Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shepard Fairey -- More to the Story

This post is not about the Obama "Hope" poster. Well, not totally, anyway. I heard about Fairey's initial run-in with the AP over the use of the work they may not even own ("Mr. Garcia contends that he, not The Associated Press, owns the copyright for the photo, according to his contract with the The A.P. at the time").

My initial thought when I found out that the Fair Use Project had filed a Declaratory Judgment action against the AP was,"Go get 'em, tigers!" I generally agree with the stuff the Fair Use Project does. The Obama "Hope" poster is, in my opinion, a pretty cool interpretation of Garcia's photo, and as far as I was aware, Fairey wasn't using it for anything other than campaigning. That may or may not be true (The FUP's complaint says Fairey rolled over all the money he made into printing posters to be distributed for free).

And then I read something that made me look a little closer. It's a pretty eye-opening article discussing Fairey's unattributed use of the works of many artists (see also). A little further digging turned up a definitely-not-good-for-the-gander article. That's right, Fairey sent a c&d letter to an artist who created a parody of one of his works.

The most interesting point to be made, though, is not the double-standard. It's the fact that Fairey has built his anti-corporate, anti-establishment reputation on the backs of his predecessors, and has parlayed that reputation into a highly polished, very corporate entity.

Now, ordinarily, I wouldn't give much thought to a story like this other than my initial reaction I noted above. I'd follow it, and I'd generally pull for Fairey as "the little guy." For the record, I do think his case against the AP could easily be decided in his favor. I don't, however, like having the wool pulled over my eyes; and being fed a line of garbage about how avant-garde someone is, only to find out they're really nothing more than a semi-talented, hypocritical thief.