AP Settles Remaining Lawsuits Over ‘Hope’ Image

The Associated Press says it has settled its copyright infringement claim against Obey Clothing and three of its big retail customers–Nordstrom’s, Urban Outfitters, and Zumiez Inc.–for sale and distributions of merchandise bearing the iconic ‘Hope’ image created by artist Shepard Fairey.

“This settlement marks the final resolution of the disputes over our rights in the AP’s photograph of Barack Obama,” AP president and CEO Tom Curley said in a prepared statement. He added,  “AP is proud of the result and will continue to vigorously defend its copyrighted photographs against wholesale copying and commercialization where there is no legitimate basis for asserting fair use.”

Fairey created the Hope image from a 2006 AP photograph of Barack Obama without permission. Two years ago, AP sued Fairey and Obey Clothing, a company Fairey founded, for copyright infringement.

This past January, AP and reached a legal truce with Fairey. Both sides agreed to share revenues from future licensing of the Hope image. As part of the settlement, neither side conceded its legal position: AP continues to consider Fairey’s work an infringement, while Fairey continued to consider it a fair use of the AP photo.

AP’s claim against Obey Clothing, meanwhile, has continued–until now.  And it was only a week ago that AP filed its infringement claims against the three retailers that were allegedly obtaining “Hope” merchandise from Obey Clothing.  Those claims have also been settled “amicably,” AP says.

Under the terms of its settlement with Obey Clothing, AP says, the clothing company “will collaborate to create and sell apparel using Shepard Fairey’s graphics based on photographs owned by the AP.  Obey Clothing has further agreed that it will not use another AP photo without obtaining a license from the AP.”

AP says that neither side has “surrender[ed] ist view of the law.” In other words, AP still maintains that Obey Clothing infringed its copyright, while Obey Clothing hold fast to its position that it didn’t appropriate any copyrightable material from the AP photograph in question.

Those settlement terms are nearly identical to AP’s settlement terms with Shepard Fairey.


Shepard Fairey, AP Settle Copyright Lawsuit

AP Sues Retailers for Unauthorized Use of ‘Hope’ Image

2 Responses to “AP Settles Remaining Lawsuits Over ‘Hope’ Image”

  1. Ambrose Pierce Says:

    Does anyone else see the irony of an artist, a major news organization, and a few clothing retailers fighting over who owns the rights to an image and who is entitled to exploit it for profit and yet their is no discussion of whether the subject of the image itself has given consent of its use by way of a release. I can’t imagine that President Obama would have signed a release form permitting the AP to license his image commercially. Had the subject in the image been Madonna (god forbid!), we all know she would have sued everyone–their parents, grandparents, and the next generation–had she not authorized it in advance. Nonetheless, the AP seems pretty satisfied with the results of their settlement. Yet I’m still left wondering, were they compensated for commercial use? And if so, how much? And do they have the right to license an image of a public figure commercially–that was originally created for editorial use–without a proper release? Or is Obama considered public property, and therefore doesn’t require a release?

  2. aj Says:

    “Irony” – no. The lawsuits were commenced to resolve several issues regarding claims of infringement — the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image. The lawsuits do not claim violations of rights of privacy or publicity (towards which your thoughts meander). There are diminished rights of privacy for public figures e.g., President of the US. The making of the image by Manny Garcia, as employee or IC for AP, I suspect contractually granted all rights in the underlying image to AP. In turn, AP has the exclusive right to license the image for commercial purposes and otherwise. (Although the action commenced by Shepard Fairey sought to invoke “fair use” as a defense for his derivative work, such action was settled between the parties (after Shepard misinformed his own lawyers and the Court as to the origin of the underlying imagery). I understand that when Fairey created his derivative work the Obama administration authorized the use. The compensation for t-shirts and other commercial uses have not be made public. You do NOT have the right to exploit images of public figures commercially without a proper release or you may violate rights of privacy and publicity (unless, the person is dead and in such cases, US states vary as to the descendability of such rights of publicity — NY-no; CA-yes). President Obama is not public property.