25 February 2009

Shepard Fairey and Fair Use

While the AP threatened to sue Shepard Fairey for his use of their Obama photo from which he fashioned his iconic Hope painting, his attorney, Anthony Falzone beat them to court. Falzone filed suit against the AP demanding a statement declaring that Fairey's artwork does not infringe on their copyright and, in fact, is protected by the Fair Use Doctrine.
Falzone heads The Fair Use Project at Stanford Law School and probably saw the broader artistic issues at play and jumped at the chance to defend the evolving interpretation of fair use laws. As our perceptions of art continue to evolve, the Fair Use Doctrine is constantly pushed to its limits with judges often making inconsistent rulings. 
Fairey, over the years has been criticized for using  existing political posters and artwork to create his images and has continually blurred the lines between originality and inspiration. While his arrest in Boston outside the Boston Museum of Contemporary Art seems to have backfired, and has only gained Fairey more popularity, one is propelled to question what the fair use of the Fair Use Doctrine is- especially when  an Austin based artist is hit with a cease and desist from Fairey himself for parodying Fairey's classic Obey Image.