Poster artist admits to lying

AP to continue copyright suit

By Liz Robbins
New York Times / October 18, 2009

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NEW YORK - Shepard Fairey, the artist whose “Hope’’ poster of Barack Obama became an iconic emblem of the presidential campaign, has admitted that he lied about which photograph from the Associated Press he used as his source, and that he then covered up evidence to conceal his lie.

Fairey’s admission, which he made public Friday, threw his legal battle with the news agency into disarray.

The AP claimed in January that Fairey owed it credit and compensation for using the photograph. But in February Fairey sued the AP, seeking a declaratory judgment that the poster did not infringe on the agency’s copyrights and that he was entitled to the image under the “fair use’’ exception of the copyright law. The AP countersued in March, saying Fairey had misappropriated the photograph.

Fairey told the agency - and his own lawyers - that he had used a photograph from an April 27, 2006, event about Darfur at the National Press Club in Washington, where Obama was seated next to the actor George Clooney. Instead, the photograph he used was from the same event, but was a solo image of Obama’s head, tilted in intense concentration.

Fairey admitted that in the initial months after the suit and countersuit were filed, he destroyed evidence and created false documents to cover up the real source. He said he had initially believed that the AP was wrong about which photo he used, but later realized the agency was right.

“In an attempt to conceal my mistake, I submitted false images and deleted other images,’’ Fairey said in a statement, released on his website. “I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions, which were mine alone.’’

Fairey’s lawyers said they intended to withdraw when he could find new counsel.

Srinandan R. Kasi, the AP’s general counsel, released a statement Friday night that said: “Fairey’s lies about which photo was the source image were discovered after the AP had spent months asking Fairey’s counsel for documents regarding the creation of the posters, including copies of any source images that Fairey used.’’

Kasi said: “The AP intends to vigorously pursue its countersuit alleging that Fairey willfully infringed the AP’s copyright in the close-up photo of then-Senator Obama by using it without permission to create the Hope and Progress posters and related products, including T-shirts and sweatshirts that have led to substantial revenue.’’