AP Sues Three Retailers Over ‘Obama Hope’ Image

shepard fairey AP obama image

The iconic “Obama Hope” image created by street artist Shepard Fairey has now spawned no less than five copyright conflicts. The Associated Press’ first sued dispute with Shepard Fairey landed in court in 2009, with the wire service saying Fairey broke copyright laws when he created the artwork, because it was based on an AP photograph. That case settled in 2010, with Fairey paying an undisclosed sum, but the AP continues to litigate against the clothing company that sells Fairey’s designs, Obey Clothing. On Wednesday the AP filed three more lawsuits against three retailers who are selling clothes that bear Fairey’s design, Adweek reported-Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, and Zumiez.

Fairey and the AP still disagree about whether or not his use of the image constituted “fair use” under U.S. copyright law, but after Fairey admitted to destroying some evidence in the case, momentum started to shift toward the AP.

It’s unclear why the AP is just filing these additional lawsuit now, although it’s possible they only found out about these sales outlets through discovery in the initial case. AP spokesperson Paul Colford didn’t respond to a question about the timing of the lawsuit. Colford did say that the AP is obligated to protect the copyrights in its stories and photos, and added: “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.”

The complaints aren’t yet available on PACER, the public online database for federal court documents, but a *Reuters* report says that the AP is asking for all of the profits from T-shirts and posters sold with the Obama Hope image, as well as additional damages.

The case against Obey Clothing is set to go to a jury trial in New York later this month.

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