Sooner or later it had to happen, we suppose. Echo Park graphic artist Shepard Fairey, whose haunting poster illustration of Barack Obama became the defining image of Obama's successful presidential campaign, is being accused of copyright infringement and asked to pay royalties for the source image. The Associated Press claims Fairey based his drawing of Obama on a 2006 photograph of the then-Illinois Senator taken by Mannie Garcia.
Debate over Fairey's use of the photo and other unacknowledged sources has raged on several blogs and Web sites for some time. Anyone with some familiarity with old movies and vintage propaganda or protest posters knows that Fairey has
appropriated the rich legacy of public artists of the past under a fair-use concept. Now AP has suddenly discovered there's a
buck to be made here on a static, flag-bordered photograph that looks as though it
belonged on Obama's Senate Web site. (See image below.)
In an interview with Agence France Presse, Mannie Garcia did not sound proprietory about his
picture and there's no indication that he owns the copyright.
"I'm proud of that photograph that I made," Garcia said. "Very proud of it in light of what's happened."
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probably wouldn't have killed Fairey, however, to have acknowledged
somewhere the source of his illustration, and that might possibly be a
face-saving option for both sides. Fairey is being represented in
negotiations with AP by the Fair Use Project of Stanford University.