Fairey vs. AP

Cath Madden Trindle

Another controversial copyright case that has come to a conclusion is that of  Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Obama campaign poster in 2008.  Mr. Fairey was sued by AP for violation of copyright when he used a picture taken by an AP Photographer as the basis for his poster.  In this case he argued FAIR USE saying the original picture had been transformed into a work of art.

There are many on both sides of that issue. Perhaps less controversial is the fact the in trying to prove his point he lied about the picture he used.  The second picture included President Clinton and therefore only half would have been used.  But back to the issue at hand.  In using the picture Mr. Fairey made a great deal of money, so definitely not a non-profit use.  He might rightly argue, however, that the worth of the picture increased when he used it for the poster, so perhaps could have won his case on that fact…..IF….and this is a big IF.

IF he had credited AP and the photographer when he released his work.  He did not!!!!

This is a huge issue.  As genealogists, much of what we gather and use might be considered a fair use, but only if you give credit where credit is due.   Even when the material is no longer subject to copyright, use without crediting the source is unethical at best.

Mr. Fairey not only had to pay 1.6 million to AP (over 1 million of that out of his pocket) but he also has to do 300 hours of community service and is on probation for 2 years for tampering with evidence when destroyed information on his computer that showed which picture he actually used.  This large a settlement isn’t likely to happen in the genealogical world, but as we gather information online we are sometimes dealing with ……….

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