Shepard Fairey was right.
But then he was wrong.
The L.A.-based king of street artists was sentenced in New York to two years of probation after he tried to conceal the fact that he used an Associated Press photo as the basis of his iconic “Hope” rendering of President Obama.
The thing is, he wanted to fight the AP's 2009 copyright infringement lawsuit (since settled) on the merits of “fair use” — borrowing someone else's creation for art's sake. But he sort of f—ed that all up. Today Fairey admitted his mistake:
I accept the Judge's sentence and look forward to finally putting this episode behind me. My wrong-headed actions, born out of a moment of fear and embarrassment, have not only been financially and psychologically costly to myself and my family, but also helped to obscure what I was fighting for in the first place– the ability of artists everywhere to be inspired and freely create art without reprisal.
The statement on his website goes on to say:
I entered into litigation with the AP because I believe in Fair Use and I wanted to protect the rights of all artists. The Obama HOPE poster was created and distributed by a belief in what Obama could do for this country and my hope that I could inspire others to thought and action. Making money was never a part of the equation. As funds came in, I used them to create more posters and stickers and make donations to the Obama campaign. Most of the remaining proceeds were given to causes I support and believe in from the ACLU to Feeding America.
I believed, and still believe, that I had a very strong Fair Use case, which I could have prevailed.
However, the artist says that his reference to the wrong photo on the case was not intentional (at least at first):
There was no intent to deceive on my part at the outset. When I discovered that the photo I had referenced was indeed the one the AP argued it was and not the one I thought I had used, I was embarrassed and scared to admit they were right and I was wrong even though it would not have had a material bearing on my case. Not amending the record was a big mistake and short-sighted.
Fairey was also hit with a $25,000 fine.