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Today in the Los Angeles Times I read the dramatic unfolding of the Shephard Fairey story. Now he has successfully created a mess that is kicking him in his rear.

For those of you who have not followed the story we are talking about the famous Obama image with the word HOPE that has been virtually posted everywhere throughout and after the Obama campaign. It is a painting that is based on a photograph.

AP (Associated Press) has claimed for some time that the original image is theirs and that the artist Fairey who is known to be a rule bender in essence stole it. Of course they say it in nice legalese. Fairey had said that wasn’t so but that in fact he has taken a different photograph which is also from AP. He further claims that it is ok to use it under the fair use act.

Now it gets a little awkward and I am having another one of my “huh” moments. Licensing a news image these days costs next to nothing. So Fairey could have covered his sorry behind for maybe $50 or $100. But wait here is the real winner in this. First he said he used one AP image but now has recanted that story and said it was different AP image.

His lawyers are dropping him because the fair use defense (which can in fact be used when one artist uses another artists idea but significantly alters or changes the image and or medium) now might not be as believable. Why? Because Fairey lied about which image he used so the words ‘fair’ and ‘Fairley’  (see the irony here) don’t go so well together anymore.

Wait! Both images are from AP what difference does that make? Aside from Fairey being an idiot for not shelling out the $100 bucks earlier or perhaps telling the truth which image he used one thing is clear to me –  he is now going to be loosing his shirt in court.

Shame on AP for having seemingly forgotten what they really would have charged on an original license. I want to see that AP sales person that would have asked for licensing fees and shares on revenue during the call with an artist who just wants to use an image to make a rendering. This license would have been in line with what AP charges for news images and that is unfortunately not very much these days. Obama images are a dime a dozen and during the campaign we were drowning in Obama.

While I don’t want to diss the work of the photographers by all means I think a bit of a reality check on the side of AP would be appropriate. As for Fairey – DUDE – you need to get your act together, these people are other professional artists. Didn’t your mom tell you to treat people like you want to be treated?

So what does that mean for you? Most of us do look at existing work as we do our research. We create mood boards and find things we like that we use as the base for our work. Rule of thumb, if it looks an awful lot like the original you can seriously get in trouble. While the value of imagery has so significantly deteriorated these days it might just sometimes be most frugal to license that image.

On that thought, what type of license would AP have even issued? Inspirational license for rule breaking artist trying to ruin his artistic future and reputation: Value – priceless

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