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Artist Shepard Fairey Admits Destroying Evidence — But Presses On With Fair Use Claim Against AP

The Associated Press and Shepard Fairey, the artist who appropriated an AP photo for his iconic campaign image of President Barack Obama, are continuing their legal battle over copyright infringement and fair use. A statement released by the AP said that Fairey, through his lawyers, admitted incorrectly citing the photo he used as the basis for the Hope and Progress posters he created.

In its statement, the wire service’s attorneys claim Fairey said he “sued the AP under false pretenses by lying about which AP photograph he used.” But a rebuttal from Fairey’s lawyers say only that the artist admits he was “mistaken.” However, Fairey does acknowledge that he attempted to conceal the false citation by destroying evidence.

Sources close to Fairey’s side claim that the AP is using his admission as a “smokescreen” and that this doesn’t affect the claim that the AP photo was used under the Fair Use Doctrine, which the U.S. Copyright Office says allows for the reproduction of a particular work if it’s used as for the purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”


Striking at the heart of his fair use case against the AP, Shepard Fairey has now been forced to admit that he sued the AP under false pretenses by lying about which AP photograph he used to make the Hope and Progress posters. Mr. Fairey has also now admitted to the AP that he fabricated and attempted to destroy other evidence in an effort to bolster his fair use case and cover up his previous lies and omissions.

In his Feb. 9, 2009 complaint for a declaratory judgment against the AP, Fairey falsely claimed to have used an AP photograph of George Clooney sitting next to then-Sen. Barack Obama as the source of the artist