Response to Shapard Fairey’s Copyright Case

Response to Shapard Fairey’s Copyright Case

AP And Shepard Fairey Settle Lawsuit Over Obama Image; Fairey ...

I’ve seen this poster so many times researching for graphic design inspirations. Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster is definitely one of the most well-known posters. Especially, if you look at poster designs on Pinterest, algorithms will keep directing you to this image. 

I didn’t know the artist of this poster was going through a lawsuit over copyright. 


In short, Shepard Fairey is a graphic artist and used the picture of Obama that was shot and posted by The Associated Press. And then, the poster became a huge success that The Associated Press recognized that the silhouette and angle of the poster matches their photo and sued Shepard Fairey.


It is quite alarming to me, because as a graphic design student who doesn’t look at photo references to generate a vector graphic? So I got to look into the term “fair use”


Fair use is decided by four factors as follow:

Who the user is, what is being used, how much was used and how does the use affect the original.

In this case, I guess Fairey violated all three points except what is being used. Because I personally don’t think the original photo was highly creative work. However, Fairey’s poster was used for profit and the original silhouette is the 100% of the work– not like it was a small part of a big painting. Moreover, it became famous enough to outshine the original photo.