AP Sues Retailers for Unauthorized Use of “Hope” Image

The Associated Press has filed lawsuits against three retailers–Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom’s, and Zumiez, Inc–for unauthorized use of the AP photograph underlying the iconic Obama “Hope” image on posters and t-shirts those retailers sold to customers.

The wire service, which filed the claims against the retailers in a federal court in New York on Wednesday, is seeking both actual damages and statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each instance of infringement.

Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the “Hope” image from an AP photograph in 2006 of then-Senator Barack Obama, is not named as a plaintiff with AP in the lawsuit. Two years ago, AP sued Fairey for copyright infringement, alleging unauthorized use of the photograph to create the Hope image. This past January, AP and Fairey reached a legal truce, and agreed to share revenues from future licensing of the Hope image.

AP continues to view Fairey’s creation as an infringing work, even though it is no longer suing the artist. For instance, in its claims against the retailers, AP says that “Mr. Fairey used the Obama photo without AP’s permission in making the Infringing Work.”

AP continues to press an infringement claim against Obey Clothing, a company started by Fairey that makes clothing featuring the Hope image. Obey Clothing supplies the retailers named in the new lawsuits.

“The Associated Press has an obligation to its members… and to its own writers and photographers, to vigilantly protect the copyrights in the stories and photographs that they create every day,” spokesperson Paul Colford said in a prepared statement. “When a commercial entity such as these retailers, or the company that sold the shirts to them, gets something for nothing by using an AP photo without credit or compensation, it undermines the AP’s ability to cover the news and devalues the work that our journalists do, often in dangerous locations where they may literally risk life and limb to cover a story.”

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