll recall the key plot points: Fairey sued, the AP countersued, Milton Glaser weighed in, as did Steven Heller. Things heated up after Fairey changed his story about the poster (and admitted to lying in previous statements), which led his high-powered legal team to flee and the AP, smelling blood, to amp up its claims with criminal charges. Meanwhile, Garcia withdrew from the scuffle and an interim ruling last summer only added to the confusion. Finally, an agreement has been reached, and U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein yesterday dismissed the copyright lawsuits.

The AP and Fairey have “agreed in principle to settle their pending copyright infringement lawsuit over rights in the Obama Hope poster and related merchandise,” according to a statement issued today by the AP and circulated by the artist. As in all good compromises, no one wins: neither side is surrendering its view of the law, and while Fairey has agreed to lay off the AP photo sampling without securing the appropriate licenses, the settlement terms get even more interesting: “The two sides have…agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs.” Meanwhile, the AP is forging ahead with its suit against Fairey’s Obey Clothing, which markets apparel with the Hope image. A civil jury trial is set for March 21.

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