As street artist Shepard Fairey was finishing up his latest work last night on Houston St. in New York City, I stopped to talk with him about his ongoing legal battle with the AP. His dispute with the wire service concerns the rights to a photo he used to create his famous Obama Hope graphic. Fairey’s pre-emptive suit and the AP’s countersuit are still dragging on, Fairey said, as he stopped to take pictures with fans. In a 10-minute conversation, he addressed the AP’s accusations about how much money he has made on the Obama image and his view of the news co-op’s reasons for going after him.
I also asked the AP to respond to Fairey’s comments. In a statement, AP attorney Dale Cendali, of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, said that after Fairey filed his pre-emptive suit in February 2009, the AP “had no choice but to defend itself.” E-mail messages seeking additional comment from Fairey attorney Anthony Falzone were not returned.
Fairey alluded to the business woes of the AP’s newspaper members over the past few years and how the AP hopes to generate more of its revenues from licensing. “The AP is going after me because their business model is crumbling,” he said, adding that the AP imagines that he made more money than he did from the Obama graphic.
The graphic was based on a 2006 photo taken for the AP by then-AP photographer Mannie Garcia